Awards and entertainment are more than indulgent pastimes

Apparently, attendance at this year's Cannes Advertising Festival was down 40%. Given there are now so many categories covered at the event, including Media Lions, Cyber Lions and - for the first time - PR Lions, all of which should have attracted their own communities, the organisers must be extremely depressed.

Tess Alps is chief executive of Thinkbox
Tess Alps is chief executive of Thinkbox

Other awards schemes where entries cost money are also reporting lower participation.

You might think I am being either thick or disingenuous to ask this question, but why? What has changed that means getting great work recognised, motivating the people responsible and garnering evidence for your agency's superiority is less important?

I believe properly managed awards schemes encourage best practice in media planning because they demand we make explicit all the thought processes - objectives, strategy, ideas - and business outcomes that can otherwise be submerged in the heat of execution.

Proving that media investment pays back has surely never been more crucial, and writing an awards entry forces us to make the case.

I also hear there are fewer jollies going on, fewer company away-days and less hospitality of any sort.

Word is that - gasp - getting a table at The Ivy is no longer the futile quest of the blind optimist. Corporate hospitality event organisers are ringing around with prime opportunities that would have had a long waiting list in other years.

Corporate entertainment isn't an indulgent pastime, built around the enthusiasms of the chief executive. We can prove that when people know each other better, trust and personal insight develop more deeply, which ultimately results in better work.

In normal times, we enter awards and entertain people because it's good for business. Given that we are all having to work harder than ever to coax money from advertisers, it's strange we are doing less of this sort of persuasion.

Instead, we are going for a more direct and rational approach, rather like the harder hitting, price-led ads that are prevalent today.

Yet the evidence from the IPA is that, even in a downturn, emotional advertising is still more effective and profitable than rational, informative persuasion.

I appreciate that if you are making dozens of people redundant, it might look insensitive to spend the day at Henley - but only if colleagues haven't grasped the real reason you do it.

Despite that, if entertaining was a justifiable thing to do in easier times, it must still be so today. That's rather a big "if". 

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