[Inspiration Archive] Alex Bogusky: "In this business, if you want to make a million dollars, start an award show"

[Inspiration Archive] Alex Bogusky: "In this business, if you want to make a million dollars, start an award show"

You know you entered an advertising agency when you’re a prospective client and you’re invited in the guest room - or the way the agency refers to it, the awards room. Before they start working on your commercial, you kind of just entered theirs. Yet, some creative agencies are questioning the value of participating in advertising awards shows. Many say they’ve become too expensive, too time-consuming, and don’t really contribute to growth.

On an episode of The Woodshed, Alex Bogusky talked with business development coach Zach Hyder about award shows and how they're multiplying, while dominating the industry. 

They also cover how Crispin Porter Bogusky decided to stop entering award shows in late 2018, by launching The Quitty Awards. Alex Bogusky explains how awards worked for him earlier in his career, while his mindset today is more focused on the alignment between creativity and client business.


The importance of being awarded

Zach Hyder: Why do you feel awards have gained such stature in the advertising agency world? It's kind of a unique thing to that business, so why has that happened?

Alex Bogusky: They've always been a big deal. Well, I think creative people are insecure, so we love to reward ourselves. It feels good. I know it was super important for me, early in my career. And I remember the feeling that I needed to win this award, then I remember winning that award and quickly pivoting and saying: No, that's not the one I need to win, I need to win this award.

That went on and on. Until I realized it never feels any different, no awards are going to make any difference. What I really need to do is learn to love the process of what I do every day. And not work to goals, not work to moments, but work for the work. It was very healthy for me. 

I was thinking about that quote, it was L. Ron Hubbard that said: If you want to make a million dollars, start a religion. He probably never did say it, but somebody said it.

In this business, if you want to make a million dollars, start an award show. Because there seems to be no end to how broad it can go. It may not have the credentials, but the fact that it's new (and maybe even easier) is going to create an audience for you.


Awards & agency business

Zach Hyder: Does winning an award have an effect on business? I hear both perspectives on this. I hear folks say: Look, we've never won a piece of business because we got an award X or Y. And I hear other folks say: 'It put us on the map.' What's your thought? Do awards win business for you?

Alex Bogusky: I think that press wins business. And so, for most agencies, they don't have an ability to get press outside of awards. That becomes the predominant way to get your name out. 

Years and years ago, our mission was to be the most written & talked about agency. We didn't put awards in there, it wasn't a thing for us. I think as we accomplished that first mission, the awards came. For sure, the awards came second.

But I do think being known has an effect. If you have a reputation and you build your reputation on awards,  you could probably draw a pretty direct line to new business.


No more award shows for CP+B

Zach Hyder: I'm interested in hearing the backstory on why you and the folks at your agency made the decision and said: We're just not going to do this, it's not relevant to our growth anymore.

Alex Bogusky: Yeah, I don't know if that's true: that it's not relevant to our growth. A lot of people think that I am down on awards. I saw people reacting in a way where it was almost like they took it personally. It was an attack because you care about awards, I don't care about awards, so, you know, I don't agree with you.

None of those things are true. I value awards. I have valued awards. And if you love awards, that's fantastic. I certainly don't need to draw any lines there. Here's one aspect of awards - no matter how much I love them, I knew for me personally there was an alignment issue that could be troubling.

If my focus is winning an award for a piece of work and my client's focus is moving his/her business in a positive direction, that is a misalignment. I can't start the conversation. I have to be aligned. 

I think it's key, if you're young and new to the business, that you realize your best chance of selling great work is to create total alignment between your vision, what you're trying to achieve and what your clients are trying to achieve. Everything else will work out.

So, given that things have changed a lot and we're trying to build new models and new ways of working, eliminating that potential misalignment for our young creatives (or any creatives at all) was going be helpful and speed our innovation.

The work we're doing here is, honestly, not short of just coming up with a new model for an agency. I think we're working on the 1950s model that is less and less relevant, and we're leaping to a new place and it takes all hands on deck to do that & zero distractions.


The non-award award

Zach Hyder: You mentioned earlier you felt there was a little bit of misunderstanding across the industry when you guys made the decision and said: 'Look we're not going to do this anymore'. Do you think that the sort of iconography of creating a non-award award was part of that? What went into that?

Alex Bogusky: A couple of things go into that. One is I can't take anything very seriously, unfortunately. And sometimes people take me seriously and they shouldn't, because I'm just trying to have a good time and do good work and build a great company. But I just gotta have fun, honestly, or I'm not doing it. It's gotta be fun.

So, if we're leaving the award show thing, we're going do it in the fun way. We're also going to test the model of "can we get attention in other ways than just awards?".

Some people are offended by it because this is the internet and it is the age of outrage. And I can't help that people are outraged by our stance. But don't be outraged, we're just trying to have some fun.


VIDEO. If you want to make a million dollars, start an award show

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