SOF (the Slovenian Advertising Festival) just celebrated its 30th anniversary and, befitting such a round number, the organization looked back upon its decades of advertising in independent Slovenia. It’s hard to believe that three decades have past and that I’ve been part of this industry for more than half of that run. Time flies when you’re having fun, as Albert Einstein supposedly said. And fly it certainly does…
I received my first gold award at the 13th SOF, back in 2004, for work I actually completed three months before my test for a position as a writer. This was a far more pleasurable baptism by fire than any novice creative entering the world of agencies could ever hope for. At the time, awards were really the driving force for the majority of aspiring advertisers, each in search of a place under the warmth of the advertising sun. To be honest, this was also the case for experienced creators, though less so for clients. To receive an award was the sign you had made it. But some clients viewed an agency’s “self-recognition” incorrectly, even with a little contempt.
Some felt that agencies were primarily on the hunt for awards and fame, seeing clients only as a means to an end—the logo at the bottom of the next brilliant ad, rather than symbiotic business partners, teammates in tackling business and communication challenges.
What differs today? So many things. When I entered the world of advertising, we were fascinated by witty posters, print and radio ads, surprising calendars, elegant packaging, creative use of media and websites powered by the now nearly forgotten software Flash. The king of advertising was the TV commercial.
Today, I’d argue that most of the categories just mentioned, from the point of view of creative excellence, are rated lower now than they were at the turn of the millennium. This is probably also because advertisers focused their energy on more complex, multi-channel projects which the internet and its related tools and technologies suddenly made possible. In such projects, classic media channels will often play only a peripheral role. This means that the client is far more important than they ever were before. If the agency, hungry for fame, once needed more or less only the consent of the client when designing a resonant print ad, today the landscape is completely different, when it comes to modern multi-channel campaigns. They are simply impossible without the active role of the client.
They are simply impossible without the active role of the client.
But something else happened, too. The Slovenian, and indeed the global, advertising industry has healed a cancerous wound over the last decades: works that were obviously designed exclusively for festivals and which have little relevance to the client’s communication challenge.
The work that now wins at festivals is often the result of a close collaboration between client and agency. It is the fruit of a deep knowledge of the client’s wishes, their market position and their role in the world. This is something that clients, agencies and, most importantly, consumers identify with. The result is that, today, many clients both want and expect advertising awards for their agency. That produces significant pressure, but we creatives thrive on it. Clients love to be summoned on-stage to walk alongside their agency representative to receive an award together. This is a beautiful and increasingly common sight, the mark of a successful partnership.
This is a beautiful and increasingly common sight, the mark of a successful partnership.
From 2004 until today, I have founded four agencies. During that time, I’ve collected around 100 SOF awards and recognitions. With this in mind, it’s understandable that awards, for me today, are no longer the strong driver in daily work that they once were.
But I’d be lying if I said that, after the completion of a great project, I was not thrilled to have its success recognised by others. It is all the sweeter if you can share this joy with colleagues, partners and friends, both within the agency and among the clients. Since there are many more such projects now, I dare say that winning gold at SOF is worth more today than ever before.
I dare say that winning gold at SOF is worth more today than ever before.