Chris Kyme: Postcard from Hong Kong

Chris Kyme_April2016.jpgChris Kyme continues his "Postcards from..." series and this time he he takes a look at the proliferation award shows today.

And the award for the best excuse for an award goes to ... So I get this phone call from some Hong Kong business organization (there are many) about some awards ceremony.

Stupidly thinking I'm finally going to get recognised for my contributions into beer research in Hong Kong, I give the young lady my email address. And in comes this long spiel about some event at which, my company can get an award simply by coughing up about US$5,000 (roughly 2% of the O&M annual scam budget).

Just like that. Just that teeny weeny amount and I get to walk onstage and pose for the Hong Kong Business Showboating Monthly or whatever and become an award recipient! Fame, fortune, groupies. They also throw in a dinner for the ceremony plus we get to place an ad. How generous.
But, I was flabbergasted at how upfront this was. We all know that for certain shows how many gongs you scoop can loosely be correlated with how many tables you've opted for or how much ad space. But this is the first time I've been actually approached with the blatant proposition of 'buy an award'. Without actually knowing or caring what it was for.

Today of course there are more award shows floating around than photos of Kim Shaw holding up a beer at sunset. Scrupulous media owners have long figured out that you can rake in zillions by appealing to the creative industry's insatiable hunger for fame and glory.

However, what they are and what they represent need to be put into context. In the creative world, we all know the main important ones. When I was a junior tyke in London, D&AD was the Holy Grail, with Campaign Press Awards and Cannes also being sought after if you wanted a raise. In those days, Asia wasn't really even on the map, bar the odd weird and wacky TV ad from Japan popping up.

I got the awards bug really once I had wandered out this way and picked up a Spike and Best TV Campaign in Asia at the (then) 'Media & Marketing Awards'. There was no looking back and Asia was coming of age fast too. So we all got with the programme.

beer_baseball_trophy_award.jpgThat's all changed in the modern world and as you all know, the clever boys and girls from across this region are up there with anywhere in the world in terms of featuring in all the major shows every year, and going from strength to strength. Good on you all. (Although I wish we could see less scam work representing the Asian output...really.)

This still does include work from Hong Kong agencies (a nod to Paul Chan, ECD at Cheil HK for a showing in One Show last week..) here and there. And the local Hong Kong Kam Fans domestic show is still hotly contested every year and still has credibility.

Then there are the others.

A show is only as worthy as the people selected to judge at it. If you know tough, quality people have signed off on your work, you must be doing something right. But these days there are all sorts of shows here whereby you can't necessarily say that. Yet people still enter. And here's where you might adopt a different strategy if you're a business owner and not a hot shot in a major awards-crazy network agency with money to splurge. I have judged before, in..shall we say.. media-owner award shows here, where you have to honestly say, you are picking the best of a bad bunch. And there has to be winners. No "Nothing worthy in this category". It's more the Hot Chocolate approach of 'Everyone's a winner baby". So although the results are all over the magazine spreads with grinning agency and client teams onstage in their razzle dazzle outfits..the reality of it is the award itself stands for bugger all. If you are looking at it through honest creative eyes. But everyone's happy. Everyone wants an award.

As a small agency owner..we've picked up a couple such accolades in the past few years. Why did we even enter? The fact is, you put a business hat on. Clients get to see these results. And then, when they are looking for alternative shops to the usual big guns..they see your name and call you up and, well, we need to drum up business. Would I boast about it at Spikes? No. Would I boast about it to some prospective client in a credentials session. Hell yeah. They don't know the difference between Cannes and a can or sardines. Why not? So. We're all award tarts at the end of the day. Just for different reasons. (Hey - I might add, although we're not up there on the Campaign Brief Asia Hottest Shops in the Universe charts every year, we still pick up the odd nod in respectable show..ahem!).

So. I need to get back to the lass who is chasing me for an answer whether we want to buy an award. Any award. For anything. Best Agency With 6 Chairs and a Sofa. I think we'll give it a swerve because that's a lot of money when your name's not Leo Burnett. I could get my hair done like Graham Fink for that sort of money.

Chris Kyme is chief executive officer at Kymechow, Hong Kong.

VIEW CHRIS KYME'S APRIL 2017 POSTCARD
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2 Comments

Love it said:

Well done Chris. Nicely written.

2%? said:

Great article. And looking at the entries this year 2% of our Ogilvy Scam budget is a lot more than just 5,000.

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