The Immortal Awards in association withJSM

Larger than Life: How The Immortal Awards Revitalised Creative Celebration

Associations, Award Shows and Festivals
London, UK
LBB CEO Matt Cooper and Immortal Awards director Paul Monan reflect on the secrets behind the show’s success and their plans for its future

(From L-R: LBB CEO Matt Cooper and Immortal Awards director Paul Monan)

In truth, there was no industry-wide clamour for a new awards show in 2018. That was reflected in the tone of the Immortal Awards’ first official announcement, knowingly titled ‘Oh No, Not Another Awards Show!’. Yet amidst what seemed to be a saturated landscape, the intervening years have seen the Immortal Awards carve out a place all of its own. 

The past four years have seen the Immortal Awards go from strength to strength. Behind it all has been a commitment to, in the words of awards director Paul Monan in 2018, “celebrate creativity which lives forever”. Nothing more, nothing less. 

As the Immortal Awards gear up for another year in 2022, we sat down with Paul - alongside LBB CEO Matt Cooper - to reflect on what’s made the show successful, as well as what the future holds for immortal creativity… 

LBB> Matt and Paul, the Immortal Awards has grown every year since it was launched in 2018. How has the show earned its place in a saturated industry awards landscape?

Paul> We always believed that we could do things differently with the Immortals. It was a chance to address some of the ways that award shows operate by creating a competition that benefits increasingly time-and-financially-stretched companies of all sizes, all around the world.

With the Immortal Awards, there are no entry fees for the competition. Entries are included as part of all Little Black Book’s members’ subscriptions. And companies are limited to just five entries per year, providing a truly democratic playing field for companies of all sizes. Our winners are judged on quality, not volume. That commitment to great creativity has helped us not only carve out our place, but keep growing as well. 

Matt> Back when I ran a company called BEAM.TV, one of the things we did was create a way for awards shows to be entered digitally (which may sound obvious now but was groundbreaking then!). In that job I worked with a lot of awards shows and had a great time doing so. I think there was always an expectation after launching LBB in 2011 that we were going to do our own show, but I maintained for years that we’d only do it if we could do it right. In 2018, we got that opportunity. 

After a discussion with Sir John Hegarty we identified a lot of the characteristics we wanted our show to have. It needed to be free to enter. It needed to be all about the work and the people, never about the money, and it needed to be global. That’s how the Immortal Awards was born, and it’s the same philosophy which has been helping it grow. 

LBB> As well as being unique, I’ve read that you wanted the Immortal Awards to feel ‘necessary’. What did you mean by that, and how did you pull it off? 

Matt> Necessity was a big part of this. Let’s be honest about something - the amount of money being spent at awards shows had to change. We didn’t want to simply create more categories and charge more money for them, we wanted to do something different and the whole concept was to not make it reliant on entry fees. That certainly changes the way we think!

We wanted it to be an extra part of being an LBB member - extra value and no extra cost. And our belief is that awards are necessary, for careers, for feeling, for celebration and for education. We simply wanted to create a show which didn’t cost crazy money and which still elevated the work. I feel we’ve done that. 

LBB> I understand that the Immortals are ‘easy to enter, and hard to win’. How so?

Matt> They’re easy to enter because you can ‘click’ your piece of work from within your LBB library and enter all categories free of charge. Dead simple and bullshit-free. 

As for being hard to win, in our four years so far we’ve given out just sixteen statues. They’re not easy to come by. 

Paul> We’ve stripped back the layers and complexities of the entry process to keep it ‘easy’ for our entrants to make their submissions. 

The Immortals are open to every brand, agency, production company, post-, music-, edit- house, service company of any size in the world. Not everyone has a huge budget or dedicated awards team, so making it accessible - and fair - for our members has always been key. 

But, like all awards should be, it is pretty tough to win. Those sixteen statues are proof that, if you want to win, you truly have to create something extraordinary. In that sense, we hope the Immortals are helping to push the creative bar higher each and every year.

LBB> ‘The Immortal Awards' is a pretty bold name for an award show. What does that name mean and what inspired it?

Matt> It’s bold, but it’s not about us. It’s about Immortal work. Immortal means that you live on forever and we want to inspire work that people will be talking about forever.

Paul> The name was actually borne out of a team discussion back in 2017. We were chatting about what to name the show and were throwing ideas around when someone called out the word ‘immortal’. It had an immediate ring to it that we all just knew was the right word!

LBB> What’s different about your judging format?

Matt> I can confidently say that this show is judged like no other on the planet. There is a small amount of online judging before a local jury decides on their favourite work to nominate for the regional final. A piece of work will be looked at and discussed a minimum of four times before it gets crowned. It’s like a distillery, discussing the best work and pushing it further up the ladder as it goes. 

Paul> Our judging panel is made up of leaders from the brand, agency, production and post worlds and, as of our 2021 competition, we judge locally, regionally and globally. By bringing individuals from across the creative process together, we can truly judge the ideas and the executions holistically and, ultimately, only award the very best. We don’t award by category or sector, we simply award the best projects regardless of where they’d traditionally sit.

LBB> And does the show’s format mean that it’s conceivably possible for nobody to win an Immortal Award in any given year?

Paul> That’s right. There are absolutely no quotas to fill and our jurors are given no guidance at all on the number of prizes to hand out. So if there genuinely isn’t any work that our jury believes is worthy of winning, we simply won’t hand out any statues that year. Our juries are ruthlessly tough too, so that scenario has been genuinely close to happening a couple of times…

LBB> Outside of handing out gongs, what’s the purpose of the Immortal Awards? Is there a greater creative culture you’re looking to nurture or inspire?

Matt> That’s simple: We’re looking to inspire people all over the world to do great work. When the judging is done, we travel to agencies and brands across the planet showing the winners - and we always hear the same thing. “Wow, I’d never seen most of that”. 

That’s because so many of the people we’re inspiring can’t afford to go to big global awards shows and can’t pay for archives. The business of advertising doesn’t have the spare money it had, nor the education. So we want to help support creativity. Awards events are generally full of the older guys and girls and they are great fun, but the younger people need to be inspired too. We help do that.

Paul> At its heart, the Immortals is about celebrating global creative excellence and inspiring people. We want to champion the people behind the projects, and inspire creatives the world over to keep pushing that creative bar higher. 

LBB> And finally, what is your ultimate goal for the Immortal Awards?

Paul> To keep inspiring creatives around the world to push the boundaries of creativity in advertising.

When you look back at any of our winners reels, you see truly outstanding work that we genuinely believe will look as good, and feel as fresh, in 20 years as it does today. If we can continue to celebrate the people and the projects doing this work, and keep showcasing around the world, then we’ll have achieved our goal.

Matt> Our overriding goal is to become the most local/global award show on the planet. And we want to do that while staying free to enter. 

We have a few interesting plans for the near-term, one of which is doing something incredible with a free-to-view archive. But everything we do will be in service of that greater ambition, and our desire to - in a small way - make the industry we love an even better place.