The 2017 Academy Awards once again recalls the gulf between awards and results. Between creativity and market performance. None of the top twenty box office hits of 2016 made the nominations for Best Picture, the most prized Oscar.
Many creatives and advertising agencies see their works through the lens of a Cannes Lion or a D&AD Pencil. They live on Applausia, where every citizen aspires to awards. Problem is, the paymasters – CEOs and CMOs – live on Earth, several million light years from Applausia. On Earth, you are as celebrated as last quarter’s result, not by a bronze image.
In A New Brand World, Scott Bedbury recounted an experience he had as a young agency account executive trying to ‘herd cats.’ That is, manage creative people. In the account, he narrated how he had smugly suggested a creative idea to his Creative Director, something apparently akin to a deer trying to steal a kill from a lion. Luckily for Scott, he escaped the encounter with the minor indignity of being thrown out of the room. His boss later advised him:
“…don’t ever take credit for anything you do (guiding creative people). Creative people don’t work for money, like we do. They work for recognition.”
That’s just as well if the advertising enterprise didn’t exist to ultimately help businesses grow revenue and profit.
The most prized award at the Academy Awards for producers is Best Picture. It aggregates the craft involved in directing, acting, cinematography, music composing, writing, editing and other creative efforts in movies to decide the ‘alpha movie’ of the year.
This year, that prize went to Moonlight, whose worldwide box office takings totalled $25m, though still in cinemas across the UK. Indeed, in the last ten years, only Slum Dog Millionaire ($385m) and The King’s Speech ($430m) are the only Best Picture winners that crossed the $300m-mark at the box office.
The total worldwide box office takings for ALL the nine nominations for this year’s Best Picture total about $1.120b, some $30m less than the takings of Captain America: Civil War, 2016 box office alpha. As it turned out, the Marvel film wasn’t even nominated in any category. Of the fifty-two movies nominated for Best Picture since 2012, only five have crossed the $500m-mark; The Revenant ($533m), American Sniper ($547m), Life of Pi ($608m), The Martian ($640m) and Gravity ($716m).
How is it that movies cinema goers love and box office hits like Furious 7, Jurassic World, Avengers or X-Men hardly get a look-in at the Oscars? It is because the Academy members aren’t judging for popularity or consumer engagement but artistic quality.
The downside of this, of course, is that producers and directors may focus inordinately on winning an Oscar over making movies cinema goers will truly enjoy. Gimme The Hangover over Black Swan any day.
2016 top 20 Box Office Numbers*
However, The Academy Awards differs from most creative awards in that all the fifty-two movies nominated for Best Picture in the last five years had at least a ROI of 100%. That is quite an understatement; 70% of those movies had ROI over 400%. With a production budget of $1.5m, Moonlight must have seen profit before tax over 1000%.
One of the biggest arguments against creative awards like Cannes and D&AD is that they assign little significance to market performance. Many clients see the annual jaunt on the French Riviera as no more than a lavish fiesta of creative people patting themselves on the back while the world burned.
That is why the recently introduced Cannes Creative Effectiveness Lions will increasingly be the creative award that truly matters to advertisers in coming years.
The Creative Effectiveness Lions are designed to reward campaigns that have shown both outstanding creativity and delivered effective outcomes for their clients. The 2016 edition took a stricter approach to effectiveness, requiring entries not only deliver sales, but a significant profit-based ROI.
John Lewis’ Monty Christmas integrated campaign walked home with the 2016 Creative Effectiveness Grand Prix. The campaign became the most watched Christmas ad of 2014, with John Lewis enjoying a record increase in sales (£179 million taken in a single week) and an ROI of 8:1. Proof that creativity works.
Drawing a direct line between creativity and market performance will always be tough, given the convoluted nature of human decision-making. However, the more agencies draw a link between creativity and performance, the more advertisers trust them and more likely to give them a seat at the strategy table. It is not that advertisers doubt the power of creativity. It is that it helps if they can justifying it with hard numbers.
Right. Stoked Casey Affleck won Best Actor. I like Casey. Looks like a real guy. Totally love his Dunkin Donut spoof below.
Love to hear what you think about awards and measurements.