Jonathan Kneebone: Not All Awards Are Created Equal

Jonathan Kneebone: Not All Awards Are Created Equal

By Jonathan Kneebone, founder, The Glue Society


Take a look at the website, and down in the small print of the FAQ’s under entry requirement #9 is a single, quite unexpected sentence.

 “There are no entry fees to submit films in any Academy Awards category.”

That seems oddly generous for an award show of such stature. Or indeed such statuette.

But then when you think about it, to win or even get a whiff of taking home an iconic gold trophy, first you have to make a movie. Which is no small challenge or expense.

And most studios then pour millions of dollars into creating campaigns to lobby the Academy’s 9,500 eligible voters.

 It’s rumoured Netflix spent US$25 million on their promotional blitz for Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma – a film which (only) cost US$15 million.

And while they didn’t secure Best Picture, they did pick up three main awards, so maybe it was worthwhile.

Thankfully, we haven’t reached a point – or at least I think we haven’t – where agencies have started to invest in campaigns to promote their ad campaigns to win jury votes. Well not on any formal level.

But there definitely are funds being spent on PR plans, maybe the odd dinner laid on at a nice restaurant to woo the odd juror, not to mention getting A-list editors and post houses to fashion your case study.

So we’re not in the millions to buy votes quite yet.

But in adland, there most definitely are entry fees.

The AU$4000 you have to cough up for a single entry in the Cannes Titanium category feels rather excessive and hard to justify.

And while that’s an outlier, the average fee to enter just one piece of work into one category is in the region of $2k. More for a campaign.

Given they got over 25,000 entries last year alone, there’s money to be made from agencies’ desperate need to be loved.

For an agency or network keen to make an impression or rise up the rankings, entry fees quickly add up.

Which perhaps explains some agencies’ appetites for entering multiple categories at multiple award shows.

I appreciate the idea of being recognised. Particularly for great work.

But it becomes rather gauche to need to enter a successful campaign at every show just for a continual blanket of praise.

And frankly if any creative worth their salt wins too many awards, chances are they’ll be poached in seconds anyway. So maybe agencies should be a bit more cautious.

Some balance may usefully be implemented anyway.

My feeling is you can justify a global and local award entry. And possibly a regional one if your business is that way inclined.

And in choosing which awards to enter, I have to confess a vested interest here – as I am on the Award Committee and the D&AD Board.

But I do that freely – and for free – because they both stand for something I happen to believe in.

Award is a non-profit entity set up to inspire and foster creativity in Australia. So any entry fees provide a genuine return.

And D&AD is an education charity – putting all its profits back into programmes like Shift (which is about to start its second year in Sydney) and New Blood.

So what I would ask you to ask yourselves, before you decide to enter any or every award show, the question where your entry fees are going.

And whether you can really justify giving those fees to an organisation that is simply for profit.

When you could be paying those fees to an award show that uses all its revenue to foster, educate and inspire new talent.

Or indeed when you could be using some of the money you might save to take on some of that new, diverse creative talent into your own business.

That way you and they really will win.

D&AD Award Closing Date: 15 March 2023.
Award Awards Closing Date: 31 March 2023.