Why the Bookmark Awards matter

The Bookmark Awards, run by the Digital Media and Marketing Association (DMMA), are happening this year again on the 18th of November, and are, without doubt, the most important local digital awards. In many senses, they are the only true digital awards – with others like Loeries and Assegais offering digital as only one, and arguably the least visible, of many other categories.

A dedicated set of digital awards given by a body representing only digital agencies and publishers may seem the ultimate circle jerk. But in a fledgling industry that traditional media and marketers barely understand, the need to award properly and responsibly must fall to us. It is essential that digital shows the face to the market we want it to see.

Awards in general are a take-it-or-leave-it affair. My “old” company (Cambrient) has risen to success without winning a single notable award in its 10 year lifespan. We hardly even entered any – it just wasn’t important to us. Similarly an agency like Quirk, whose CEO, Rob Stokes, won a Bookmark for overall contribution to digital last year, has hardly taken away any significant accolades.

On the other hand, the current poster child for awards in this industry, Gloo, can rattle off a list of accolades as long as your arm, and still have enough left to cover a few iPad screens. There is no question that this fact has played a key role in major account wins for them, as well as building their general prominence in the industry.

That said, one of the major shifts in the local industry is away from “digital production” toward digital agencies. In the past 12 months we’ve seen Quirk reposition itself as a full-fledged agency, as well as Gloo winning major digital accounts like SA Tourism, BMW and Avis, and the emergence of Native – a merger of Cambrient with Stonewall+ and Brandsh.

And where there are agencies, there are awards. It’s that simple. Clients can’t help but pay attention to awards rankings, and this can’t help but influence who they put onto pitch lists and how confident they are that their agency can deliver the goods.

Digital, however, is tricky. It’s not enough to take away creative accolades like Loeries. There is another side to digital which a creative award like the Loeries could never, and should never, undermine. And that is the area of measurement and effectiveness.

Marketing as an industry is slowly turning away from the creative inspiration to the scientific calculation. Or, to put this a little less aggressively, it’s letting the science in the front door to join the party. Nothing says this more than the Google financials, an empire built on a whole new kind of marketing and advertising that’s part art and part science.

For this reason it’s just not enough to feel the warm flush in the presence of great creative. That may still be OK in traditional advertising, but in my view, that’s a dying industry. Allan Gray probably don’t measure the results of their multi-Loerie award winning TV ad. It’s not that they don’t care, exactly, it’s just not the right question for that medium.

In digital, clients can, should and are asking that question with more and more frequency. And this is the big contribution of The Bookmarks – to look at campaigns, sites and applications and to ask: what was the impact? Did this work?

And by “work”, Bookmarks doesn’t mean: did it impress a room full of creative directors? It means “do the analytics tell a compelling story about how this piece got real results for the customer”?

Add to this that Bookmarks also (especially this year) take a broad look at digital. There are categories for games, blogs, podcasts, mobile and media. There are also individual awards for the people behind the agencies, which is a rare opportunity for the typically hidden powers behind the thrones, like programmers and media planners, to shine.

The constitution of the Bookmarks judging panels this year has a solid emphasis on strategy rather than only creative, and this should influence the results into some surprising places.

It remains now for agencies and other digital businesses to take a leap of faith and enter. The entry process is a little onerous, but the rewards will be not only the awards won, but also the improved standing and prominence of digital in the minds of our customers. And, after all, a vote with a chequebook (or EFT) is the ultimate award that everyone values equally.

*Please note: The deadline for the Bookmark Awards has been extended to the 29th of October.



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