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Wining About Awards

David Smail

They say that a glass of red wine per day is good for you. I’m not going to argue with ‘they’, but I subscribe to that belief in the same way that I think advertising awards are good for agencies and the industry. In moderation, served with a nice meal, and enjoyed with good company. 

I always appreciate a good glass of wine, but I’m not going to make that my main course. Awards should be the result or byproduct of great work. Not the motivation. Because like that person who may have a tendency to become over-refreshed, it can look pretty sad if you’re only doing the work to get to the wine.

I’m also a traditionalist, and think wine should be made as it has for centuries. With real grapes (actual clients), stomping them with your feet (putting in the hard work), and bottled so real people can appreciate (out there in the media so people can actually see it). Anything else is scam. I once lived in a place where the wine was made of mulberries. And as much as those who were making it tried, it was never truly respected. And I’ll admit I drank from that plastic chalice once or twice. In hindsight, it leaves a rather nasty taste in your mouth. That said, there are some amazing small batches out there that deserve every bit of the accolades they get, as long as it’s the good stuff.

There are different tiers of award shows. Just as there is with wine. A sip and a nod in approval from a world-class vintner or sommelier carries a bit more weight than being Randy’s pick-of-the-month at the local bottle shop. Though it’s more difficult and expensive to get that drop in front of Pierre’s persnickety palate. But appreciation of great work at any level is welcome. So like a wine tasting I went to a long time ago in Macau, I learned the goal is to drink, talk about, and enjoy what the creators have made, with minimal levels of uppity snootiness.

And before anyone jumps all over this lengthy metaphor, no you don’t have to drink wine to be a great agency. You can be doing amazing and effective work without popping any corks.

But one of the most compelling arguments for pushing to have award-winning work is that a good number of the best talent want to be at places that have a good wine collection. And if you’ve got a stellar group of talent that also enjoys a sip of the good stuff in the right setting, and with moderation, it tends to benefit all of the agency’s clients. The work is better, and most often, so is the agency’s bottom line.

There’s also the argument that advertising praising itself is pretentious and self-serving. Which can certainly be true. Especially when it’s a boisterous display of revelers who have become drunk on the idea of celebrating themselves rather than the work. I’m looking at you Gutter Bar. (Maybe it’s the rosé.)

But to that, I say there’s nothing wrong with a little acknowledgment for something that a team has worked hard on, and is proud of. We rarely get to put our own name on the label of the work we’ve created. I’ve been fortunate to be at smaller agencies and witness them, their young talent, as well as entire ad communities that were bolstered by an international award or two. Proving to them that the magic they bottled for a moment can measure up against the world’s best.

 That’s worth a little recognition. And a glass of wine to celebrate. Or better yet, a few bottles with the whole team and client behind the winning work.

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