The advertising industry has always structured itself around media. As new media emerged, new skills developed in order to service these new ways to reach the mass market. When television arrived, agencies created new departments around it before eventually pulling those departments back in when the importance of TV became clear. The same pattern repeated itself with digital, in departments and agencies.
Each discipline within the communications landscape germinated their own award shows to champion ideas within that specific discipline. Creative award shows were for creative agencies, media and PR and digital developed their own.
At the same time, all parties in the media-industrial-complex suddenly find themselves in competition for the same budgets:
- Media agencies are developing creative ideas with their own creative directors.
- Media companies built brand studios that are competing with creative agencies to shore up publishers’ bottom lines.
- Creative agencies are increasingly spinning PR ideas as advertising to cut through the noise of an overloaded mediascape.
- PR agencies are competing to produce video content, traditionally the domain of the advertising agency.
The great blur means agencies of all kinds started describing their offering as “creative solutions for businesses problems” which pit them all into competition with one another and opened a crack for the consultancies to swarm in to chase those same budgets. The times they are confusing.
A decade ago I collaborated with global creative award show the LIAs to develop a category that could transcend media, to nurture ideas that were experimental and evolutionary. The NEW @ LIA awards was a place for ideas that didn’t fit in elsewhere. These new kinds of ideas were too nascent to have clearly defined boundaries. In the intervening years, new media typologies have crystallized and sub-categories have been announced inside NEW @ LIA to reflect them.
- Virtual/Augmented Reality is still new for agencies and consumers but it’s clearly going to be an ongoing medium.
- Creative Technology reflects the fact that technology itself is now a brand medium.
- Newer still are categories that look to reward and champion creative ideas coming via new entities, be it media, publisher or beyond:
- Media Creativity looks to bring media agencies to the creative table.
- Native Advertising is for brilliant creative work coming out of publisher brand studios.
- Influencer Advertising looks at work being produced through an entirely new supply chain - ‘influencers’ are creative, media agency and publisher in one.
- Creative Data champions the use of data beyond creepy and clumsy re-targeting to craft beautiful creative work.
- Self-promotion is designed to highlight that fact that interesting agencies and individuals are producing and publishing ideas under their own aegis.
- Finally, in a first for award shows, the Brand Action category looks to celebrate ideas that truly transcend media. Actions such as REI’s OptOutside, Burger King’s McWhopper, Amex’s Small Business Saturday, State Street’s Fearless Girl statue now inform content and advertising in ways that electrify global news and social media. Beyond integrated or PR, these ideas achieve their impact by not being restricted to media. In a world of fake news, it’s no longer enough to just tell people what you sell - a brand needs to do things and then tell people.
As more types of companies compete for client attention and budgets in the idea arena, they’ll need to raise their creative profile. Awards are advertising for advertising and the agencies that win them. If publications, PR shops, consultancies, in-house and media agencies want creative chops, they’ll need to up their case study game, or remain dominated in creative shows by traditional advertising agencies who have the muscle memory of making films to sell and merchandise their ideas.
By Faris Yakob [@faris]. Co-founder of the nomad creative consultancy Genius Steals and author of the best selling Paid Attention: Innovative Advertising for a Digital World. Their newsletter Strands of Genius was named one of 7 essential reads for curious creatives [Hubspot] and provides brief bursts of inspiration in your inbox to help you have more, better ideas.