John McGee: The Irish awards season finally draws to a close
Celebrating success in the marketing and advertising world has become an important part of the sector's social calendar - but is it a good thing?
Sighs of relief could be heard reverberating around Dublin and beyond last week as the awards season for the Irish advertising and marketing industry drew to an official close with the Marketing Institute's annual All-Ireland Marketing (AIM) Awards.
The AIM Awards (which are sponsored by Independent News & Media) rounded off what was a busy few months for many Irish creative and media agencies, as well as marketing departments the length and breadth of Ireland.
Kicking off with both the Love Radio Awards and the Media Awards in March (Disclaimer: I am a co-founder of both the Love Radio Awards and the Media Awards), they were followed by the APMC Awards, An Post's Smart Marketing Awards and then the AIM Awards.
Meanwhile, judging for the Institute of Advertising Practitioners of Ireland's biannual ADFX Awards is well under way - although a brief summer sojourn will allow short-listed entrants time to prepare for the big night, which will take place in September.
Although the Irish awards season may have ended, next up is the biggest global advertising wards programme of its kind - the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, which takes place in mid-June.
As many as 70 Irish attendees from creative and media agencies, as well as numerous marketing directors, will flock to the sun-baked Mediterranean city for four days of networking, showcasing and, yes, award-giving.
Only a handful of Irish agencies, including Rothco, Ogilvy Ireland and FleishmanHillard, have ever won at Cannes. This year, however, the tricolour will be flying in more than one location in France as a number of Irish agencies will be hoping to join this list.
While it is easy to be cynical about awards programmes, for an industry that depends on creativity, innovation and effectiveness, the various awards here in Ireland, and indeed the global ones, do play an important role in validating, showcasing and saluting a lot of the behind-the-scenes work that goes into creating, planning and executing advertising and marketing campaigns.
Calling out good work is important - not just for morale within the industry, but it also raises the bar by keeping people hungry and focused on delivering more effective stand-out advertising and marketing solutions for their clients. There's nothing more annoying than seeing a rival brand, agency or media owner walking away with an award on the night when you know you could have done, and should have done, better.
For brands, awards may not have always topped the list in terms of priorities, but given the collaborative and innovative dimension to many recent multichannel campaigns and the growing role non-traditional media and advertising is playing, they are a lot more involved than ever before. Gone are the days when an agency rocked up to an awards programme, knocked back a few glasses of wine, collected a trophy and proudly placed it on the front reception desk the next morning.
Given that advertising is all about the client and the business impact it has on the bottom line, more and more clients are insisting on being there on the big night. While there may be a mismatch in their expectations with those of their agencies on the night, their presence augurs well for an industry that needs much more effective collaboration if they are to make the business case for greater marketing investment in the boardroom.
Every couple of years, along comes a brand or two that ends up stealing the show at the different awards programmes. Some of them have big-budget campaigns, others have demonstrated they can do something powerful with little or no money at all.
A brand that falls somewhere between these two stools, for example, is Orchard Thieves - the stand-out winner of the 2016 awards season just gone, having cleared up at the Media Awards, the APMC Awards and An Post's Smart Marketing Awards.
Although pipped at the post for the new product award category in the AIM Awards by Kerry Foods' Fire and Smoke range, the Orchard Thieves story played a role in ensuring Heineken bagged the Marketing Team of the Year award on the night.
Launched into a market dominated almost entirely by rival Bulmers last year, Orchard Thieves faced stiff competition from the outset. Through clever and effective marketing and advertising, however, the brand now commands around 9.3pc of the Irish cider market. For most new product launches, a market-share of anything up to 2pc by the end of year one would be a substantial achievement.
A brand's success, of course, is not determined by the number of awards it wins. Nor is future success guaranteed for an agency or media brand that bags a gold award on the night.
What is important, however, is that in a people and ideas-driven industry - that depends increasingly on innovation and best-in-class creativity - success is celebrated, recognised and showcased whenever it can be.
Sunday Indo Business