Claire Graves has been a part of the Webby Awards ever since its inception in the digitally heady days of 1996. Since then, the internet has blown up in the form of the dotcom boom before crashing meteorically back down to earth in the 2000s and eventually evolving into what we know, love and loathe today. In 2019 (the very depths of it), as the internet makes up vast swathes of people's daily lives and brand's communications efforts, the Webbys have never been so important for clients and creators; the organisation is the benchmark for nailing it on the biggest and most important platform out there.
With the entry deadline just around the corner, LBB's Addison Capper picked the brains of Claire - the executive director of the Webby Awards - to find out what brands, agencies and creators need to do to get their mitts on a Webby in the digital age.
LBB> What does it take to win at the 2020 Webby Awards? What must agencies and brands bear in mind when entering The Webbys?
Claire> One of the most important things for people wanting to win a Webby is to create work that you’re passionate about. I believe the best projects are the ones that people have put their love, sweat and tears into - that's the work that rises to the very top. It also helps if that work impacts culture, pushes boundaries, exceeds user experience expectations, and helps to define standards for making great internet. And of course, you can’t win if you don’t enter. Our Final Deadline is Friday, December 20, 2019!
LBB> How has the work entered into the Webbys evolved in the time since it launched some 20 years ago? How has the work developed as the internet has done so?
Claire> Webby Award winners are a really great reflection of the way the internet has evolved, technically, creatively and commercially. In 1997 the Webbys was launched with a group of website winners that included IMDB and Salon.com
In 2007, when the industry was back on its feet after the dotcom crash, and broadband speeds, site hosting, video streaming and mobile technology had evolved we began honouring video, mobile and advertising winners. These included internet-only clips like ‘Office Webisodes
’ from NBC, the ‘Ask Mobile Site
’, and ‘Stockholm the Musical
’ - an interactive musical where the people of Stockholm sang to encourage people to visit them, created by the late great Swedish agency Far Far. This won in the Promotional Banner Advertising category.
Around 2012/13 more and more brands, broadcasters, entertainers and creators joined Twitter, Facebook and other social platforms to reach new audiences. Since then we’ve seen a huge shift in the work we honour as agencies, media companies and in-house teams build content campaigns with social media at the centre of their strategy.
More recently, after the success of the Serial
in 2015, we worked with the industry to begin honouring the best podcasts from around the world in a dedicated way. Since then our entries into the podcast categories have doubled each year which shows the explosion of audio and podcast creation.
The way the internet expands can be surprising. Sometimes it is innovations in the work that spurs technology to catch up - and other times the work we see gets exponentially better because of the opportunities technology has opened up. But it is always the way people use technology that decides if it will last, or disappear from the Internet completely.
LBB> Back in 1996, very few campaigns involved a digital element - now nearly all of them do. How has this impacted the Webby Awards?
Claire> Over the last 24 years advertisers have increasingly seen the possibility of tangible results from data driven technology and digital audiences. That realisation has created a demand for more creativity - and digital campaigns continued to get better and more innovative. This has been great for us. It’s meant that The Webby Awards have become more important and continue to get more prestigious as more people enter the competition.
As digital advertising budgets grow, marketers are responsible for choosing partners that can guide them with an eye on digital first, so it has become more important than ever before for advertising agencies, media companies and content creators to prove that they are the best at digital. Winning a Webby is one of the most important ways to show that a team is at the top of their game, that they have expertise, are innovative and to position themselves as the best partner.
LBB> As we head into 2020, what have been your favourite winners of the past decade?
Claire> This question is a little bit like asking which one of your children you love the most. Over the last decade we’ve honoured so many awesome technologies, people and movements that it’s hard to pick just a few. I love entertaining, fun, weird Webby Winners, so from the early part of the decade, website projects like Awkward Family Photos
, Kim Jong-Il looking at things
, and One Tiny Hand are still so great. In 2013 we honoured Steve Wilhite, the inventor of the GIF file format. His now infamous five-word speech “It’s pronounced JIF not GIF
” caused a huge ruckus on the internet for weeks. That remains my absolute favourite moment from Webby Award shows.
However, over the last few years as social media has become more vital in connecting people over a shared cause, the Social Movement of the Year honour has become particularly important to us. The last recipient is very close to my heart; Greta Thunberg’s School Strike and FridaysForFuture
to me, represents the promise of the internet: the ability to unite people all over the world in pursuit of something better. That promise is really why we do what we do at The Webbys, holding up the people who use the internet in powerful, effective ways, we mark their moment in internet history - and it’s an absolute privilege to do so.
LBB> On top of all its positives, the Internet is a murky place at the moment - trust is a huge issue and it's the focal point of controversial aspects of politics, such as tampering etc. What are your thoughts on that from a brand perspective and how they can navigate it?
Claire> Over the last few years, some parts of the internet have become pretty dark and complicated, particularly for brands trying to break through, find new audiences and gain attention. We’ve just completed our 2020 Webby Trend Report
which focuses on this exact topic by exploring how online platforms and algorithms exploit our desire to engage with controversy. The study shows that while there is currently a lot of anger, negativity and fighting on social media, people don’t want to engage with that type of content. We think this is a really important time for the industry to take stock and consider its contribution to the internet; you can get a lot of engagement and press by starting fights with other brands and contributing to the animosity online. We’ve seen this most recently with the infamous Chicken Sandwich Wars of 2019. However, you can also get engagement and attention by entertaining people, connecting them and giving them the tools to discover new content and learn and it is these three things that people want above participating or observing brands fight online.
LBB> You did a study with YouGov on issues related to this - what kind of results did you see? Which aspects were particularly interesting / shocking?
Claire> As part of our study we dug into how online fighting is affecting consumers on and offline and what people want and expect from the industry. We partnered with YouGov to conduct a survey of over 4,000 adults across the US. We were particularly curious to know if people actually want or like fighting in their feed and if not what they want when they turn to the internet.
Some of the things we learned are:
Most people are ready to fight, even if it’s not what they’ve come to do — and it is having an impact on their lives offline:
- While fighting is everywhere you look online, only 3% of people report actually wanting to see arguments or fights when logging onto social media
- Only 10% of respondents said they “enjoy” seeing companies “argue” online
- However, 54% of respondents say they participate in online arguments
- And 31% of people have ended a relationship due to an exchange online
People want what the internet has always been really good at providing:
- 43% of respondents want to connect with their friends and family
- 16% of people come to the internet for humour and to be entertained
- And 15% of people want discovery from the internet
LBB> What are the other big trends you're seeing with regards to the Internet and how do you see them playing out in the future?
Claire> Over the last several years we’ve seen huge diversification in the way our entrants and winners communicate through technology, and the use of mixed reality and podcasts have created intimate connections in a way we haven’t seen before. I believe we will continue to see a shift in how we use technology to tell important stories, and build communities to listen, watch and interact. Through the internet we’ve been exposed to so many stories that would otherwise be untold and the internet has powered new ways to tell them, and to connect new audiences everywhere. I think we’ll continue to see technology impact the way we as people, brands and creators tell, receive and share stories.
The Webby Award Final Entry Deadline is coming up next Friday, December 20th, 2019. Entries are accepted across Websites; Video; Advertising, Media & PR, Apps, Mobile and Voice; Social; Podcasts; and Games at webbyawards.com.