by Dennis Daniel
Awards, have you got any? Have they helped you in any way? How much do they mean to you and our career or your business? Is winning an award a true honor based on talent or politics? During my infancy in the biz, I thought winning awards was a noble achievement, something to strive for. I felt awards were a great way to impress current as well as potential clients. What could be greater than being recognized by fellow professionals for a job well done? Awards carry prestige and respectability, right? They let all who enter your domain know that you and your work should be taken seriously!
Well...maybe yes and maybe no.
The first award I ever won was a Clio Award in 1984. I was 24 years old. It was for a series of three commercials I did for a Long Island dentist, Dr. Charles Ross. The first spot was called "Here on the Islands" with me doing an impression of Geoffrey Holder (remember him? "Cola nuts, un-cola nuts, a-ha-ha-ha-haaaaa!"). The concept was based on people living on an island with no dentist. In the second, I did Archie and Edith (Archie has a toothache), and in the third, Star Trek characters (Spock has a toothache). To my utter amazement (given the unoriginality of the concepts), it won a Clio for best local radio campaign! I was shocked! All of a sudden, I'm standing next to Stiller and Meara, having my picture taken! (That picture ends up in Billboard and R&R!) I became the subject of a local TV news segment! I started to think, "Hmmm...I think it's time to ask for a raise." After tons of haggling, I got one! $100 more a week! Yes...it looked like the Clio was berry berry goo to mee.
I will admit that having won the damn thing did give me a bit more clout and prestige. I was even asked to be a Clio judge! It was during that experience that I began to see the forest for the trees when it comes to award judging.
The judging took place at one of New York's top ad agencies. I sat in a room occupied by all kinds of ad people. (Not one of them specialized in radio.) There were Creative Directors, secretaries, TV editors, print guys...a real eclectic bunch. I remember thinking, "Say, what does some CEO's secretary know about writing and producing radio spots? Where are the judges who do this for a living besides me?" We proceeded to listen to entries. All during the judging session, people talked during spots, made disparaging remarks, and basically treated the whole thing like a big pain in the ass joke. To me, this was an insult to all the hard work that these potential nominees put into their spots! It completely turned me off! So much so, that I didn't bother entering the Clio's for several years.
The following year I won the International Radio Festival Award for most humorous spot (again, for Dr. Charles Ross. This time, it was a "Honeymooners" parody, with Norton having a toothache!) I guess judges thought a funny spot for a dentist was a novelty or something! The fact is, with one exception, every award I've ever won has been for Dr. Charles Ross! All of them have been funny dentist spots! (Weird, huh?)
The awards that have meant the most to me were the two Radio And Production Awards I won. Why? Because I was being judged by my peers. The folks who do what I do! This carries tremendous weight for me! It's like a magician impressing other magicians. In my mind, it's the true way all radio awards should be judged! (In fact, I've been speaking recently to the Executive Director of the Clio Awards, Jim Smyth. He asked me how to make the Clios mean more to entry potentials. My answer? Do as the RAP Awards do. Let production people at radio stations judge them! Not some high falooten ad execs with ego problems.) The only present drawback to the RAP Award is, it's not as well know yet as a Clio or a Mercury award. This is not meant as an insult to this fine award. It just means there isn't much bargaining leverage with it yet. "What's a Rap Award?"
So, do awards mean a lot? For me, it's how they personally make me feel, not necessarily the prestige they carry. I have met so many people who have tons of awards and have never gotten a raise.
The other nasty thing about awards (besides the royal pain in the butt of selecting what to send in and filling out mounds of monotonous award paperwork) is the way the radio category is treated by the various award bodies out there! This was a topic of conversation between fellow RAPper John Pellegrini and I during this year's NAB convention in Vegas. In fact, I'm going to let John tell you exactly what pissed him off. Take it away Johnny:
Thanks, Dennis! One complaint I have is the amazing lack of interest in radio by advertising award committees. In the local Grand Rapids Addy awards, for example, there are over 100 different categories for print advertising awards. Included are such categories as, half-page newspaper with two colors, half-page newspaper with four colors, half-page newspaper black and white, and so on. There are about 20 TV awards. There are exactly 3 radio award categories: 30 second radio, 60 second radio, and PSA, with separate entry for local and regional (explain to me the difference).
The other problem I have is, to what standard or criteria are the spots judged? I've entered everything from single voice, to multiple, to lots of production (i.e. sfx), and the only ones that seem to win are the ones with lots of production and voices. If you include singing, you're guaranteed to win. But can you prove to me that just because you had lots of sound effects and singing, that the spot was successful for the client?
SIDEBAR: this year, myself and several other radio production people in the market chose to boycott the ADDY awards and not enter. We felt it was a waste of time for the above reasons. Incidentally, I already have six from past years. They have done nothing to further my career. Back to you Dennis.
Thanks, John. So, dear reader, what does an award mean to you and your career? I guess it's up to you!