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Why digital agencies skip the IPA Effectiveness Awards

18 Sep 2014  |  Fern Miller 
Why digital agencies skip the IPA Effectiveness Awards

This week Dominic Mills questioned why digital agencies fail to make it on to the short-list for the IPA's Effectiveness Awards. Here, DigitasLBi's Fern Miller explains the reluctance to throw their hat into the ring.

When I began work as a graduate in an advertising agency, some chromalins had to be delivered to Hong Kong and it was more economical to send me there than to use a courier service. Having dropped off the cargo, I met up with a good friend's mother who very kindly took me on a one day tour of the island, finishing up in the prestigious Hong Kong club, where we escaped the steaming streets and sipped good English tea in bone china on Queen Anne furniture.

This bastion of British society had allowed white people in since the 1970s and women in the last year. My friend's mother told me she was now leading a campaign to recruit the local Chinese ladies to join the club and use the facilities but they were proving reluctant.

Outside, Hong Kong in 1997 was preparing for its next transformation. Chinese flags were being hoisted and British ones torn down. Gigantic, state of the art showcase buildings were being erected and ancient colonial houses squatted stubbornly in their shadows, full of British expats figuring out their next move.

She sat underneath a 7 foot portrait of Queen Elizabeth II and stared, baffled, at the crowds of Chinese women outside, women who had not yet experienced the joys of a really good Battenburg, saying: "I just don't understand why they wouldn't want to join us..."

When I realised she wasn't making a deadpan sarcastic joke, I decided to return her generosity with politeness, saying: "Golly, I don't know."

This week, a picture of Dominic Mills stared out from a MediaTel opinion piece about the awards the Institute of Practitioners of Advertising have run, every year or two, since the 1980s, designed to prove the value of the advertising the agencies who enter have made for their clients.

As usual, the diners at the awards night will be comprised mainly of advertising agency staff who largely make advertising. They will work long hours to gain the approbation of their peers for the demonstrations of advertising payback they can make, pulling an ROI rabbit out of an expensive econometric top hat, to the great applause of the grandees of the advertising industry.

Meanwhile, people on sofas around the world will turn to their mobiles during the advertising break to search for the best price on a their new sofa or to play Plants Versus Zombies; people on trains will turn to their social feeds for the daily news and to complain about their banking service; and people in office workplaces will fill their breaks with video snippets of cats falling off chairs or looking for alternative employment on LinkedIn.

The data generated by all this activity will be collected by clients, media owners and software companies and people in agencies of all sorts will consider what to do with it. One assumes a small selection will consider its value in the case for spending money on advertising. Many will consider its value in more transformational programmes of work, with new commercial models and services.

Dominic expresses bafflement, and, occasionally, feigns sympathy for those who lack the "wherewithal" in digital agencies, be that confidence or ability, who will miss out on this prestigious advertising event, asking why they don't seem to even want to join in.

Golly, Dominic, I don't know.


Fern Miller is chief strategy and insight officer, international, at DigitasLBi

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Brian Jacobs, Founder, BJ&A on 18 Sep 2014
“So - in a nutshell, ad and media agencies are only interested in awards and pretty pictures whereas digital agencies are concerned with a higher purpose, driving business transformation. What arrogant twaddle!

I was one judge of this year's Ad Effectiveness awards and there were many examples of business successes driven by all forms of communication. In fact the standard was amazingly high. It's a shame that more digital agencies didn't enter. Just going through the process would have been good for them, and definitely good for the industry.”