By Trent Rentsch
Quick show of hands... how many want to win a major award? Ah, that many? I certainly understand; it’s human nature to want to be a winner. Well, thank heavens so many of you are with me, because at the end of this column, you just might be THEE winner of a major award... honest!! WAIT... NO skipping to the end allowed, under pain of disqualification. All the good boys and girls still with me? Great! Let’s begin...
Early in my career, I became obsessed with winning awards for my production. I remember begging my GM for an Addy entry budget, only to be turned down because “Addys are only won by the big Agencies.” While this was more an excuse not to spend money than anything else, it certainly was true that my chances of winning were slim to none. After all, I was in a tiny, TINY market, and it was a fact that the Agencies in the larger markets in the state were doing all of the winning. Still, there was no quenching my thirst for competition, so when the chance to move up markets, entering (and surely, winning) was certainly on my “to-do” list.
My first win came so easily that I was sure that I must be some kind of Creative genius. I had written and produced the ad in the space of 20 minutes, and it not only won a local Addy, but it also went on to win on the Regional level, and moved on (to lose) on the National level. The rush was exactly what my young ego expected, but it did absolutely nothing to satisfy my obsession. If anything, I HAD to enter AND WIN, again. It was SOOOOO easy the first time, imagine what would happen if I really tried? (right...)
I began to approach each production project as a potential entry; making them as “creative” as I could. When it was time to enter the following year, I had a huge list of spots I KNEW would make me a huge winner... surely National recognition would be mine!! And, as it turned out, I won... nothing. Zip, zilch, nada; not so much as a runner up certificate. My little baby competition ego was cut to the quick; there was much whining and gnashing of teeth over it all. Idiot judges! Couldn’t they hear talent when it swatted them in the ears??
Time passed. Each year I had a budget to enter the contests. Sometimes I won a few, sometimes I didn’t, but the losses never bothered me the same way again. I’d like to say that I had grown up a little, but the truth was something happened that really jaded me towards most production contests. “Another senseless loss?” you ask. Worse... a senseless win.
The spots were for a new, young business. The owners knew nothing about radio advertising; they just knew they wanted it to be “real Creative.” It was a great excuse to pull out all the stops and make them as wild and crazy and over the top as I had ever done before. The client liked them, everybody at the station liked them, hell, even listeners called and said they thought they were funny! Of course we entered them, and they took the radio division. Great, right? Nope. Here was the problem. In the months between producing and running spots and the actual awards, the client had gone out of business. My “wonderful, award-winning creations” had done nothing to help them build a customer base, and they had to close their doors. Winning had never made me feel more like a loser.
I’m not knocking production competitions or the people who enter them. In fact, I still feel that the RAP Awards continue to be important and legitimate, as the ballots come from the body of RAP subscribers... if anybody knows good Creative, it’s you. What concerns me is the misguided perception that other contests have of what makes a successful ad.
Obviously, I believe in producing Creative work, but it must be strategically Creative, incorporating the needs of the client, or it’s a waste of the client’s money, plain and simple. That might mean that, on the surface, the ad may not sound terribly Creative at all... but sometimes, the client doesn’t need all the flips and shit to accomplish the goals of the client. Sometimes -- although my own Muse fights me tooth and nail over this -- a client simply needs a direct, basic message, delivered in a straightforward way to get the job done. Is it going to win a “Creative award?” My answer would be, does it matter if it gets the job done for the client?
OK, I promised you a chance to win a major award, so here goes... answer the following yes and no questions:
Are you concerned about the goals and success of your station’s clients?
Do you incorporate those goals into the Creative for said clients?
Do those clients keep coming back for more of your “great Creative?”
If you answered “yes” to all 3 of these questions, you win!! Sorry, no shiny trophies or huge dollar checks, but what you receive is even more important in my mind... the gratitude of those who depend on you to help keep their doors open. If I have a choice between making contest judges or clients happy, I’ll gladly lose every time.