Award Shows Matter (drops the mic)

Prince, the artist once formally known as,—and finally re-known as—Prince, once declared in D.M.S.R. that he didn’t care to win awards. Instead, he’d rather have more than his fair share of “Dance, Music, Sex and Romance.” Prince was wrong. Awards are all of those things and more.

During award season, take any poll or read an industry blog and you’ll see the usual straw man debate about the results versus creativity or the more cynical angle of asserting that awards are merely paid-for, self-congratulatory wankfests of the creative class. (Now there’s a NSFW theme for the next award show.)

No, awards are really about something else. They are really all about soul. The soul of the work. Which is the creative process. Sure, we could go on and on about how awards celebrate all the blood, sweat, and late-night take-out that goes into the work by recognizing the minions doing that work. Or just how hard it is to birth a creative idea into the light of day past all the hack hatchets and layers of approvals. We could then have a therapeutic group hug commiserating on this, but that’s what bars or Mad Men season finales are for.

This is not the process we’re talking about. The real creative process is about always reaching and trying new things. It’s about thinking and re-thinking. It’s about not knowing, asking questions until an unruly idea breaks through and even then, the process is still reshaping and reworking.

Award shows matter because they feed the soul of the work we do. It’s this insight that came through a recent Facebook message exchange with Sally Hogshead. Sally is one of the most awarded copywriters, a leading branding expert behind HowToFascinate.com, and NY Times best-selling author of “How the World Sees You: Discover Your Highest Value through the Science of Fascination.” When asked about why awards shows matter, Sally had this to say:

“Advertising awards aren’t for the recipients. They’re a way for all of us to reward and foster more creativity in our business. When I was starting as a copywriter, there wasn’t the myriad of online resources. The only way to see breakthrough collections was to flip through awards books. Awards let us celebrate the irreverent, and beautiful, and quirky, and glorious possibilities!”

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This blog post began as the usual PR piece about the awards that Drake Cooper has won this year. It evolved as we tried to find a way to convey the gratitude we feel about these awards. Sure we’ve won a lot (9 Golds, 13 Silvers and 3 Citations in the Idaho Ad Federation Rockies and 4 Golds, 1 Silver and Best Of Show in the District XI AAF awards). Hell, Jamie Cooper, our CEO and awesome leader, even won the lifetime achievement recognition of the IAF Silver Medal Award this year. But where do you start? A list of thanks? Well there’s so many people to thank from our ambitious clients to the talented team, families, and so on. But what are we really grateful for?

We’re grateful to be fortunate to work in a creative industry, day-in and day-out. To work with, and be challenged by, our peers. We’re grateful for the opportunity to keep reaching, knowing that our best work still ahead.

Here’s an example of how gratitude beats false humility any day and an explanation for the image below. This last year, Jean-Luc Godard was awarded film of the year for his rapturous and innovative Goodbye To Language 3D by the National Society of Film Critics. A habitual award show no-show and contrarian, Godard sent a warm, albeit cryptic hand written note that reads, “honourable fellows of National Society of Film Critics, many thanks indeed. Still learning (à un apprenti).” The last message of “Still Learning” is striking coming from an 84 year-old master of cinema, revealing that true creativity is the ever-youthful attitude that one is always learning. And that is really the most rewarding recognition. We are all works in progress. Here’s to always learning.

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