29 Lions versus 0 Effies: Something doesn’t quite add up

Ogilvy Sydney head of strategy, Ryan O'Connell
By Ogilvy Sydney head of strategy, Ryan O'Connell | 7 September 2017
Ryan O'Connell

As almost everyone in the industry would know, Clemenger BBDO Melbourne's ‘Meet Graham’ campaign won a whopping 29 Lions at Cannes this year, including two Grand Prix and eight Gold Lions. This essentially means that the work for Victoria’s Transport Accident Commission was deemed one of the best campaigns in the world.

In. The. World.

Yet despite being a finalist in five categories, ‘Meet Graham’ couldn't win a single effectiveness award in its own country. That’s right, it went home empty handed from the Australian Effie Awards last week.

29 Lions. 0 Effies.

I can’t be the only person that thinks there is something seriously wrong with those numbers?

To me, it illustrates that the judging criteria for one of those prestigious and important award shows must be extremely flawed. Either the campaign was deemed incredibly creative, but didn't ‘work’. Or the campaign worked, but not to the level the Australian Effies judges deem worthy of metal. Either way, it’s not a great look.

To really confuse matters, ‘Meet Graham’ did have success in the APAC Effies, taking home a Gold and a Silver. So for the whole Asia Pacific region, the campaign was deemed effective. Yet not in Australia.

Yes, you may now scratch your head. I know I am.

Something is certainly a little amiss here, and we owe it to ourselves – as an industry – to ask a few questions.

Firstly, should potential Lion winners have to prove their campaigns were truly effective?

To be fair, Cannes calls itself a “festival of creativity”, not the less catchy “festival of effectiveness”. There is a Creative Effectiveness category, however you can only enter after you have been shortlisted or won a Lion the year before.

Many factors decide whether a campaign is ultimately ‘effective’ or not, above and beyond just its’ creativity. Cannes is what it is, and creativity needs be celebrated, as it’s proven to be the best way to deliver results for clients. That is precisely what Cannes does: celebrates creativity.

However, just a caution that being creative for creative sake shouldn’t really be celebrated by us either. If that’s your bag, the Cannes Film Festival is a different event at a different time of the year. We don’t produce art; we produce creative solutions for client problems. If we haven't helped solve a problem, then generally all we’ve done is waste money.

I’m not sure you should get an award just for wasting money; otherwise the same sex marriage plebiscite might win a Grand Prix.

Yet client problems we help solve won’t always be financially based, with some type of return on investment metric. Which brings me nicely to my second question. Specifically, how exactly can a campaign be deemed ‘effective’ in its’ region, but not its’ country?

I don’t know the answer. I would love to though, because it’s a little perplexing.

What I do know, having myself entered papers into both the APAC and Australian Effies, is that the entry forms are essentially the same, apart from one major difference: the requirement of an ROI figure.

That ROI figure is the holy grail for the Australian Effie judging. It has it’s own section that needs to be answered, and I know a number of first-round judges who head straight to that before even reading the paper, such is the importance put on ROI locally.

Conversely, the APAC Effies don’t even ask for an ROI.

Perhaps this is where ‘Meet Graham’ became unstuck. It’s extremely hard for a campaign that was asked to encourage people to think differently about road safety - and ultimately designed to save lives, rather than sell stuff - to have an ROI. I know, I’ve been involved in two papers like this. One won the Grand Effie, the other didn’t win anything. Go figure.

In any event, there is a growing feeling that the over-reliance on ROI in Australian judging is hurting the awards, and preventing great work with otherwise great results, from winning.

Is that true? Is that fair?

Yes. No. Maybe. Depends who you ask.

What I am sure we can all agree on is that 29 Lions and 0 local Effies is a discrepancy far too great, and one that needs to be acknowledged and addressed. Especially when the campaign in question actually was deemed worthy of effectiveness Gold in the region.

Quite simply, the judging criterion for Cannes Lions or the Australian Effies needs to change.

Or perhaps, some type of meeting in the middle is the ideal solution.

By Ogilvy Sydney head of strategy, Ryan O'Connell

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