Here in London the PM awards are almost upon us and people are frantically dry-cleaning their shiny suits and their not-too-glam-for-lunchtime-frocks and preparing to cut short, by a day, Dry January.
This won’t come as that much of a shock but these annual awards have rather a low level of credibility within the creative cognoscenti, but like all creative shows they maintain a distinct brand and that, if nothing else, is important to acknowledge.
A few months back a group of Creative Directors from every county of Pharmaland were all invited to the IPA to discuss, over some wine and good food, how the Best of Health awards could maintain it’s integrity and raison d’etre now that Cannes had loomed in to frame as the benchmark for excellence and international debauchery.
Did the Best of Health still have a role?
This displayed at least an understanding of the fragile credibility that all award shows have.
Almost unanimously the feeling was that it did still have a place, but that the dynamic had to change a little. The end result of much Merlot fueled (by the end of the evening) debating was several good ideas, (some terrible ones too) one of which was to move the date of the event so as not to compete with Cannes head on.
While we were chewing over the general status of the awards spectrum the subject turned to our old friend the PMs.
As I said, within the creative community they are almost universally regarded with a degree of disdain. (creatives are such tarts)
But there it is.
Creatives generally prefer a system whereby if the standard of work isn’t good enough, no award is given. This has to be coupled with judges that have credibility too, otherwise all is lost. Together this makes an award all the more coveted and it has worked well for D&AD and the other top shows.
Because if you have to vote a winner then potentially you have to pick the best of a bad bunch. But the PMs are alone in standing by the ethos of awarding the best of what was entered that year and having a mix of client and creatives as judges.
And you must award a gold, silver and bronze for each category. Because people pay a lot of money to enter and there’s nothing worse than an awards ceremony with no winners. From an awards show point of view I have some sympathy with that, I must say.
Imagine if you showed up to the Oscars and they just agreed that no one made the mark that year. Rather stuffs the after show parties doesn’t it?
And there you have it. To me, the PM’s focus is almost entirely around the event itself. You could pretty much have a luncheon at the Grosvenor House and have no awards at all and a couple of comics with much the same result, albeit with less of a budget for the organisers and not as much gnashing of teeth from the disgruntelcenti.
The point is not whether the PMs serve creative director egos or reward creativity but whether they have a business value or not.
And undeniably, for most agencies, and especially the ones aiming to get a foothold, they do. They still get you noticed within our overall client base.
Creatively excellent or not.
So, like it or not, most agencies still want to win one. With some notable exceptions.
By now it is no secret that Langland have withdrawn from entering this year.
There are several, understandable, possible reasons.
1. It could be that the PMs have just become too small and that their individual worth to the most awarded Healthcare agency in the world just isn’t worth enough. Cannes is now quite a glittering bauble and by comparison the PMs are like a parochial non league football trophy.
2. It could also be because if you are the most awarded healthcare agency in the world that takes a lot of cash to spend every year entering every show going and sometimes you have to prioritize.
3. They’re simply letting someone else have a go.
But whatever the reason, the PM awards are poorer for Langland’s absence.
And they’re not alone, Frontera also choose to exclude themselves from the PMs.
Only the awards themselves will prove whether the standard has slipped dramatically with the top teams absent.
So the PMs tread a fine line.
On one hand they need an element of creative credibility, to keep the entries coming. On the other hand, they need to not be so up themselves that smaller less creative agencies and bigger less creative clients think it’s still worth entering work and showing up for the lunch.
But the question remains: No matter how good your work, who wants to win Wimbledon in the year that Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal didn’t bother entering?
So, will Langland continue it’s success without the PMs? undoubtedly.
The bigger question might be what is the PMs without Langland, Frontera et al?
Back at the IPA dinner we all agreed on one thing.
The PMs don’t care about newcomers like Cannes, they’ll carry on regardless because what they offer is popular and has a clear role within the business – and like those comb-over comics from the 70’s, doing gags about mother-in-laws, they couldn’t give a flying fuck what the trendy alternative comics are up to in that there London.
And we all know what happened to them.
See you all on Friday. Chin Chin!