Why Kula Partners does not enter awards shows

It’s that time of year again. ICE Awards time in Halifax. For those of you who don’t know, the ICE Awards is Atlantic Canada’s annual advertising awards / gala event—a lovely celebration of advertising creativity attended by folks who wear more black and are generally better looking than the rest of us.

And for the record: I think the event, and the awards, and the after-party, are just fantastic. They have served to advance, considerably, the awareness and appreciation of creativity in advertising in our region and, generally speaking, it’s a helluva time.

But we do not enter them. In fact, we have never submitted our work to an awards committee / show. Not once. Why?

Team Focus
Too often, I’ve seen work created for the sole purpose of winning awards. The client’s goals, business needs, marketing objectives, etc. being thrown entirely out the window in pursuit of a Best-in-Show. At its worst, I’ve seen this devolve to a point where an agency’s best talent is only interested in, and focused on, winning awards to build their own personal portfolios. This just isn’t the team / environment we’re interested in creating, and we find our clients aren’t interested either.

Client / Agency Alignment
Many awards shows simply worship at the altar of creativity. We tend to join our clients in worshiping at the altar of results. As an example, putting “FREE” in all caps in a call-to-action on a website (or, frankly, having a call-to-action at all) can be seen by creative awards judges as somewhat less cool and creative than the alternative. However, we use “FREE” rather than “free” in certain situations because our split testing shows “FREE” converts better (a 5-10% lift, actually) than its lower-case variant. All of that to say, we feel that chasing awards would take us out of alignment with what our clients actually need from us: sales results. To be clear, great, award-winning advertising can and often does generate amazing results for clients. But too often, work that is supposedly great is being assessed based upon an ill-defined set of subjective criteria rather than the cold reality that occurs when a marketing idea meets the market. We like the pressure, and the client / agency alignment, that comes with direct results measurement.

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