Advertising awards are a very lucrative business, which is why there are so many of them. The entrance fees usually starts in the low hundreds of dollars, and if you're entering several campaigns, you could be out of pocket by a few thousand bucks. Sometimes, even more.
So, with advertising agencies having less money to spend, but awards still being one of the few ways to show major credibility, which awards should you try and win? Here, we outline the best award shows; the ones that actually matter.
These are the awards that have high creative standards, are widely recognized by the industry, and mean something when you put them on your agency reel or your personal resume. After all, there's no point in listing all of the awards you've won if you have to explain what they are.
1: The D&AD (Design & Art Direction)
In my opinion, the D&AD is the biggest and the best. Of course, being British I would say that, but it's one of the few awards that refuses to hand out gongs if the work isn't good enough. Most other awards will compromise their standards to ensure every category has a winner, but not the D&AD. They set the bar really, really high.
Founded in 1962 by some of the best designers and art directors in the world (Alan Fletcher, David Bailey and Terence Donovan to name a few) they set impossibly high standards from the get-go. 2500 entries, 16 winners. Giants of advertising and design have since been president of the D&AD, including Paul Brazier, Graham Fink, Mary Lewis, Aziz Cami, Tim Delaney and Martin Lambie-Nairn.
The standards for even being considered for a D&AD award are so tough, they now have an award for getting a nomination. If you win a D&AD pencil, you're exceptional. If you win a D&AD Gold, well, you've just elevated yourself to a creative deity. But if money is tight and the work isn't absolutely fantastic, save your cash. Entering good work is not good enough, and you've just wasted your entry fee.
Chances of winning a D&AD pencil - Very, very slim
Bragging rights - Massive and forever
Effect - A D&AD pencil is a knighthood for your career.
2: The One Show
Widely known as the US equivalent of the D&AD, and often more coveted in the US than the D&AD, the One Showis another giant of the advertising awards industry. The One Club was founded to champion and promote creative excellence in advertising and design. And it does that.
Just like the D&AD, the standards are very high. Perhaps not quite as tough as the D&AD, but boy, it's close. You need to have solid work and major confidence to even consider entering. Chances are, you won't see a win. But for those few that do win a One Show pencil, it's champagne and caviar to celebrate.
Chances of winning a One Show pencil - Very slim
Bragging rights - Enormous and lengthy
Effect - With its US connection, they're the Oscar's of advertising.
3: The Cannes Lions
The Cannes Lions are actually older than both the One Show and D&AD, having been born in 1954. They were started because a group of worldwide cinema screen advertising contractors (SAWA) felt like advertising should receive similar recognition to the movies playing at the Cannes Film Festival.
From that point, Cannes Lions have grown into a massive number of categories. They honor everything from advertising and design to creative effectiveness - something often overlooked in favor of pretty pictures and prose.
Cannes not only gives out awards, they also impart knowledge. Their speaker series reads like a who's who of the advertising and design elite, and those kind of names ad serious credibility to the awards.
Again, if the work isn't absolutely dynamite, save your money. The standards are high and the competition is fierce.
Chances of winning a Cannes Lion - Slim
Bragging rights - Colossal
Effect - A Cannes Lion means a few extra stripes on your creative epaulets.
4: Communication Arts Annuals
Every year, the esteemed creative publication Communication Arts puts out a series of printed annuals celebrating the best of the best work done that year. The annuals cover specific fields, including:
The Illustration Annual
The Interactive Annual
The Advertising Annual
The Typography Annual
The Design Annual
On average, each annual receives roughly 5000 entries and only 150-200 are chosen for the book. That means you have a 96% - 97% chance of not making the final cut. Ouch. If you're on a budget, a 3%-4% chance of winning is not an attractive gamble. But those odds make it even sweeter when your work is chosen by a distinguished panel of jurors.
Chances of appearing in a CA Annual - Faint
Bragging rights - Mammoth
Effect - The Annuals stay on shelves for years - winning work is lauded for a long time.
5: The ADDYs
The American Advertising Federation (AAF) celebrates the notion that great ideas can come from anywhere. Local chapters of the AAF host awards shows, and the best work from those shows goes forward to the national ADDYs. It also receives over 40,000 entries each year, making it the world's largest advertising competition. And what's more, it boasts a smaller entrance fee than most other awards.
Judges for the ADDYs are some of the best, biggest and brightest in the industry. For example, the 2011 judging panel includes Aaron Allen, creative director of Weiden & Kennedy, Steve Babcock, creative director of Crispin, Porter and Bogusky, and Tom Coates, creative director of Butler Shine. These are tough critics whose own agencies have a history of creating some of the best advertising in the world.
The judging panels, plus the massive notoriety of winning, makes the ADDYs an oasis for agencies and creative looking to add more strings to their bow. Of course, even though it's widespread, winning a national award is tough. The local chapters are easier to win, but it's no cake-walk either.
Chances of winning a National ADDY - Faint
Bragging rights - Titanic
Effect - The judges are massive talents. If they love you, you're golden.
6: The CLIO Awards
Founded in 1959 by Wallace A. Ross, the CLIO name stems from Greek mythology, being the muse of history and the celebrator of accomplishments. Today, the CLIO Awards honor the best Interactive, Direct Mail, Content & Contact, Film, Print, Out of Home, Innovative Media, Integrated Campaign, Radio, Design and Public Relations. Student work is also recognized in Interactive, Film, Print, Out of Home, Innovative Media, Integrated Campaign and Design.
The judging process for the CLIO awards is also notably tough. Fewer than 10% of submissions survive the first round, from which juries re-evaluate the work to determine Gold, Silver and Bronze statue winners. Less than 3% of all entries receive a statue, and less than 1% receive the coveted Gold CLIO. Those are tough odds that some agencies and individuals don't want to mess with. But, when you win, it makes it an even more prized victory.
Chances of winning a CLIO - Minuscule
Bragging rights - Monumental
Effect - Surviving the tough judging procedure wins you some major praise.
Other awards of note:
The OBIE awards celebrate great outdoor. If you have a poster or other outdoor idea that you believe is stellar, an OBIE is the icing on the cake.
The PROMAX awards honor design and marketing work that is broadcast. Twentieth Century Fox, Showtime, HBO, Starz and FX have all taken home gongs.
The New York Festivals employ the services of over 40 esteemed creative judges, and winning a NYF award is no easy task.