How do you calculate ROI in awards?

As advertising awards season kicks off we at Hunch got to thinking about return on investment (ROI).

Not the number-cuddling, metric-meddling scramble to tell the best story. Instead, we looked at our financial investment in the awards themselves and did our best to calculate the commercial return on that investment.

Spoiler alert: we reckon it all stacks up.

Entering awards isn’t cheap. Global network, Publicis famously announced it was banning its agencies from awards in FY18 to chase 2.5 percent ‘cost synergies’. To put that into context they earned just over seven billion euros last year, so that’s a potential saving in our money of just under $300 millon (NZD). It’s a saving worth having, but is it a short-sighted business call?

Closer to home, we play with different numbers. Our recent excursion to the NZDM awards cost us a little under $10 thousand dollars. That’s made up of entry fees (upwards of $500 a pop) plus $200 tickets to the gig, a few taxis and the internal opportunity cost of time spent crafting entries. That investment netted us four bronze awards. But we reckon the return was greater than that. 

So we put together a quick post-implementation review to run a ruler over the numbers and make sure we’re getting a solid return on every dollar spent. Here’s what we got:

P is for Passion

Let’s be honest, it’s hard to get excited about dog food. Dogs, maybe. But dog food? Same applies to savings accounts, phone plans or great deals from a supermarket. But the chance to be the best at something, that’s genuinely motivating. Why? Because people love to feel like they’re doing a brilliant job.

There’s science behind it. Most people in thinking jobs are intrinsically motivated. In other words, they push themselves. While awards are a timely extrinsic motivator, the residual drive to try harder and do better is driven by passion for being the best. Awards help signpost that energy. One of our junior writers turned around on Thursday and said: “I want to win best copy”. Perfect outcome. Investment sound.

Awards fuel passion and passion makes better work. Return on Investment.

I is for Inspiration

In an industry that’s increasingly focused on doing more with less, we don’t look up so much to see what’s possible. Awards broaden those horizons. Seeing people win prizes gives other people ideas about what they could possibly do. “How did they do that?” “How did they sell that idea?”, “I wish I’d come up with that one” – all the beginnings of great conversations that inspire people to do better work.

And when the benchmark for every job is brilliant work, any relevant inspiration is a very solid investment.

Awards are inspiring and inspiration makes better work. Return on Investment.

R is for Reputation

Marketing is one of those paradoxical industries that’s converging and splintering at the same time. It’s awash with metrics and measurements and expert opinions in every direction. These days, just about anyone can grab a credit card and a MacBook and call themselves an agency (like we did). So how can you tell who the real experts are? Reputation really helps.

Unfortunately, marketing’s reputation economy doesn’t work like Uber. You won’t get five stars for a stellar trip around the block. Instead, you’re remembered for great relationships, expert problem solving and ultimately brilliant work.

And it doesn’t hurt to back that up with a few well-placed awards.

Awards build reputation for the best work in the market. Return on Investment.

Awards aren’t about awards, they’re all about benchmarking ‘best’.

Like most marketing activity, it’s pretty much impossible to directly attribute specific investment to bottom-line success.

But immediacy is a very narrow investment timeframe. Publicis is unlikely to see the impact of not entering awards for a year or so. But continue to turn off the tap and we reckon culture will change, clients will shift-focus and great people will wander away.

Awards aren’t about awards, they’re about doing better work. And if you’re working somewhere that values passion, cares about craft and invests in inspiration, chances are you’ll push yourself harder and challenge others to do the same. It all adds up to a dogged determination to do the best work in the market.

Get that right, and that’s when your reputation will proceed you and financial rewards will follow. So we see awards as valuable investment in building the culture that delivers long-term success – and that’s the return on investment. 

  • Michael Goldthorpe​ is the managing partner at Hunch.

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Michael Goldthorpe is Managing Partner at Hunch.

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