There is something fundamentally wrong in ad land. Everybody knows it but nobody has been willing to fix it or really even talk about it. Until now. As of today, we’re more than just talking openly about it, we’re going to walk the talk. And hopefully recalibrate some of the most important values in our industry to show the way forward in terms of how this industry should think, act and create.
Our DDB agencies are among the most-awarded agencies in the history of advertising. We’ve won more Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity than any other network on the planet. Almost every DDB office around the world is among the most-awarded agency brands in its market. And that is a huge problem. Because that is not what matters.
Too many of us in the industry have bought into the idea that winning awards is proof of creative effectiveness, so much so that we’re willing to sacrifice our integrity to get them. And in turn that has lessened the integrity of the awards themselves. So if we believe that we are a great creative or an amazing agency or a great network because we won such and such meaningless award in a sub-sub-sub-category at an advertising awards show where ad people award ad people’s irrelevant solutions for problems that often do not even exist, then we'd better think again.
If we believe that the proof of our real talent is that we came up with a funky case video for an idea that did not have anything to do with the real world and was not even created for a reason other than to please a jury at an award show, then we are not talented.
If we are coming up with social ideas that pretend to solve the world’s biggest problems or help disenfranchised people, but, in fact, are only being done to win an award, we are cynical and perhaps even criminal.
Our industry has lost focus about what really matters. All of us who are working in advertising and marketing communication have only one purpose: to use our creative talents and insights to build relevance and influence in today’s world that consequently creates substantial results for the brands, products and services of our clients.
If we do that in great, unseen, fresh and innovative ways, we will move people. We will impact societies and shape culture. That is the real and only relevant recognition that we as an industry should aim for. And that is the only currency that is valid out there. Remember the "Think Small" ad for Volkswagen, which was voted the best advertising ever created, and was the foundation of the creative revolution and changed everything? It didn't win major international awards, but it helped Volkswagen become a global and successful brand. And it changed culture, art, music and society.
We have to stop the madness. Not only by talking about it, but by also doing something against it. So we at DDB will not play this mad game. We will be coming up with a plan to divest ourselves from the madness. We at DDB want to be recognized for the real work that we do for our real clients and their real problems, and if, on top of that, we get some applause from the industry for it, we’ll be happy.
You will see less work from DDB at some of the shows. And maybe they won’t win much against the phony prototypes. So what? We want to be the best and most influential company in our industry, not the most awarded. We may be saying goodbye to the made-up empty titles like Agency of the Year, Network of the Year or whatever. But when we do receive these recognitions, you can be sure it is only because we were the best with the best work and not because we were the network with the most prototypes or who spent the most money.
Because we believe that winning awards only means that you are good at winning awards. Because we care more about selling our clients than ourselves. Because we care more about emptying our clients’ shelves than filling our own with trophies. Because we care more about real talent that connects with real people than people with portfolios full of false creativity and awards that do not really mean anything.
There will be a lot of people out there who will hate us, who will point fingers at us and accuse us of being harmful to award shows and our industry in general. But we are lucky. At DDB we have always had a foundation built by Bill Bernbach at our core to guide us to be brave. As Bill once said, "If you stand for something, you will always find some people for you and some people against you. If you stand for nothing, you will find nobody against you and nobody for you."
Amir Kassaei is chief creative officer of DDB Worldwide.