Unwitting E-mail Reveals What Agencies Shell Out for Awards

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 Ad Age Digital  DigitalNext  MediaWorks Ever wondered exactly how much ad agencies spend to enter awards shows? Wonder no more.

Yesterday an employee of the One Show inadvertently e-mailed a spreadsheet to several ad execs that contained a list of the agencies that have entered the One Show’s 2009 ad awards. The list shows how many entries each agency submitted and how much was spent on those submissions.

The One Show is one of the premier awards shows, probably lagging only the Cannes Lions and the D&AD awards in terms of prestige. So the e-mailed document gives an interesting snapshot of how lucrative awards shows can be for the organisers, and how much some agencies are willing to spend on a bid to win — even in these harsh economic times.

In all, there were 9,795 entries for the ad awards, at a total cost to the agencies of $3,507,860. The average cost of an entry was $358. The database does not account for the interactive or design entries to the One Show, just the advertising entries. Last year the One Show had 26,000 entries from 60 countries. Based on the average price for an entry, the One Show received about $10 million in entry fees, though the organisation said the figure was far lower.

“The erroneous e-mail was an unfortunate mistake made by a junior member of our staff,” Mary Warlick, CEO of the One Club, told Ad Age. “The e-mail is not a current database and does not include accurate information.” Ms. Warlick further noted that the One Club is a nonprofit organisation. “Any of the agencies that enter the One Club [awards show] realise that their entry fees support the industry.”


Hungriest for medals
BBDO seems to be by far the hungriest for medals. The network’s Brazilian office, Almap BBDO, had the most submissions according to the document, with 156. The second-most entries? That’d be another BBDO office, BBDO, New York, with 146 submissions. BBDO offices are also in the sixth, 19th and 22nd spots. In total, BBDO offices account for more than 750 of the entries, and the network spent a total of more than $250,000, according to the spreadsheet.

Clearly the Omnicom Group network is hoping for a repeat of its performance last year, when the agency took home a number of honours, including three Gold Pencils for its HBO “Voyeur” campaign and two more for AT&T and Havaianas.

BBDO Worldwide President-CEO Andrew Robertson was not apologetic about the importance his agency places on winning awards but acknowledged that the costs of entry are overwhelming.

“Awards matter,” he said. “They are how we measure the quality of our work against that of our competitors. BBDO aims to be the most awarded network of the year, every year. We have 287 offices trying to win awards every year. We are in them to win them.”

He continued, “That said, we wish it didn’t cost so much to enter. We are focusing our entries this year on significantly fewer awards shows — the ones we think are most important — and our agencies are being more selective about the work they enter and the categories they enter it in. Accordingly, our overall investment will be down massively this year over last.”

Budgets not much leaner
That awards budgets have not become much leaner in such challenging economic times is noteworthy, particularly when you consider that many of the top entrants are agencies that have undertaken one or more rounds of layoffs in recent months. BBDO alone slashed hundreds of jobs in North America late last year, citing cutbacks from Chrysler and other clients.

BBDO’s spending was well ahead of the amount spent by the closest agency, the notoriously award-hungry Leo Burnett, which spent around $150,000 to enter about 400 different ads or campaigns. JWT, Ogilvy and DDB all appear to have spent about $100,000, for about 300 entries each, while Crispin Porter & Bogusky entered nearly 100 times.

Perhaps the only surprises in the top 20 in terms of numbers of entries: Vancouver-based Rethink Communications, a 60-person shop, had 87 entries, while MTV Networks had 59, perhaps showing the media owner’s serious intent to become an agency-like player.

Several marketers are also listed as One Show entrants, including Starbucks and Yahoo, as well as Obama for America, with one entry.

Not cheap to enter
Entering the One Show isn’t cheap. This year agencies must pay $300 for a single entry and $500 for an entire campaign in the print, outdoor and radio categories. For TV and branded content, costs are a tad steeper: $400 for a single execution and $550 for a campaign. Entering an “integrated branding campaign” is the most expensive, running agencies $700.

One chief creative officer whose agency was listed on the spreadsheet described the competition as follows: “D&AD is probably the toughest show of them all to actually win a literal award in. It’s an incredibly difficult show to get a Pencil.”

“The One Show is also very difficult, but not as much as D&AD. Cannes, in my mind, is important for the prestige. … The industry puts such stock in it that winning has good value from that perspective.”

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