The economy sucks. Better invest in award shows.

I know it seems counter-intuitive to a lot of companies facing the pains of shrinking budgets and increased pressure, but I am a firm believer in entering award shows in any year – especially in a tough year like we’re all having.

Awards do more than boost egos. They boost energy levels in deflated and depleted creative departments. They boost awareness of your agency and the great work you’re doing. And that can boost business, not to mention draw the attention of talent who may want to come work for you.

Of course not all award shows are created equal. So which ones to invest in? For that, you need to be strategic. What I find works best is sitting down at the beginning of the year and mapping out the shows you’d like to win. Then plan your budget accordingly. Start with the biggies that will bring cache. For me, those are Cannes, DMA Echo and the John Caples International Awards.

Each of these shows focuses on what our business is all about – great direct marketing ideas that generate results. Cannes has the added benefit of being associated with the bigger festival, and it’s in southern France, so that doesn’t suck. Echo is equal parts strategy, creative and results. What client doesn’t want all three? And Caples celebrates the power of creativity to solve challenging marketing problems in what has always been considered a less-than creative part of the ad business. All are valuable and all will pay dividends in the long run.

After these, look at your agency’s portfolio of clients. What’s your sweet spot? If you have a lot of healthcare clients, target PhAME, MM&M, and other pharma-specific shows that will draw potential new clients to your door when they see your agency’s name next to some big shiny category. The same holds true if you have a lot of financial services clients, retail clients – you get the idea. If you’re more of a digital shop, the Webbys, Ad Tech, and OMMA will make clients take notice.

Next, I always throw in a few “main stream” shows that have Direct categories, like the One Show, Clios, Andy, D&AD or Art Director’s Club. And then there is the Effies, which doesn’t market itself as a Direct show but let’s be honest, it’s all about results.

Lastly, if you’re a smaller shop and still have any money left in your budget, you might want to consider local or regional shows that will draw the attention of clients and potential employees closer to home.

Yeah, the economy is not our friend right now. But it will be. And when it turns, you want to make sure clients know who you are and the kind of work you do. So double down on award shows and watch how quickly you profit.

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