I attended my first RACIE AWARDS, as part of the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association (RAMA) conference in San Francisco.

For those unawares, here’s the dope on RAMA:

The Retail Advertising Marketing Association (RAMA), a division of the National Retail Federation, provides unique networking opportunities, industry research and educational programming for retail advertising and marketing professionals.

The RACIES take place amidst two days of presentations and round-tables, featuring key players in the marketing world. I attended several sessions and, not surprisingly, the buzz was all about social media. But this post is about the awards show.

In many ways, the RACIES are like every other advertising awards show. It celebrates creative excellence and effectiveness in all marketing channels: TV, print, outdoor, digital, etc. But here’s the kicker, and it’s what I want to focus on: The vast majority of my peers in the creative community could care less. The RACIES are considered a tier 3 awards show, if they are considered at all. Even the EFFIES get more play. In fact, I was one of the few agency creative directors in attendance.

Why? For one thing, there are plenty of award shows. Perhaps the RACIES are viewed as an interloper. The name sure sucks. But I’m suggesting there’s more to it than that. Like a lot of biases, ours is probably based on certain preconceived notions developed over time. The creative community has their pets. We worship at the altar of Cannes Gold Lions, Andy Heads and One Show Pencils, to name a few. Specialty shows like the Obies (outdoor) and Kelly Awards (print) also hold serve. And rightly so. All controversies aside, these shows generally feature the best work being done in our industry. They are counted in the infamous Gunn Report.

The RACIES aren’t there yet. From what I saw, the winning work was a mixed bag of genius and not so much, and it appeared to come from only a handful of agencies. For example, all the radio finalists were from DeVito Verdi in New York. A fine shop, to be sure, but I got the impression the only one of consequence entering work in this difficult category.

If the RACIES are dubiously viewed and attended by the creative community the opposite is true regarding attendance from heavy breathers on the client side. By their own admission, “RAMA’s Board of Directors is comprised of more than 50 industry CMOs, partners and supporters.” And guess what? They were all there, along with brand managers and account directors, too many to name.

Forgive the cliché, but finding CMO’s at the RACIES was like shooting fish in a barrel. I was giddy at the prospect of meeting and greeting so many potential “patrons.” And with nary a creative director in the room, it was like I had them to myself. In fact, I managed several terrific conversations with men and woman who, if the Gods of Advertising be willing, might some day be my clients. Contrast that with the other more “popular” award shows; where everyone I meet is just like me: a copywriter, art director and/or creative director. Nothing wrong with those, but I can’t deny the thrill of talking with potential clients versus my competition.

Creative people bitch about being insulated from client contact and kept away from decision makers. Yet, here’s a venue where all that existed, replete with an awards show, and only a smattering of advertising creative people anywhere to be found.

We’re missing out, folks. And part of the reason is our own hubris. We –the advertising creative community- think we’re too good for shows like the RACIES. (Yes, I am speaking for all of us.) Perhaps we need to let go of some old, snobby ideas. The One Show is great for finding inspiration and talent. But clients don’t go, nor do they read the annual. Given a choice, wouldn’t you like to compete and win in front of over 50 CMO’s as opposed to just your peers?

I know I would.

Yes, Cannes is finally attracting key players from the client side. But not the other award shows. Not really. Besides, for most agencies, North America is our prime hunting grounds. Don’t take this wrong, but maybe we should be in front of the fish and not crawling up our own asses.

For the record, my agency, Euro RSCG Chicago won three awards at the RACIES: a bronze for Valspar paint, a silver for Pivot Boutique, and a Gold for Potbelly. For all the winners and more information, click on the following links:

RACIES AWARD WINNERS

RAMA Website

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