This Monday, two sets of creative people will be reporting for work, those who won at Goafest and those who did not. In many cases, the latter will consist of non-participants and not just non-winners, company policies preventing worthies from competing in the jamboree. While much has been written about the futility or value of such award shows, this piece recognises their inevitability in the advertising industry and instead focuses on how agencies can enhance brand value on wings of such successes.
The only entities currently taking genuine advantage of the metals are the victorious employees when it comes to negotiating for increments or looking for new jobs. Resumes are filled with graphic details of such glories and proven victors can command a premium over their peers; from an industry perception they are more worthwhile in the ranks. While this sounds sufficiently logical, where the pitch gets queered is the inability of the employer to use this perception to generate exceptional revenues, by leveraging their awarded worth with clients. This is manifested most apparently in the Credentials Deck, where the number of awards won is highlighted and not the number of employees, unconnected to previous affiliation, with a metal on the shelf. By not celebrating the â€˜perceivedâ€™ celebrities on the payroll, we are automatically downgrading the monetising potential with brand owners, largely integrated with the awards process and hungry for star-rated creative personnel to take on their challenge, a demand constantly shared with agency management.
Currently, in a largely myopic fashion, the best-rated talent is offered to the highest-retainer clients or more dangerously, aligned to those accounts with the finest potential for creative glories, often at the unreasonable behest of the stars themselves â€“ thus leading to a culture of award-specialists, a genre of highly-talented individuals who occupy themselves for further awards leading to greater personal glory, instead of serving the premiumisation interests of the agency or indeed industry. What must happen instead, led by the vision of at least one significant player, is the establishment of a two-tier pricing model, where access to the â€˜qualityâ€™ and not the â€˜quantityâ€™ or â€˜seniorityâ€™ of talent leads to a higher revenue slab if the team enjoys a superior â€˜Award-Positiveâ€™ rating. Exactly the nature of conversation when the rate for a hotel event is being negotiated, standard banquet fare under the same banner costing far lesser than the Speciality Restaurant version created by celebrity master chefs. In a hospital setting as well, the star surgeon with awards gets higher billing than the trained staff under the same auspices, the gradation perceived as a bridge towards excellence as opposed to being a choice between good or bad.
It is thus critical for agency brands to juice their star talent, just as the star talent juices them, in order to earn disproportionate revenues from a client audience, mostly sensitive to the variance. I can reasonably vouch for many organisations who will experiment happily with such a scenario, paying higher â€˜occasionallyâ€™ for strategic campaign development in the case of a large organisation or even â€˜consistentlyâ€™ for a boutique-like brand. This will, in fact, initiate a cycle of virtue within the organisation as the star-rated talent will have to perform on real-time tasks and if the brand benefits, the agency will earn more and justifiably reward them with better benefits. Instead of paying more on surrogate measures of success, which the award system certainly is, the recognised talent pool will do a healthy mix of both: segmented work for podium glory and inspirational creative for marketplace success. An industry desperate to increase revenues will benefit immeasurably by making the most of their talent investments, exactly the practice of consultancies, hotels, hospitals and every other talent-driven industry.
At the present time, the advertising industry is operating on parallel tracks, the hard-working and dire retainership realities totally inconsistent with the red-carpet and flamboyant award fantasies. Instead of maintaining unsustainable status quo or fruitlessly deriding the unavoidable latter, it is necessary to make the two operate in tandem, to ensure the growth of both business and talent. When the heroes who win glory can be actively mobilised to earn profits, it can significantly influence the business outcomes while also earning fame for the deserving. Happiness is not yet a Fest called Goa but if we think differently the world may change rapidly.
(ShivajiDasgupta is the Founder of INEXGRO Brand Advisory and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org)
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