by Leigh Tayler (@LeighAnneTayler) They say money makes the world go round; if you live in adland, though, you might counter that it’s awards that keep us turning on our little axis. Yet, when an idea wins an award, it’s overcome serious odds to do so.

We all love a good awards season. Even the most cynical and jaded of us can’t help but smile smugly when we receive a little bird, a pencil or, best of all, a lion. The pride and satisfaction these awards give can’t be attributed purely to narcissism; it’s also the pure delight that your idea-baby grew up to win, despite the changes of doing so being so small.

WTF?! moment

This brings me to my “WTF?! moment”: when someone — be it a client or agency person — glibly states that they want a campaign that will win a Gold Lion.

This expectation is problematic for several reasons.

Let’s begin with the stats. The likelihood of any campaign winning any Lion is slim. According to Simon Cook, Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity VP creative excellence, “[j]ust 1.7% of the many thousands of pieces of work judged win a Bronze [L]ion. 1.13% win a Silver, only 0.78% of the work win a Gold.” Anyone with even a basic understanding of probability will see these as extremely bad odds.

The next thing to consider is the brief. How many objectives is this creative solution expected to deliver upon? How many mandatories have been dictated? Is the target market single-minded? Is one key benefit of the product highlighted that is both semi-valuable and semi-distinctive? Does the target market have a specific and/or novel unmet need?

Brief expectations

If the expectations is an idea that will win a Gold Lion, the brief needs to support that end. It needs to be single-minded, insightful and clear-cut.

Imagine, despite the odds and from a one-in-a-thousand brief, a promising idea is born. An idea that the agency is very excited by, an idea it is certain will win all the statues. The first hurdle at this point is whether or not everyone “gets” the idea. Not all of us are able to envision what an idea-fetus will look like when it’s all grown up. This requires massive levels of trust, especially as it may be hard to understand why this idea is so exciting to the creative team and, even more often, it’s hard to imagine pulling the idea off.

The next challenge is not disfiguring that idea as it matures through the various processes on both client- and agency-side. The integrity of the idea must remain, the intention can’t be warped and the idea can’t be overcomplicated. The soul of the idea must be protected at all costs. This takes a team of people who’re equally committed and accountable for ensuring the idea doesn’t get lost in the details and processes.

Almost mythical

So, the next time any of us are tempted to let this “WTF?! moment” rear its golden mane, remember that what’s actually required is almost mythical in its scarcity — a single-minded and nurtured idea that uses extraordinarily creative ingenuity to solve a precise problem and has overcome compliance, budget and complex internal processes to beat the odds of a less than 1% chance of winning Gold at Cannes.

PS A closing thought to ponder: Should we in adland be aiming for awards? Surely these are by-products of what ought to make our little world go round, the opportunity to use creativity to solve problems and, in so doing, maybe, just maybe, make the real world a better place? Perhaps we should be aiming for Nobel prizes instead of birds, pencils and lions.


Leigh TaylerLeigh Tayler (@LeighAnneTayler) is the strategy director at Joe Public United. During her career of more than 12 years, she’s worked in just about every imaginable category and has fostered a well-rounded and instinctual approach to strategic thinking that she applies at every level, from big brand concepts to last-mile moments of truth. Leigh contributes the new monthly column, “WTF?!”, which highlights the things one might hear within an agency or be asked of in briefs, to

Sign up now for the MarkLives newsletter, including headlines, emailed every Monday, Wednesday and Friday!

Online CPD Courses Psychology Online CPD Courses Marketing analytics software Marketing analytics software for small business Business management software Business accounting software Gearbox repair company Makeup artist