Adland is one of the places where awards are probably one of the most disputed points of conversation between professionals - are they all that matters? Are they gimmicky or are they a token of recognition by fellow creatives and outsiders? Whatever they might be, Creative Belgium (CB) has taken it upon themselves to make them indestructible and everlasting, by dipping their toes in web3 and turning their awards into NFTs!
In a pioneering launch of what they coined the ‘Metalverse’, a virtual gallery for the NFT awards within the metaverse, CB innovated their approach entirely at their 2022 Creative Belgium Awards. As always, the awards celebrated the most creative brands, campaigns and original ideas generated by Belgium, and recognised experts from Belgian advertising, design and communication sectors, spanning Grand Prix for Good, Grand Prix, Gold, Silver and Bronze. The awards converted into NFTs will be stored in the Polygon blockchain, which also became carbon neutral in 2022 and is consequently more sustainable than other blockchains. Isabel Van den Broeck, managing director at Creative Belgium said about the awards: “By converting our awards into NFTs we have created a digital, indestructible identity for all the winners. An NFT award is a digitally and publicly available ‘proof of merit’, which will remain in existence forever. You can add it to your digital portfolio or CV. It is a first step to building up your professional identity in the metaverse.”
And who wouldn’t want that? An award within adland that gives you eternal recognition, is sustainable and is innovative in ways that are in touch with the newly emerged web3! “NFTs also create a bridge to the real world. We use the NFTs to give winners access to events and in 2023 it will be possible to link them to membership of CB”, Isabel Van den Broeck added. “The potential of NFTs goes far beyond the mere financial, something I find particularly exciting. We are building a community and using this approach to give so many people in our field the recognition they deserve.”
LBB’s Zoe Antonov caught up with Isabel to find out more about why CB decided this is the best approach for their 2022 award show, what role did the past couple of years play in their new outlook, and what’s next for Belgian creativity in the future.
LBB> How have the Creative Belgium awards been affected by the Covid 19 pandemic and what has changed this year?
Isabel> 2020 and 2021 have been a paradigm shift for the history books. Forcing us more than ever to creatively re-evaluate our usual way of thinking and come up with innovative new ways of communicating and doing business. A challenge we tackled with a splendid collective effort.
Creative Belgium was brave enough to continue live judging during the past 2 years, of course with all measurements needed to create a safe environment. I can’t imagine that the outcome would be the same when you’re judging via Zoom. The physical presence brings an energy in the room that is crucial to have honest, open and unbiased discussions. It’s a moment where all Belgian creative minds are recognising a strong piece of work and are transforming that feeling into a positive judgement. Every entrant deserves that chance.
This year we went back to how it used to be, which felt great, and the live show of the Creative Belgium Awards on June 3rd was very energising and rewarding. We were sold out.
As for the work, we’ve seen entries related to covid-19 of course. There’s one commercial that I really adore and meets high international standards, it’s ‘Missed You Stranger’
for Stubru from Mutant. The insight is just right, it’s bold and daring, totally on brand and the execution is amazing.
LBB> What has been the silver lining of the pandemic for Creative Belgium?
Isabel> Actually our organisation is bigger than ever since 2020. I believe people felt the need to belong to a community. Of course we lost half of our turnover these past two years as all events were cancelled but we are a small and flexible team and we came up with some new initiatives such as After Hours
and Bring-out-the best
LBB> Creative Belgium is the first in the world to hand out NFTs as awards this year! How did that idea come about and why did you decide it was best to take this approach?
Isabel> For 38 years we have published a book with all the winners and shortlists of the Creative Belgium Awards. But the importance of digital identity is growing so we questioned our annual and took a deep dive in the Metaverse and the world of NFTs. Once we understood this, it was very clear that turning awards into NFTs is the answer for giving the credits and merits to the people behind the winning work. As part of the activities of Creative Belgium NFTs provide absolute value. By converting our awards into NFTs we created a digital, indestructible identity for all the winners, meaning every single person in the credits. They create scope for the individuals behind the work and make professional performance more visible. You are recognized, acknowledged and valued.
LBB> What was it like working with OG Studio to create the awards and how will they be displayed?
Isabel> Thanks to OG Studio we became true OG’s, they gave us a clear view on the possibilities of the Metaverse and the thinking behind it. Our own Metalverse is a virtual gallery in oncyber where the NFTs are proudly displayed for ever after. Every winning agency also has its own oncyber Metalverse. We store the NFTs in the Polygon blockchain, which became carbon neutral in 2022 and is consequently more sustainable than other blockchains, which was very important for us. As we not only created NFTs for the entering agency, but for every person linked to the winning work this year, we made 2400 NFTs for the 120 winning campaigns. Creative Belgium strives to be in the vanguard of the Metalverse and gives winners the opportunity to also be part of the ownership generation and our community.
LBB> How was the Metalverse created and what else will people be able to find there?
Isabel> In the future, we will use the NFTs to give winners special access to Creative Belgium events and we will possibly link them to our membership program. The potential of NFTs goes far beyond the mere financial, something I find particularly exciting. We are building a community and using this approach to give so many people in our field the recognition they deserve. We see that we’re the first, and it’s our role to motivate agencies and people to become familiar with it, as it’s not part of their life yet.
LBB> Why did you decide on the name Metalverse?
Isabel> Creative Belgium is using NFTs not for commercial purposes, but to recognize people and build up a community, so we focus on the Meritverse, a decentralised professional network that provides people with an on-chain professional identity, demonstrates and promotes their talents in a controllable manner so that they can support each other in their quest for success. The name ‘Metalverse’ is a nod to the nickname of the Creative Belgium Awards statues, referring to the awards in the sector as ‘metals’, and a reference to the metaverse.
LBB> How do you think the emergence of web3 will change Belgian creativity and have you already seen new trends emerging?
Isabel> Web3 introduces transparency and decentralisation, which gives great advantages to the creators of today. The importance of new virtual experiences on the metaverse is growing and is becoming the new benchmark. This includes development of virtual worlds on the internet, websites as we know them now will change. We see great
international examples from fashion brands like Gucci and Nike. But also in Belgium, local retailers open virtual shops in Fortnight such as JBC. In my opinion, the metaverse will introduce many opportunities for people and brands to change or improve the way they work. web3 gives access to a huge evolution in community marketing. No control of user data centralised by big tech companies, but people or users will gain control over their data. This shift in control should increase the power of virtual communities. web3 will boost our creative thinking and release creativity.
LBB> Do you believe that adland will adopt this approach to awards and do you anticipate seeing it happen more often? Why?
Isabel> Although there were a lot of talks about web3 and NFTs last week in Cannes, I’ve noticed web3 is still in its infant stages, no one knows for sure what it really means
and how this incredibly fast-moving industry will develop. All this seems still a bit intimidating to most of the people. But, if you think of it as a new way of connecting with your people and building communities, I see NFTs as a vital ingredient of award shows.
LBB> Any final thoughts?
Isabel> Except that we are very excited about the future and the potential of our industry, we believe it’s time for a little country like Belgium to become more visible. We are a very small country but big on ideas. If you would count the Cannes Lions per “head” we are really well performing. Also, we are exporting some great talents, the Belgians Niels Schoenmaeckers and Niels Sienaerts (FCB Chicago) for example, the smart minds behind the much awarded Contract for Change campaign for Inbev. Or Michèle Baeten (P&G) who had the lead in creating the ‘Like a Girl’ campaign.
We will soon launch ‘Brave Little Belgium’, which is a content platform on our website curated by Creative Belgium. We look at Belgium’s top work from an international perspective and motivate why it is brave and typically Belgian. That typifies us, Belgians. When the rest say: Don’t. We do it anyway. Sometimes gross, sometimes clever but always brave. And award winning too.