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BW Businessworld

Lowe's True Show

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If you cannot beat them, join them. Advertising men have known to employ every trick in the book to shine at award shows – scam ads or work created specifically for award shows being only the most popular trick in the book.

However, there are agencies who consciously chose to stay away from the creative awards scene in India. Ogilvy, a winner by far at most Indian creative award shows was the most prominent absence at this year’s Goafest, Indian advertising’s largest industry celebration. However, there are other prominent agencies like Lowe Lintas + Partners that have chosen to stay away from creative advertising awards in India for a decade now.

To make the vice of others its virtue, this year Lowe decided to celebrate 10 years of “not giving a damn about awards”.  And how did it celebrate? The agency relaunched its own internal awards, formerly known as The Lowe Show, as The True Show. "Since we do not create work for awards, we decided to create an award for our work," says an agency communique. However, there is one thing that separated this awards show from the rest -- all the work that went on to win that night were all genuine work. And the agency got clients to give away awards (a bottle of spirits and a tequila shot) to its creative champions.

Lowe Lintas does not participate in the creative awards largely because agency sources say that it’s a scamfest, but it does not stay away from other Indian awards like The Effies, advertising effectiveness awards where a large number of clients form a part of the jury and of course, the campaigns are genuine work.

The larger question is why can’t you keep away agency folks from awards for too long? In a business to business service like advertising, where ad men fight every day to keep their business away from scheming rivals, or face the pressure from all ends, client, media partner, suppliers and so on, awards do provide a window to release all the steam. They also give the much needed reassurance to your teams that all that effort through the year was after all “worth it”. A national creative director with a large agency says that awards also help in talent attraction and retention. For the smaller agencies, it’s an opportunity to shine on the same field as the larger giants and get noticed.

And in times of a slowdown, it’s a great morale booster. Even The True Show was instituted a good five years after 2008. R Balki, the agency chairperson, however, said that he’d hold an awards show only if the agency had great work to celebrate, rather than make it a yearly fixture in the agency calendar. That was a bold statement to make in front of an audience that comprised the agency’s key clients like Rajiv Bajaj, Sanjiv Aga and other senior executives from Idea Cellular, Havells, Titan Industries and Hindustan Unilever among others.

Sometimes, award shows are also used to massage a client’s ego. At times, even that massage can go all wrong. One agency self-financed an ad’s production and released it on YouTube and only got the client’s letter after assuring them that they need not spend a single rupee for the same. The ad went on to win at GoaFest, but someone at the MNC client’s global office did not like the creative execution saying it brought down the image of this premium brand. The India business head only managed to save his face, and probably his job too, by claiming that this ad was not released in mass media and hence was only a concept that went on to win. Sometimes award shows need not be win-win for everybody.