A large part of the appeal of awards ceremonies is the controversy that inevitably follows the announcements. And, as per usual, there was plenty of robust debate about the worthiness of the winners at this year's Effies, Kiwi adland's premier awards.
Special Group picked up three golden Effies for their Green Party political campaign on the night. But is there is a hint of bitterness hanging in the air?
StopPress has heard a few murmurings recently that the Special Group-Green Party triple-gold, as well as the campaign's inclusion in the Not for Profit section at the 2009 NZ Marketing awards, caused a bit of an industry hoohah. And, as a result, some insiders were concerned that the Effies were currently under review to make it more difficult for indies to enter.
Rick Osborne, CEO of CAANZ, says that's certainly not the case and, if anything, his organisation is trying to make it easier to enter the awards, irrespective of the size of the agency.
"There's not an Effies that goes by where there isn't some conjecture about the outcomes," he says. But there is definitely no old school, big ad agency cabal attempting to keep the new interlopers out of the mix.
Osborne says CAANZ has been running courses for the last two years that aim to help contestants create more effective Effie applications and 45 people attended the course this year. Not surprisingly, he says there's a very strong correlation between those who attended and those who won awards.
Aside from the expected subjective debates surrounding the winners, he hasn't heard anything negative about Special's Green Party Effies victory and is full of praise for the current crop of indies, who, with Blackwood, Barnes, Catmur and Friends and Special Group all picking up golds in the last few years, have done very well recently.
"I would suggest the indies have been punching well above their weight," he says. "It's a very competitive industry and it's great to see the indies doing well."
Michael Redwood, Account Director at Special Group, is unaware of any industry scuttlebutt surrounding the Green Party campaign and its Effies win. He says all his peers and clients thought it was fantastic and there has been a lot of positive feedback (John Key even claimed it was his favourite party campaign).
He says there was some debate about whether it deserved the win, but he doesn't think there's any hostility coming from the big agencies or any CAANZ agenda to keep indy agencies out of the awards.
Dave Walden, past CAANZ president, did criticise Special Group after it placed an ad in the Herald that said it was proud to have been associated with the Green campaign. Walden thought it was inappropriate and believed it contravened the Electoral Finance Act.
"He was completely out of order on that," Redwood says. It was all done and authorised as campaign spending, he says.
Redwood says it is more difficult for smaller agencies to enter the Effies, simply because of the cost (around $350 per category, he says) and time associated with the entry process, especially when compared to the budgets and staff some of the bigger agencies have access to. As a result, he says indies need to be more selective.
Kath Dewar, MD of KD Consulting and lead volunteer for the Green Party 08 ad campaign, certainly hopes the rumours aren't true.
"The indy agencies are a growing force in the industry here, the same as the Green Party is in politics, and it's really important for the health of the industry that the Effies stay accessible," she says.
Dewar says if there are any moves for change, it might have something to do with the "Indy factor".
"With the big agency revenue model entering its death throes, the Internationals are under real pressure. The Indies and integrated agencies are more resiliant, making better use of a fee-based model. It's the only real option when you want to offer clients the optimum media mix for their business and not be beholden to commissions."