Tuesday, September 17, 2019
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Is Marketing That Wins Creative Awards Actually Better Marketing?

The short answer is no because awards are not the aim of good marketing. The longer answer raises questions about the purpose, function, and implications for why and how marketing gets delivered.


The reason behind any marketing artifact is to sell something, even if the concept of “selling” is broadly defined as making someone aware, interested in, or an active customer of a product, service, or idea.

Apart from that purpose, it has absolutely no value; sociologists can note its impact on art or culture, and its practices employ people in its creation (so it impacts economies), but these influences have no relevance to the businesses or institutions that fund its delivery.

Marketing is a commercial transaction, for which businesses spend money in order to accomplish actions in the real world that lead to revenue and profitability. Tangential effects are not necessarily wrong, but simply tangential.

Future generations might remember a particular ad or social media stunt, but their purpose is to make a business-critical impact on consumers in the present tense.


The role of creativity in realizing the purpose of marketing is nuanced, but its central tenets have been revealed and repeatedly proven over the years: In a sentence, overly creative ads (or other marketing artifacts) don’t work any better than those deemed less so.

People don’t like products, services, or issues because they liked the creative ideas embedded in marketing communications by which they learned about them. In fact, there’s evidence that overly creative content often distracts people from grasping the underlying messaging (How many times have you remembered a funny ad, only to draw a blank when asked which brand was behind it?).

No matter how many awards marketers bestow upon one another for their work, it’s really inside baseball for creative people who find themselves working in commerce.


When a movie wins an Academy Award, it attracts new viewers, since the shorthand understanding of its imprimatur is that it recommends movies worth seeing. This helps sell more movie tickets, which is the business outcome that film creators desire.

Awards for marketing (advertising, public relations, social media, etc.) carry no such label, nor deliver a similar benefit since they recognize all of the qualities of content that have nothing to do with the underlying business objective for having created it in the first place.

Greater appreciation of the art or spirituality of marketing has no direct connection to selling stuff. There’s also no intrinsic value in prompting exposure since greater numbers of viewers witnessing content that doesn’t move them to do something meaningful for the sponsoring brand is no more useful than fewer numbers of people being equally uninspired.


Oddly enough, many would-be clients still believe that marketers who win creative awards are somehow more effective, or likely to succeed on their behalf. So various awards (like Cannes Lions) are marketed to brands in new business pitches, and many marketers on the corporate side like to associate themselves with said award-winners.

In this sense, creative marketing has a benefit, because it still finds a small, though vitally important audience that values it. The ugly truth is that the rest of the world really doesn’t care.
Is Marketing That Wins Creative Awards Actually Better Marketing?