Why SPEED does not enter awards

Ian Perrin
By Ian Perrin | 28 June 2024
Ian Perrin.

Having worked in advertising my whole life, many of my friends are in the same profession. And that means in June my social feed is best to be avoided. Many of them are humbly bragging their way across the south of France posting on their incredible wins. And because they are friends, I mostly applaud their endeavors.

But I got a bit tired of it all this year, and as a joke on their behalf I posted on LinkedIn that SPEED had gone another year without an award, and another year without a Cannes diary to post about. While it was meant to poke fun at them, I was truly shocked by the response it received both publicly and privately. It seems that out of the glare of social media, there is a growing disdain for the effort, cost, and efficacy of awards in general and Cannes specifically.

Now let me start by saying that I do love awards. It is an important way to benchmark the work we are doing, it is motivating for team members, it helps to raise the profile of the agency, and let’s be honest the ego boost is exhilarating. However, when we started SPEED, it was at the same time that the “ditch the pitch” movement was gaining momentum. And I honestly found it embarrassing that the same people who were decrying a process that they said put onerous pressure on their business and people were the same ones who were totally focused on entering awards. It screamed of arrogance and an obvious lack of focus on clients who ultimately pay the bills. So, we made the decision to embrace the pitch process, and not enter any awards.

It has been a contentious decision that we have debated countless times, but we keep coming back to the same answer, “let’s do what’s right for our business and our clients.” And the reality is our business is low-profile, data driven and focused on strategy, so the decision is in keeping with who we are. And the reality is most of our clients are growth oriented and come to us for performance optimisation, not fame.

There is no doubt that the decision has been bad for business but having grown from 2 to 40 people in 4 years, it is not exactly holding us back. More importantly it means that the clients we do have are more naturally aligned to who we are as a business. Too often agencies will do everything they can to win a piece of business regardless of whether it fits their values. Being ourselves may mean we are on fewer pitch lists, but it certainly means our conversion rate is higher.

However, the biggest advantage we have experienced is the impact on our product and the people who produce it. We always look at a brief through the lens of business performance, not how the industry may value the solution. We then invest the significant cost savings in our people, the culture of the agency and our bespoke training course called SPEED School.

I appreciate that this will not be a popular opinion, but I would encourage those who share the sentiment to consider not to ditch the pitch but ditch the decoration instead.

Ian Perrin, managing partner, SPEED

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