What will happen to the awards?

(Photo credit: Star vector created by macrovector)

In the advertising and marketing worlds, where navel gazing is a key component of keeping the industry afloat, awards, especially those from the very outlets that cover the industry, are important. For revenue, sure, but also for networking. Go to an industry event and you will meet people. It’s intoxicating to be in a room with people who can help you, and whom you can help. 

But now it’s now 2020 and a global pandemic snakes its way across the globe, canceling events, forcing people indoors, changing our lives; personal and professional. 

What happens in the Age of Coronavirus, when events are shut and budgets are pulled? Will advertisers continue to enter into awards, both industry and trade outlet ones?

An agency exec from a large buying firm told me that with all the cost cutting measures taking place, it makes sense that budgets for submissions (what with the cost of creating a simple case study), award shows, travel, etc. will shrink. 

“And, who knows when folks will feel comfortable ‘gathering’ in large groups at award shows? Although for an industry that certainly loves its awards – be it big or small ones – this will likely be temporary,” the exec said. “On the other side, for the orgs / outlets that host and run award shows, their models may be permanently altered as folks become more accustomed to judging, hosting and presenting awards in virtual settings.”

Imagine shaking hands at an event?

Some, however, are more blunt about the role awards play in the industry and whether agencies will pony up the cash to participate. “Yes they will because without data that ties directly to sales they need validation for their work,” said David Binkowski, the president of Large Media, a marketing shop. 

But as agencies are getting punctured like a waterbed slept on by Freddy Krueger, the idea that they will prop up an events and awards environment seems hard to fathom. 

CNBC, for example, reports today on Omincom’s earnings: 

“Omnicom said it’s taking cost-cutting measures, including through voluntary pay cuts and by cutting pay for agency leaders and senior execs. The company has halted hiring, frozen salary increases and eliminated or reduced the number of freelancers it works with. Its agencies have also implemented reduced work weeks and furloughed or laid off “many” of its staffers.”

AdAge has a running tracker of how agencies are handling the impact of coronavirus on its business, and it ain’t pretty. Dentsu, for example, is postponing its Q1 earnings report, stating:

“As reported, the spread of the COVID-19 has had a major impact on worldwide society and the economy. This, in turn, has caused some delays to accounting procedures for the consolidation of the Group’s first quarter results."

In a logical universe, agencies, which pump untold amounts of money into the events and awards industry, will stop with these faux accolades and use this budget on other things. Perhaps its employees? 

It will be interesting to watch agencies justify the $500 entry fee, the $3000 event ticket, the $2000 congrats ads, and then all the travel to and from the event in Q2 or Q3 when folks think they’ll start picking themselves off the mat.

Digiday has a piece today about how agencies are looking at Q4, adding a dose of reality to the agency wishful thinking:

“This pandemic is not going to just impact our industry for the next two quarters; it is changing all of our lives for the foreseeable future,” said George Sargent, CEO of Arnold + Havas Media Boston.

Sargent continued: “Even optimistic predictions have highly attended live events — everything from live sports to industry conferences — on hold until 2021, which will have an adverse impact on everything from ticket and concessions sales, to travel and hospitality, to advertising spend and general employment. There will be no way to reasonably compare the fourth quarter of 2020 with the fourth quarter of 2019.”

Of course, we shouldn’t ignore the perceived value of putting an award on a pitch deck or on a trophy case or going back to the client and reminding them of all the great award-winning work they’ve done together. 

Publishers pivoting to events and awards was supposed to be the solution to their failed pivot to video. But as long as there are VC-backed ad-tech, there will still be media awards and events.

One ad-tech exec told me, “They often pay the bill, since this is a good way to show they are working with a particular brand. Like ‘I know you [brand X] don't really want to work with us on a case study, but how about we submit your work for an award since it was so great.’ Then, if they win the award, it almost serves the same purpose as a case study.”

If you’re an agency or ad-tech exec and planning (or not planning!) on submitting for awards, whether industry or media, let me know. 

And remember, in the immortal words of the Captain Trips, “we will get by.” 

You may have noticed that the name changed from Media Spy to Media Nut. There’s a reason for this, and one day, I may tell it. Perhaps at an industry awards show. Thank you for allowing me into your inbox, and send me your thoughts, as well as tips!