This is in response to Dennis Daniel's July '95 column about the usefulness of commercial awards competitions. Dennis asks "What does an award mean to you and your career?" The answer: For the most part--squat. (Okay...perhaps that answer is a bit too succinct and would deserve some fleshing out).
No mistake, winning awards is a thrill! There are also bound to be a few disappointments. That's the nature of competitions! But it's tough to swallow one's pride along with the entry fee when the spot in which you invested hours of creative energy crafting the perfect combination of words, music, and effects is beaten by some piece of trash with an illegally used copyrighted music bed and two office staff members (one over-driving his mike, the other mumbling) doing an entirely unconvincing job as "Bill and Margaret" hawking the "convenient location and friendly, knowledgeable staff who will meet all your barbecue needs" at Ed's Bar-B-Q Pit!
I've long suspected, and Dennis has now confirmed, the process behind the judging of many awards entries. It's too often left to people with little knowledge of the medium who would rather be doing something else and probably should be allowed to.
When I started at WHO/KLYF seven years ago, I revived the practice of entering awards competitions. It was a desire to have my work appreciated and recognized that motivated me to enter. The station paid only for promo entries. Commercial entries had to be paid for by the client, the salesperson...or me. We did fairly well in these competitions. Addy's, CIRT (Central Iowans in Radio & TV) awards, NAMA (National Agri-Marketing Assoc.), Radio And Production awards all came in. It was a great feeling! I justified the expense (much of it from my pocket) as a way to help build the prestige of our production facilities.
Okay, reality check. Ask your sales staff how often they bring up during a sales presentation a list of awards the station has won. You'll find out that outside the four walls of your station, all your awards and twenty-five cents will get you a cup of coffee (and a small cup at that). The only thing that interests potential advertisers is "What can your station do to help my business?" Awards don't pay the bills; happy advertisers do.
Let me reemphasize the point John Pellegrini made in Dennis' column: The only thing that truly counts when an ad or promo hits the air is not how will it do in the next awards competition, but did it produce results? Results are measured in two forms of listener response: Did they stay tuned through it, and did they receive the intended message.
One's ability to program an effects box, or to do three different voices on a spot, or to crossfade six music beds without a grating key change or missing a beat mean nothing if the message is lost on the listener because it's too buried in effects or because the listener lost interest and punched out. All that time and creative energy wasted, as was the advertiser's money.
I've long thought there should be an awards competition centered around results achieved for the advertiser. Submitted along with the commercial would be documentation showing the results achieved: more bodies through the door, more product moved from the shelves, higher name recognition, etc.. Spreadsheets showing the amount invested compared to the return would carry as much or more weight than the commercial itself. (Now there would be mounds of monotonous paperwork!) Finally, an award that would help land more business! An award top brass would encourage you to enter!
Let's face it, awards are designed to feed two things: The egos of those creating the spots and the pockets of those handing out the awards. Like John Pellegrini, I no longer enter the Addy's, or the NAMA awards, CIRT awards (though their awards look much more impressive than our Addy's), Clio's or any of the other number of competitions that cross my desk. I see little reward for me or for the station for the amount of money these groups ask me to give them for the privilege of judging my work out of context. (Your perspective really does change when it's your own money you're spending!)
I have just one guilty pleasure when it comes to awards, and this is an honest compliment, not a blatant suck-up: the only competition I feel moved to enter anymore is the Radio And Production Awards. That's because there is a true sense of satisfaction that comes from having your work judged by one's peers. People who can "hear between the lines," who take the time to really listen. The rewards are great should your work make the final cut. That makes the entry fee well worthwhile. I'll also be entering the Mercury awards if and when I produce something I feel is worthy. Steeper entry fee, but hey, the cash awards are in the thousands! And finally, if anyone takes up my idea for a results-oriented award, my entry will be among the first...provided I can get someone in accounting to help with my entry forms.
Thanks for the opportunity to express my view.
Craig Rogers, Production Director
WHO, Des Moines, Iowa
The July issue was one that sent many varied thoughts through my head. The first one that jumped up was as I was reading the Steve Martin interview.
It was four years ago that my wife and I were in Scotland on our honeymoon and to visit some of my relatives. The first thing that I remember is getting off the plane in Glasgow, heading to the hotel and turning on the TV news. BBC was covering the arrest of Jeffrey Dalhmer, in the fashion you would expect from the BBC, calm, unsensational, just the facts. Driving around the country for the next couple of weeks was completely surreal, however. There were the commercial stations sounding very American, using lots of Joe Kelly-ish sweepers and Morning Zoo Dalhmer jokes, contrasting the BBC, who would talk about what was going on in between these long public affairs type documentaries. The one that my wife and I STILL joke about was titled "Ageing Lesbians of Scotland," all the while me having to "translate" for my wife. She is French and has a hard time hearing through the Scotch dialect.
My thoughts on the John Pellegrini piece were mixed. Of course radio is a business. It was one of the hardest lessons that I had to learn coming out of college. Illusions must be gently shattered to make a dollar I guess. The other thing I've learned the hard way is the larger concept of customer service. Staying away from buzz words, what I mean is that everybody in radio should be working in three areas of customer service: The listener (a given), the advertising client (of course), and our internal "customers." What I've found here is that if we treat our business dealings internally the way we treat our business dealings out in the "real world," life is smoother. It's kind of a hard concept to grab hold of, but once you get everyone on the same page, everyone profits, which is the reason why we are doing this. Isn't it?
The Dennis Daniel/Andy Capp pieces are really two sides of the same coin. I couldn't agree more about local awards. I'm tired of being the poor cousin from across the tracks when it comes to advertising! My entire focus when it comes to awards is the Radio And Production Awards because they are judged by someone who knows what it's like. They are honest. When I enter the local awards (which I've only done lately to keep the station name out there), I never have any idea what criteria they use to judge. And who the hell are these judges anyway???? Spots I've entered that have come in top five INTERNATIONALLY in Radio And Production don't even mention in the local awards? Something in the equation is wrong and, quite frankly, I don't care anymore. I loved the two columns though. Don't let my raving get in the way of my praise.
Now if I can just get the R.A.P. Cassette back from the sales guys to listen to it....
Craig Jackman, Production Director
CHEZ 106-FM, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada