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Sep 25, 2018    Industry Intrigue

Awarded but Not Earned: The Problem with Award Corporations


As of writing this entry, the 2018 Emmys are just under a week away. The awards are meant to honor the best in television, to elevate the work of creators who are advancing the craft. But who dictates what qualifies as good TV? Apparently it’s members of the Television Academy, so they should know what they’re talking about. Then again, how could they have seen every TV show in a year? Who would recognize an unsung genius or under-marketed program? And if the Academy members’ opinions are so sacred and unspoiled, why do networks spend millions marketing their shows directly to the Television Academy voters?

This is one of the most public examples of how the integrity of awards can be easily called to question. They exist in every industry and are, in every case, a popularity contest.

How did we reach such a cynical conclusion? It doesn’t take a whole lot of thinking to get there.

We run an Austin-based marketing and advertising firm. For us, our goal is just to make money for the client. It’s not about winning an award, and it didn’t occur to me to think about awards until I heard about another agency that had made up some awards to give themselves. These weren’t reputable third-party website awards, advertising competitions, or even Ad Age small agency awards. Apparently, they were decorating their office with trophies they bought. This gave the appearance to prospective clients that they are a highly decorated and esteemed marketing company.

That seemed dishonest and unfair. But all’s fair in love and advertising, right? Was this the level playing field?

I ultimately decided not to stoop to that level. But, if agencies can make up awards to give themselves, then I can make up an award too. And I determined to do it right.

First, you need to figure out categories to determine who is eligible for the award. In our time running the agency, we had the honor of working with numerous talented specialists in various creative fields. Many of them are lifelong freelancers, who don’t normally have places where they can receive accolades for their work. We decided that The Digital Shortlist should be for them.

Who is out there judging the top website designs? Or the best UX designers? Or the most stylin’ illustrators, coolest copywriters, and smartest strategists? We are.

We work in a company culture where we are judged on how we next-level our own work. But we want people around that make us better, because they’ve mastered this one thing, and have mastered it well. Our creative idols are not famous. They are real artists. Having worked in digital advertising and marketing, we feel qualified to judge the work of creative professionals who inspire us to be better. By allowing them to submit their work for cheap, we knew we would get a manageable number of submissions without limiting who would be able to afford to take the risk of submitting to an award.

The Digital Shortlist has not been around for long, but it’s backed by Rock Candy Media’s audience of business owners and CEO’s. We did this to get you in front of them, but selfishly you in front of us. If you are working in a creative field, no matter how niche, submit today and get recognized for your talents.

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