Awards are good for creativity – but agencies shouldn’t be trying to chase them. Toby Talbot has been heading up the judging at Ad Stars 2018
in Busan as one of four executive judges and for him, the free-to-enter show is an positive proposition at a time when the industry is starting to question the value and role of advertising awards.
“What I am encouraged about is any award show that is largely free to enter. I will be giving a talk around it on Saturday, but when you think about awards, there’s a monetary association around them that is totally out of hand,” says Toby.
For Toby, awards should be celebratory by-products of great work but have, for many, become ends in themselves.
“In a sense, I don’t believe agencies should be chasing awards. I think winning awards is something that happens at the end of a wonderful process. So you create a culture within your agency, a fellowship, a common goal… and more importantly you build trust with your client. Once you get to the end of that process awards just… happen. It’s not an effort and it’s really interesting when you judge the work because you see case studies where people contrive all sorts of bullshit to justify their ideas and you can tell they’re struggling, whereas the best work doesn’t need much.”
Having joined Saatchi & Saatchi New Zealand only shortly before Publicis Groupe announced its ad award moratorium, Toby has a particular insight and perspective on the award show debate. He admires the Groupe for sticking to its guns while he says at networks he had previously worked at, global CCOs had complained incessantly about awards excess without taking action.
“I got a lot of stick about Marcel and why we didn’t enter [Cannes], and I find it laughable because I think there should be more scrutiny attached to agencies that chase awards, which means entering every award in the universe,” he says. “I think what Publicis managed to do quite nicely was call bullshit on it and actions speak louder than words.”
In fact, Toby is optimistic about the Publicis decision to divert its award budget last year to invest in Marcel. “Actually Marcel is a real thing that I think will transform 80,000 employees’ lives. It’s a way of turning a network into a platform. We’ve got Nick Law who is, let’s face it, probably the best platform-maker in the world right now,” he says.
That’s not to say that Toby sees no value in awards, quite the opposite. He maintains that they raise the bar for the industry and, ultimately, raise the standard of creativity.
“The universal language of ideas is what it’s about – the fact that you sit in a jury full of people from all around the world to talk about the work,” he says. “I defy anyone to say that is a waste of time. That’s what I love about judging – you meet incredible people from all around the world and you unite around ideas. That sounds a bit soapboxy but it’s true.”
And one thing that he has found refreshing about judging Ad Stars is that it doesn’t have what he sees as ‘the monoculture’ of a show like Cannes. “We all know who we’re talking to and it’s not Korean people…” he muses, reflecting that the different cultural make-up of the juries at Ad Stars has allowed for different sorts of work to rise to the top.
“One of the things I found really rewarding yesterday was that sitting on my jury was there were more women than guys, but that’s neither here nor there in a sense, it was where they were all from,” he says. “You had a Japanese woman who had been living in Thailand most of her life, you had a Japanese woman over here, you had an amazing Indian creative director and a South African guy over there. I look at that and I think, ‘that will be an interesting conversation’.”
Ad Stars 2018 winners will be revealed on Saturday August 25th.