To ADDY or Not to ADDY: Relevance & The Business Case

Written on January 17, 2011

I had a long conversation the other day with a colleague and competitor who has been asked to help out with the 2010 ADDYs here in Birmingham. She was beating the bushes on several counts:

1. She wanted to encourage Cayenne to enter.

2. She wanted us to participate in a video that will be edited and used to introduce the festivities.

3. She was also in terrible need of someone to talk with about how frustrating the ADDYs can be.

I could feel her pain.

First off, Cayenne isn’t entering the ADDYs this year. It’s not that we don’t have work we feel is suitable. It’s just that, since entering the ADDYs requires a tremendous amount of effort and more than a little costly, we find ourselves asking, “what is the return on our investment?” This year, we decided to look at pros and cons:

PRO #1: It’s a celebration of your agency‘s work and an opportunity for everyone in the agency to celebrate the work of an entire year.

OK… here’s the deal. You cannot look at the ADDYs as simply a straightforward contest. You must approach it with strategy. Chiefly, if you don’t enter your work in every possible category, you will leave the festivities feeling as if it wasn’t much of a celebration. Why? Because your competitors will enter a few things every conceivable category. I’ve seen agencies leave the festivities with armloads of plastic they earned for a single campaign. They were successful because they entered the work in: the Campaign category, the Single Ad category, the Photography category, the Typography category, the Advertising Design category, the Integrated Campaign category, the Poster category, the Unconventional Media category the Best Use of a Dog in Advertising category, the Cleverest Adaptation of an Epic Myth category, the Unconventional Use of Gravy category…

I exaggerate. But not much. Seriously.

So, for example, should you enter your campaign in the Campaign category (because, after all, it WAS a campaign… it was NOT a “one-off,” and because you felt strongly that it fit that category best) and should your campaign place (gold, silver, whatever follows) you will appear on the stage to accept your plastic. ONCE. Meanwhile, your competitor will have entered a campaign in 48 different categories and will make repeated trips to the stage for a SINGLE good campaign and, in the end, your folks will feel weird because they sat through a 2 1/2 hour ceremony watching the same folks trundle up and back in what, for the life of me, always looks like one huge pat-thyself-on-the-back sort of event…  and you will leave, tired and UN-energized, and you will feel that not only did you not get the internal morale boost you had hoped for… but that it actually had the opposite effect… [breathe… pause rant… count to ten]

Alas, the only viable course then is to shell out the bucks (and the effort) and enter your work in every possible, remotely related category. Which brings me to…

CON #1: I’ll be kiss-a-duck entering the ADDYs is expensive. Do the math. If you shell out the 50 bucks or whatever it amounts to, per category, in order to enter your work in every possible way, you are going to spend some serious bank. And that’s before you pay to take your shop to the show. SO NOW, you find yourself doing the old cost-benefit analysis, “Is it worth the money to enter the ADDYs? Or would we rather all go to dinner as an agency and share stories and celebrations of our own work with each other, and, hey… maybe even invent our own prizes?” After all, if you really want to build morale, doesn’t that seem like a more personal way to do it? (For many fewer Benjamins, I might add).

Often you will hear this next item. (we’ll call it PRO #2, though it smells a little bit like a con.)

PRO #2: It will help you grow your business. Nope. Don’t believe it for an instant. Maybe it used to – but I don’t believe it does now. My clients are all about the R On their I. They want to see work that works. Our goal therefore is always to create smart work that also makes us proud (in other words – effective work that also would perform well in award shows).

But, seriously, our clients are unaware of the ADDYs. We could go to the effort to make them aware. But in the end, that whole exercise feels a bit self-aggrandizing. “Look, mom! Look what we did!” Likewise, when we pitch new business, we really don’t mention awards, except as a footnote. So, from a business case point of view, beyond what little bit of press your agency receives… well I’m having a hard time pointing to any business case at all.

CON#2: It takes a lot of work. Said it earlier. Yep, it’s true. You will devote a couple of man-days to preparation. This brings me back to the fact that we’re not entering this year. We simply didn’t have the time to put it all together this year. Hey, it’s a good problem to have – being busy. And yes, I know, if we REALLY WANTED TO, we would make the time. We would be in here in the wee hours of the morning, preparing submissions and getting it all together. But, fact is,  we polled the shop and it turns out that, as a group, we just DIDN’T really want to do all that. Again, we knew we would need to enter everything in everything. And, the fact is, we just didn’t have the bandwidth to be doing that AND taking care of our clients. On top of that, our people felt as if there was a lack of credibility in the event. After all, if it required such strategerizing to make sure you had enough stuff entered to win lotso’ ad-bling… well how legit could that be?

(I’m serious about the strategerizin.’ I once knew a guy who told me you should never enter more than one of your pieces in the same category because then you would just be competing with yourself… huh???)

PRO #3: (This gets back to one of the key parts of the conversation I had with my colleague) The ADDYs should be a celebration of the combined efforts of the Birmingham advertising community. AGREED! Wholeheartedly. In the past five years or so, they haven’t been. They’ve been a celebration of the combined work of a few of us. I suspect that others have not entered because of some of the reasons above. It’s my understanding that this year there are a lot more agencies represented. I certainly hope so. And I applaud them. Birmingham is a fabulous advertising city. We have more talent per acre than cities three times our size. In fact, I would put Birmingham’s  ADDYs up against Atlanta’s and and tie half of our collective right brain behind our back.

*sigh* It’s PRO #3 that leaves me conflicted.

Nevertheless, we decided “no” for 2010. Maybe we’ll gin up next year for it.

And, if we do… we’ll enter everything in everything.

See you then. In the meantime, good luck to all of our colleagues out there. Keep up the good work.

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