Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Ad Week is annoying (this week)

I’m puzzled (and to be honest, really irritated) about the strangely reconstituted Media Plan of the Year issue that appeared in last week's Adweek.

While I congratulate all the winners (a man can have just so many sour grapes, after all) I have to question why Adweek made the change at all.

This is how the editors explained it: “Adweek this year selected 30 leading media agencies and asked them to submit their best TV, print, and integrated planning work across four dollar thresholds".

The result is that the contest went from an open, democratic, egalitarian system to a closed plan that instead asks a predetermined list of 30 companies to submit their work. The editors never bothered to declare what criteria they used in picking the 30.

(Incidentally, even without being included in the 30, we made the issue, as the creative partners for Starcom for the work on Chevrolet /Glee .)

The sad part is that the open call was fair and unrestricted, a clear hunt for the very best media thinking open to anyone, from anywhere. Personally, I also loved and respected the purity of the winners, with zero devalued gold, silvers, bronzes dished out across seeming unending, ridiculously niche categories.

Indeed, to win a Plan of the Year award meant something with just a solo winner for each of the 10 categories and that was it. Despite the fact that the publication has been folded into Adweek, the Media Plan of the Year franchise still carries credibility and enormous value.

Without being too obviously self-promoting, (okay, it’s my blog, so I will be somewhat self-promoting) the fine Communication Strategists within GS&P are on a tear, having just this year alone, picked up an EFFIE for Media Innovation, a Cannes Media Lion, the Grand Prix Award at the Digital Out-of-Home awards, two MIXX awards and no fewer than 5 short-listed entries at the global Festival of Media Awards.

In fact, over the last 6 years GS&P has been honored to win 5 of Mediaweek’s Media Plan of the Year awards! All of this is meant to make the point that we believe we have earned the right to participate in a discussion of what makes for the best media strategy and thinking today. That we were not asked to submit is frustrating.

Looking at the larger picture, this celebration of the best of the best also did something special for the media industry. It elevated the media side of the house. It created an award that clients, and even creatives recognized as important. And truth be told we needed that. The legacy of media within the marketing industry has been as a lesser discipline - the last 5 minutes of the presentation. This viewpoint was never fair, and in today’s environment, where architecting conversations with consumers is more critical than any single ad, even more utterly wrong. However, biases take a long time to overcome, and as I mentioned, I fear this new, closed approach to the Plan of the Year award is a step backward.

Let’s hope it’s re-reinvented to be more democratic next year. Because this way, such a limited call for entires would leave most readers with the suspicion that the award of Media Plan of the Year no longer truly is.