Many Americans refer to the first few months of the year as “award season.” After all, the television networks, grocery store magazines, and entertainment websites begin their annual red-carpet coverage of the Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild, Grammys, and Oscars. And we hear that all-too-familiar phrase, “Who are you wearing tonight?”

Coincidentally, this same time of the year kicks off award season in the advertising industry as well. It’s the time of year when we begin saying funny words and acronyms like Addys, AMAs, Viddys, Webbys, Tellys, AVs, and CA.

Spire has been fortunate to have received multiple awards already this year, and we are gearing up for our first in-person award show at the end of February. As an agency, we received a record number of awards in 2021.

But the big question is, do awards really matter? Are they worth the price of admission? And do those statuettes, that oftentimes need dusting, have any real meaning?

Not to spoil the ending, but Spire positions itself as “Texas’ most-awarded B2B branding agency.” So you probably have a pretty good idea of where we land on the issue. But the bigger question is, why? After all, it takes a considerable amount of money, effort, and time to enter any award show. But it also takes award-winning work.

There is an element of “put your money where your mouth is” when it comes to entering award shows. How much do you believe in the work? How confident are you that it is award-worthy to a judge who may not live in your state or even your country? Agencies tell their clients all the time, “We create effective work that will move the needle.” But who is judging that effective work? And how does your version of “moving the needle” compare to other companies and other industries?

Awards are far more than a nice-to-have. They are an impartial acknowledgement of the level of work an agency is producing for its clients, both creatively and from a results standpoint. But there are many reasons why Spire is diligent and prolific in entering award shows.

Supporting Your Industry

Here in Dallas, some of our various industry organizations include the Dallas chapter of the American Advertising Federation, the DFW chapter of the American Marketing Association, Dallas Society of Visual Communications, and the Dallas Fort Worth Interactive Marketing Society.

Award shows help fund the nonprofit efforts of these important industry organizations and others. Entry fees help these organizations with the market research, information sessions, guest speakers, webinars, white papers, mixers, scholarships, and job fairs that help grow our industry and foster top talent. To turn your back on award shows is to turn your back on your local industry organizations.

The in-person award show is a night when the industry comes together to celebrate as an industry. Quality work here helps build Dallas’ reputation in other markets across the country.

Generating Buzz for the Agency

At a minimum, a crucial to-do for any healthy agency is to simply stay on the radar. To be considered a “hot” agency, you want people to talk about you as much as possible.

There are a myriad ways to stay top-of-mind. One way is producing content through social media, blogs, and newsletters (such as this one). Another way, as you might have guessed, is winning industry awards. It can give you considerable awareness in your hometown market but can also begin to formulate a reputation for your agency regionally and nationally, depending on the prestige of the award show.

It is that award-winning reputation that helps attract new employees and new clients. That’s why it’s important to win awards in a variety of shows and for a variety of clients. When you do that, your agency becomes known for creating impact across the board, not just for one or two clients in one or two award shows.

Adding Credibility to the Agency

Ultimately, an agency lives and dies by its work. Any good agency needs to consistently turn out solid work—from concept to design and production—to quality control once the work is out in the world. This speaks not just to having a solid creative team, but to all other functions of the agency. It takes a village.

When an agency produces quality work on a consistent basis, it elevates the stature of the agency. And when an agency produces award-winning work for many clients across many industries, you gain credibility as an agency that generates results over and over again.

Increasing Employee Morale

Working in an agency environment is demanding. There are constant deadlines, enormous expectations, creative wins and losses, account wins and losses, and simply being “on your game” at all times. It’s a game of survival of the fittest.

But awards bring an agency together. That’s because award-winning work only happens when everyone elevates their game: planners, strategists, account execs, writers, designers, developers, and producers. Awards validate all the grunt work, debates, late nights, anxiety, lightbulb moments, and high-fives that went into the life of the project.

So embrace the award shows and trophies. Pop the champagne, acknowledge the team, thank the client, then roll up your sleeves and do it again.

Strengthening Client Relationships

A healthy agency/client relationship requires a high level of trust from both parties. It takes a lot of collaboration to produce the final product that goes into the marketplace. At the end of the day, KPIs and ROI are all A-OK. But those are all internal measures. What about the external views of success? And how does creative play into that end result?

Receiving an industry award means that a qualified, unbiased judge outside of your client relationship has deemed your work as effective and of the highest quality. It’s a way to reinforce the many client and agency decisions that were made along the way, especially when everyone may not have been in full agreement on every aspect.

And don’t forget to celebrate those awards. Everyone loves to have their work recognized, and it can be really beneficial to share your success with the people that employ you. It is also a way to strengthen your relationship, and for clients to put even more trust and dollars into their agency partner.

Setting the Bar for Quality Work

As mentioned earlier, the grind of the agency world can be relentless at times. As deadlines approach, it’s easy to want to accept the first idea and cut a few corners to get a project over the finish line.

With an awards-focused agency, the easy way is never the way. When you aim to enter work in shows, you simply aim higher on all aspects of the job. The details truly do matter. You become focused on ensuring the work is nothing less than polished and tight. You continuously ask, “What else can we do?” You make it personal. Because with award shows, you’re competing with the best of the best. “Good enough” will never be good enough.

Want to raise the bar? Next time you’re working on a project, simply ask yourself, “Is this award-worthy?”

As we continue through advertising’s award season, know that the time and financial investment in award shows pays out on a variety of fronts. But you have to have an award-winning mentality on the day-to-day to win those awards from year-to-year. And you have to have a few bookshelves to put the awards on.

Jason James is an award-winning designer and associate creative director at Spire. To stay up to date on agency news, awards, and blog posts, subscribe to our Spire Wire newsletter.