Tearing up the script in the name of a fair fight

They’re an awkward thing, awards juries. You give them the freedom to be independent and fair, and they go and spoil the script. Tuesday night was something of a departure from Middle East awards traditions. For starters, the results were by no means a foregone conclusion. Also, the winning teams did not know in advance that they had won.

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By  Tim Burrowes Published  February 5, 2006

Tearing up the script in the name of a fair fight|~||~||~|They’re an awkward thing, awards juries. You give them the freedom to be independent and fair, and they go and spoil the script. Tuesday night was something of a departure from Middle East awards traditions. For starters, the results were by no means a foregone conclusion. Also, the winning teams did not know in advance that they had won. And there was no tactical spreading of the trophies around everyone who was important to make sure friends didn’t go home empty handed. In other words, it was a fair fight. Strange days indeed. Still, it did leave us in the slightly awkward position of having no prizes to give away in the online category because the judges had scored it low in comparison with other categories and we were applying the same standards across the board. Which was a shame, because the online work was good — it just wasn’t quite as good as what the judges were seeing in other areas. So does this have something serious to say about the state of online advertising in the Middle East? It’s a topic we’ll be exploring more fully in next week’s edition. But my inkling is that there is work of an award-winning standard out there. It’s just that as a relatively new medium there are presently few online specialists out there — and if they don’t enter then they cannot win. Also, there is a definite art to a successful award submission. While rubbish work with a good submission will never win, it’s also possible for a great piece to stumble because it hasn’t been given the best chance when it was entered. So I do expect to see winners in this category next time around. In many ways, more of a surprise was that there was a winner in radio. Many people had predicted that this would be the category where there might be no trophies. But the laughter in the room when Team Y&R’s silver winning “Jock Idol” ad was played suggested that the jury’s verdict was a popular one here. So how else did our jury break away from the norm? Lots of prizes for the independents, including arguably the biggest two awards of the night — Face to Face as advertising agency of the year, and Tonic, winner of the grand prix for their Sony Microvault work. Media agency of the year was another one that went against the script. In a strong category, most would have guessed it would have ended up in OMD’s hands after the year they’ve just had. But in the end, the choice for judges came to one of whether to reward the big behemoth of OMD, or go for the challenger brand of Cairo’s Zenithmedia. And in the end it went to Cairo. So we’ve got plenty to chew on before we put together our jury for the next set of awards. This year we were ably chaired by a client — Unilever Middle East chairman Jan Zijderveld. But what about next time? Should the chairman be a creative? If so, is the Middle East yet ready to set aside rivalries and have someone from within the region? If not, who should we ask? In online, what should the criteria be? Do we have enough PR categories? Are they the right ones? Ditto for media. Should we (gulp) introduce some media owner categories? Should we split some of the categories and have more than the 26 trophies we gave away last week? Is it better to have the awards ceremony towards the end of the year, rather than right at the start? That’s where we throw it open to the industry. The planning begins now for the next awards. The agenda remains the same as last time — to be fair and transparent and to celebrate the best in creativity in advertising, media and PR. Your feedback in the coming weeks will be much appreciated. Mind you, Whatever we do do, you can pretty much guarantee that the jury will still divert from the script. I certainly hope so.||**||

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