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Forget The Recognition, There’s Another Reason Why Creatives Are Obsessed With Winning Awards

Why is it that Art Directors and Copywriters have a seemingly insatiable desire to win awards?  Is it our pitiful need for praise, a pat on the back, and an acknowledgement of a job well done? Yes. Is it our desperate desire to be recognized as a somebody in a nobody industry? Yep. Is it our shallow hope that winning an award will get us laid after the post-show gala? You betcha. However, there is an equally powerful, though seldom discussed, incentive behind our hankering for One Show pencils, Cannes Lions and Black D&AD pencils.

It’s called money.

That’s right, most of us are also motivated by coin. So a big part of all that tantrum throwing when our ads don’t get approved is due to money. You see, every time one of our great ideas doesn’t sell, the opportunity cost to our future income is staggering. We’re talking about tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars of potential income loss. How’s that? When you’re an award-winning creative you get offered a lot of money by agencies that want award-winning work. At award shows headhunters, agency CEO’s and ad groupies are all over you like green on grass. You’re wined and dined and treated like a rock star. Next thing you know, you’re jetting around the world in first class, shooting spots in exotic locations, dating Czech supermodels and making more money than you ever dreamed possible. Pretty heady stuff for a geeky English major from Nowheresville, NC.

So there. Now you know the real reason why creatives pitch a fit when our ads die untimely deaths in presentations and focus groups. Everything is riding on those ads. (Including the prospects of riding in better sports cars or having Czech supermodels riding on us.)

Of course, all this is bad news for clients trying to build a brand. It’s hard (if not impossible) to maintain a consistent look and tone with your campaign when your creative teams keep quitting to work for someone else.

Great Creative Talent Is Easy To Find But Hard To Keep

Isn’t it ironic that in an industry that gets paid for building brand loyalty there is no brand loyalty between creatives and agencies? The fact is, the average creative only works for an agency a year-and-a-half. It’s no coincidence that’s about how long it takes for a good creative to add some new award-winning stuff to his book, get a better offer and jump ship. By hopping from agency to agency, a creative with a good reel and print book containing two or three award-winning campaigns can almost double his salary with every move. And if they win some major awards, (like Best of Show at Cannes) they can literally triple their salaries in no time.

On the other hand, if a creative hasn’t produced any award-winning work in two years at an agency, he’s going to jump ship to an agency where he has a better shot at winning something  – if he can. If a creative is still at the same agency longer than two or three years, chances are:

He’s cashed in his chips and the agency is paying him more money than God.
He can’t get a job anywhere else.
He owns all or part of the agency.
His wife makes more than he does and doesn’t want to move.

To make matters worse, most agencies could care a less.  There are plenty of other creatives out there with bigger, better, more award-winning portfolios than your current staff.  This is just more bad news for clients who want a consistent look and feel to their brand. The new creative teams are going to fight like hell to change the campaign and make it their own.

Not to mention, it takes a lot of time for copywriters to master the tonality of an already established campaign – if in fact, they ever do.  I’ll let you in on a nasty little agency secret. Agencies rarely promote their own creatives. If there’s an opening for a Creative Director, ninety-nine times out of a hundred, they’ll hire someone from outside the agency. Even if there’s a senior art director or copywriter working for the agency that’s more qualified to fill the position.

The reason behind this is pretty simple. It’s called ego. Creatives work in teams consisting of an art director and a copywriter. Teams of art directors and copywriters usually work under a team of creative directors. There is absolutely no way a Creative Director who’s an art director is going to degrade himself by promoting a senior copywriter that used to work for him to be his new partner.  Ain’t gonna happen. (Unless of course, he’s worked with this writer out of necessity and they win some big awards together.) Usually the only time a senior creative gets promoted to creative director is when the current creative director:

gets fired
quits to make more money at another agency

So if you’re an art director or copywriter waiting to get promoted to creative director by your shop – you’re probably wasting your time.

So how do agencies choose a new creative director?

You guessed it.  They hound the award shows looking for the new creative superstar who will put the agency on the award show map.  When you win an award, headhunters are all over you like green on grass. They pore over award annuals. And usually, the creative with the most Lions and Pencils  goes to the highest bidder. Unless, the creative gets an offer from a really hot shop where they think they can produce more award winning work and eventually make more money when they sell out to a big, giant corporate conglomerate and are never heard from again. The problem with this model is there’s no correlation with hiring an expensive, award-winning creative and new business wins, effectiveness of agency work and agency morale. In fact, it’s been my experience just the opposite occurs. (But that’s another topic for another day.)

So what’s to be done about it?

The most direct solution (and least likely to ever happen) is to break the stranglehold award shows have as the end-all, be-all arbiters of copywriters and art director’s self-worth and actual worth. Let’s face it; your advertising peers will not acknowledge you as an advertising creative genius unless you’ve won at least one Cannes Lion, a One Show Pencil and a D&AD Pencil.  On the other hand, your parents and friends outside the industry won’t consider you a creative genius until you’ve won a Clio. Now what’s crazy about all this, and excuse me for stating the obvious, none of these shows have anything to do with the right and true measure of great advertising – results.  OK, what about the Effies, you ask? While the idea behind the Effies is spot on – honoring the world’s most “effective” campaigns – the results submitted are dubious at best. (Having won a few, I know.) The Effies have been and probably always will be the Account Executives’ award show.

Here’s what’s worked for us.

As Creative Director of The Republik, I personally receive about 50 job inquiries a month from some of the most talented writers and art directors in the biz. Probably because several creative blogs have ranked us as one of the top ten creative agencies out there. Most of our art directors, writers and graphic designers have been with us for much, much longer than the agency norm and I have no doubt they will be here for years to come.

Yet, The Republik is a small agency in a small market and we don’t even enter most award shows. So how do we keep our art directors and copywriters happy when we really don’t enter award shows? And how in the world is it possible to be recognized as one of the industry’s hottest creative shops when we’re not really winning any awards?

Easy. We replace the lure of advertising awards with more satisfying alternatives. Creating work that exceeds our clients’ expectations is highly valued here. In fact, The Republik’s compensation model allows us to generously bonus art directors, writers, designers (and AE’s) who create effective work. As an employee-owned agency, everyone who works here (after proving him or herself) has an opportunity to become a Republik partner. We turn our staff into advertising superstars by making sure their work is written about and featured in every on and offline medium possible. In the last five years, The Republik’s work has been featured over 5,000 times by news outlets as diverse as The New York Times, Country Music Television, Boating Magazine, Inside Edition, Creativity, Time Magazine  and CA to name a handful.

The results?

Our creatives not only feel like they’re being paid well, they can actually make more by doing more effective work.
Everyone loves the instant gratification of seeing his or her work discussed in print. (Our clients like it too – but that’s another story.) There are few fights between AE’s and creatives over the work – the goal is no longer about winning awards but to create results.

Ironically, the work is creatively better. (We not only believe, but also know, there is a direct correlation between great artistic work and positive results. (For more on this, see my blog on Pull vs. Push Advertising.)
The Republik has some of the lowest creative and account turnover rates in the biz.

I could go on, but I have more rewarding work to do. Let’s face it, this blog isn’t going to win me any awards or more importantly, earn me more money. Oh, and for the record, my wife is Czech.

by David Smith The Republik

Photo Credit: Unknown – Licensed CC-BY-NC-SA


As a way to cope with tough economic times, more and more Americans are bartering – trading goods and services without exchanging money. According to the online service, Craigslist, there were nearly 145,000 listings in their barter section, double from last year.

“I’ll throw in an old fashioned form of capitalism for an advancement in economic security.


Ok, for an extra couple of bucks in my pocket, I’ll give you an old couch. SOLD!”

by Gerard Blanton Brand Futurist The Republik Corporal Creative Ops

Photo Credit: Unknown via – Licensed CC-BY-NC-SA


We believe the ten change agents below show great promise for bringing about a variety of improvements to mankind. To put our money where our mouth is, The Republik is going to make a $50,000 donation to the agent of change that gets the most votes. You can only vote once, so make it count. Below the poll are links to websites of the ten contenders. Final votes will be tallied on November 4 and we’ll announce the winner right here shortly thereafter. Thanks for participating in our little effort to support those who want to change the world for the better.



About the change agents:

The Pickens Plan
Spearheded by T. Boone Pickens, founder and chairman, BP Capital Management, the Pickens Plan calls for building new wind generation facilities that will produce 20% of our nation’s electricity and allow us to use natural gas as a transportation fuel. The combination of these domestic energies can replace more than one-third of our foreign oil imports in less than 10 years.

Aravind Eye Care Hospital
At age 65, instead of retiring, Dr. G. Venkataswamy mortgaged his home and opened Aravind Eye Care to perform free or low-cost cataract surgery on poor Indians. In his first year, Dr. V. performed over 5,000 surgeries.

Today, Aravind is the largest and most productive eye care facility in the world. From April 2007 to March 2008, about 2.4 million persons hav received outpatient eye care and over 285,000 have undergone eye surgeries there.

Grameen Bank
Founded by 2006 Nobel Peace winner, Professor Muhammad Yunus, Grameen Bank (GB) has reversed conventional banking practice by removing the need for collateral and created a banking system based on mutual trust, accountability, participation and creativity. It’s goal is to eradicate poverty from the world.

Largely due to Grameen’s work, Bangledesh is the only country in the world on course to reach the millennium development goals of reducing poverty by one half by 2015.

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology)
Founded by the inventor of the Segway, Dean Kamen, FIRST was created “To transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology heroes.”

Its mission is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills.

FIRST students are:
– More than 3 times as likely to major specifically in engineering.
– Nearly 4 times as likely to expect to pursue a career specifically in engineering.

Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center (SynBERC), University of California, San Francisco
SynBERC’s vision is to catalyze biology as an engineering discipline to allow researchers to design and build standardized, integrated biological systems to accomplish many particular tasks. Just as technicians can now assemble off-the-shelf electronic components to build computers, SynBERC foresees a day when engineers will assemble biological components into host organisms to achieve specific functions.

SynBERC is currently working on:

a.) Construction of a custom-built E. coli bacteria that will hunt down cancer cells and destroy them
b.) Development of a bacterium for customized chemical synthesis to create a super-strong silk
c.) Development of a bacterium to produce cheap biofuels from corn and other plants

A Swarm of Angels
A Swarm of Angels (ASOA) is an open source film project, whose aim is to make the world’s first Internet-funded, crewed and distributed feature film. The Film will be written, funded and distributed over the Internet. The plan is to gather a group of 50,000 people who each contribute £25 ($47.50) to join the project.

The film will be released under a Creative Commons license, and people are free to share, remix, and, distribute the film anyway they like.

Population Services International (PSI)
PSI is a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C. that harnesses the vitality of the private sector to address the health problems of low-income populations in more than 60 developing countries. With programs in malaria, reproductive health, child survival and HIV, PSI promotes products, services and healthy behavior. Products and services are sold at subsidized prices rather than given away in order to motivate commercial sector involvement. In 2007, PSI estimates that its programs directly prevented more than 156,000 HIV infections, 2.6 million unintended pregnancies, more than 149,000 deaths from malaria and diarrhea and 19 million malaria episodes.

Atlas Economic Research Foundation
Atlas is committed to discover, develop and support ‘intellectual entrepreneurs’ worldwide who can advance the vision of a society of free and responsible individuals. Atlas believes a free society can be achieved through respect for private property rights, limited government under the rule of law, and the market order.

Atlas discovers, develops and supports intellectual entrepreneurs by leveraging its position at the center of a worldwide movement to bring attention to all sorts of experiments at the task of furthering the free society.

Doctors Without Borders
Doctors Without Borders, USA (DWB-USA) was founded in 1990 in New York City to raise funds, create awareness, recruit field staff, and advocate with the United Nations and US government on humanitarian concerns. It assists victims of disasters and conflicts worldwide by supporting relief projects conducted primarily by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) affiliates. MSF is an international independent medical humanitarian organization that provides aid in nearly 60 countries to people whose survival is threatened by violence, negligence, or catastrophe, primarily due to armed conflict, epidemics, malnutrition, exclusion from health care, or natural disasters. In 2007, MSF-USA raised $152.1 million and sent 200 aid workers to work overseas.

Accion International
ACCION International is a private organization with the mission of giving people the financial tools they need – microenterprise loans, business training and other financial services – to work their way out of poverty. A world pioneer in microfinance, ACCION was founded in 1961 and issued its first microloan in 1973 in Brazil. ACCION International’s partner microfinance institutions today are providing loans as low as $100 to poor men and women entrepreneurs in 25 countries in Latin America, Asia, Africa and the United States. In the last decade alone, ACCION partners have disbursed more than 22.4 million microloans totaling more than $17.4 billion; 97 percent of the loans have been repaid.

by Robert Shaw West Brand Futurist The Republik Companies Chairman/CEO


“The winners of the platform wars stand to make billions selling devices, selling eyeballs to advertisers, selling services such as music, movies, even computer power on demand. Yet the outcome here is far more important than who makes the most money. The future of the Internet—how we get information, how we communicate with one another and, most important, who controls it—is at stake.” Josh Quittner/San Francisco.

From here.

“The underlying question is: Are the users of the Internet actually in the driver’s seat or are the 800-pound gorilla businesses jockeying behind the scenes the one’s truly controlling the outcome?”

by Sam Knoll Brand Futurist The Republik Commander Analytic Ops

Photo Credit: via Time Inc.


LED light bulbs that look like regular light bulbs, screw into regular light bulb sockets and last a gazillion times longer. Sound too good to be true? It’s true. But it’s gonna cost ya.

“Regular light bulbs last up to 3,000 hours. This new LED light bulb lasts about 50,000. Who do I write the check out to?”

by Mike Randall Brand Futurist The Republik Captain Strategic Ops