Last night the Boston advertising community celebrated its 49th annual Hatch Awards. The gala, perhaps the country’s most important regional advertising award show, handed out a slew of awards to a group comprised almost entire of badly dressed young white men. (The lack of diversity is fodder for another piece, but if the subject interests you, read Kerry Shea’s very funny post.)
The show, like advertising, reminded me a little bit of China; advertising clings stubbornly to the past while (attempting anyway) to race furiously toward the future.
There were the obligatory newspaper ads, which while clever, well-crafted and even laugh inducing, seem somewhat irrelevant when you consider the most awared executions in the category advertised a radio station no one ever heard of and ran in newspapers hardly anybody reads.
Some beautiful magazine ads boasting crisp and clever headlines for a popular golf brand dominated the print category. Though if you looked through five-year old award show annuals you’d see pretty much the same thing.
There were some very clever :30 Radio commercials – the hardest category in which to do anything compelling – that actually managed to hold your attention. (The question is whether anyone other than award-show judges listens to radio commercials.)
In the TV category, a few strong campaigns dominated. Yet even some of the winners, while brilliantly casted and really well executed, are arguably derivative and not quite as inventive as the work that might have inspired them. From everyone I talked to after the show, this was a universal consensus. (Of course I don’t include the highly awarded Boston Bruins work in that category since my agency, Mullen, did it. Smiley face goes here.)
I actually thought some of the most interesting ideas appeared in the newer, less entered categories. Dunkin’ Donuts’ Dunkin’ Run took social media beyond the basic platforms of Twitter and Facebook to an incredibly useful and community inspiring app. It lets your friends know when you’re making a coffee run and offer to bring them something back. Pretty social.
PJA’s Hash it Out site for Novell invited users to enter competing hashtags and see the results. Maybe it’s not brilliant, but it is a reminder of the experiences you can create with Twitter’s API. (Note: It may soon be obsolete with the impending introduction of applications far more robust, such as LiveFyre.)
Pod Digital Design served up an interesting integrated campaign for the History Channel’s Expedition Africa that included content, digital experiences and a virtual 970-mile trek from Zanzibar to Ujiji. It was the only all-digital campaign and earned the shop top honors in the integrated category.
The show added 11 new categories this year, among them blogs, social media campaigns, mobile advertising campaigns, iPhone apps, and experiential marketing. (Full disclosure: I was chairperson, a position I accepted under the condition that the show would start to recognize creativity in more of the new media.) Added at the last minute they garnered fewer entries, and of course the small number of winners were relegated to the back pages of the award show book.
After the show I got two reactions: one from creatives who were excited about the new stuff and anxious to start exploring the possibilities; the other, of course, from the older of those white males who stubbornly cling to the attitude that if it’s not a thirty second TV spot they really don’t care.
This is an interesting time for the creative community. TV is still big, but becoming a smaller piece of the media pie. Print is shrinking — if not outright disappearing — to the chagrin of all those who love the medium and the craft. Social media is taking off. Yet other than a few amazing ideas – think Nike Plus, Chalkbot, CNN/Facebook, Whopper Sacrifice – we haven’t really established the creative standards we aspire to surpass.
But it’s time to do so. The old media, the big budgets, and the outbound messages that have subsidized copywriter’s and art director’s salaries for a long time are slowly going away. Advertisers are moving their budgets and interest to social media. And guess what? The more of them that do, the more they’ll depend on creativity for their competitive advantage.
Hopefully whoever takes the helm at Hatch will push even harder for the new stuff. In the long run it will be the best thing for advertising’s creative community. Because as digital and social slowly grow to dominate, the question isn’t whether or not the thirty-second TV spot will ever die. It’s whether or not creative people insistent on doing nothing but will manage to survive.
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