Awards, effectiveness, new business and even darts - for the best agencies winning is everything

Jeremy Lee
Jeremy Lee

Purpose and values and waistcoats are great, but winning is even better

With tiresome predictability a flood of opportunistic editorial opinion suggestions came surging through the inbox this week, offering "lessons advertising/leaders can learn from the England team/Gareth Southgate/Harry Kane" (delete as appropriate) following England’s surprising and creditable performance in Russia.

These might make for easy cheesy copy (even if they’re not exactly opinions) but it’s still lazy thinking and one that, according to a quick Google search, has been replicated in virtually every vertical of the economy in the past week. So much for creativity (Oxford Dictionaries definition: "the use of imagination or original ideas to create something").

And yet, while sporting analogies applied to business are nearly always as tedious and hackneyed as hiring former sports stars as motivational speakers, there is perhaps something that’s worth learning (or remembering), even if it’s not from specious parallels between Southgate defying popular public opinion and managing to get England into the semi-finals, and running a company that makes adverts.

A culture where values and purpose are important is indeed a prerequisite for any responsible agency or business. Customers want to see it and staff demand it and it’s therefore "the right thing to do". However, it’s unlikely these really fire people on - great agencies (and businesses) are more likely motivated by the desire to compete and to win against each other, rather than comparing work life balance metrics. Let’s face it, winning something is a nice feeling and we all need the thrill of the game, the success and the glory too.

That’s why we’re right to celebrate the success of the UK agencies at Cannes and that’s why I’m looking forward to seeing the cream of this year’s crop at the Campaign Big Awards in October (now in its tenth year and with a panel of judges led by Sir John Hegarty and Chaka Sobhani).

And, in it’s own way why it was also so good to see so many of the UK's best agencies competing intensely and with passion at Campaign’s one-off darts tournament last week, all for the prize of a shabby trophy from Timpson and a DAB radio (with thanks to the Radiocentre, and also to Gravity Road for providing the special guest Lisa Ashton, the reigning women’s world champion).

In a familiar turn of events Adam&Eve/DDB triumphed over Publicis London in a tightly contested the final – but given that the agency had kindly sponsored the bar no one could really complain.

Advertising is at its best when it is ruthlessly and determinedly focused on winning – whether that is in awards ceremonies; in effectiveness; in new business (just look at the Shell global pitch, which has thrown up some interesting results out of long term incumbent J Walter Thompson); or indeed at the oche.

So, and to go back to dear old Southgate, which is where this whole piece started, maybe he reintroduced the concept of winning to a nation that hadn’t been familiar to it for some time. And how great to see so many UK agencies doing the same for advertising.

Jeremy Lee is contributing editor at Campaign

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