Some issues by no means change: awards

The awards for design and advertising industry have been examined intensively for decades. We look back at our archive to find out why these programs have been controversial for so long and why there has never been a consensus in the creative industry about the value of awards

In the spring of 1980, Creative Review started as a space for the “critical discussion” of commercial creative projects that were awarded prizes. In the same year, two programs – Cannes Lions and Internet Local Radio (ILR) – were recognized for the lack of work that the juries considered appropriate. Both events led to a debate about whether this was an appropriate response. It would be the first of many such discussions about the standard of pricing schemes on our sites in the following decades and how they affect creatives and their work.

Torin Douglas, the first editor of CR, noted in 1980 that awarding the best of a bad pile would "reduce your reputation by honoring you with an award". It's an argument that has been rising in the CR every few years since then, along with the debate over whether the sheer volume of the various awards offered also diminishes their impact.

Editor Torin Douglas discussed the need to withhold awards in the 1980 winter issue of CR

Stephen Benjamin criticized the predictability of procurement systems in the spring 1981 issue

In July 2000, Liz Faber noticed the Clio Festival, in which "awesome 255 statues were distributed", which means that the higher chances of winning nullify the power of the prize. Leading award programs continued to cause controversy in the years that followed, most dramatically causing the Publicis Groupe to withdraw entirely from the Cannes Lions in 2017. This caused, among other industry turmoil, that the festival changed its approach – which has been increasingly bloated in recent years – significantly reducing both the length of the festival and the number of subcategories for awards.

Creative Insight CR 40th birthday