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Op-Ed: Advertising Awards from Facebook?

Our pal Josh Seifert, HUGE senior marketing strategist, returns with his monthly diatribe, this time discussing, yes, the Facebook Studio Awards, which we’ve touched on in the past. Are they worthy, are they relevant or are they even needed? Drop your science, sir.

The concept behind the Facebook Studio Awards really hits the nail on the head. When everything in digital can be measured, evaluated and judged based on some sort of performance metric—rightly or wrongly—the existing crop of industry awards doesn’t fully recognize and celebrate what is actually successful in digital. Unfortunately, awarding marketers for using what you’re shilling is so self-aggrandizing as to be nearly meaningless.

Worse, judging the state of Facebook as a creative marketing platform by looking just at the award winners paints an unfairly bleak picture—there’s a ton of great Facebook marketing work. After watching Digitas’s Blue Award-winning submission for Small Business Saturday, complete with President Obama taking advantage of the campaign, it’s a little difficult to take the other winning submissions seriously—not because they’re not good, but because the impact of the other campaigns is at least an order of magnitude smaller than Small Business Saturday. Latching onto Facebook can amplify a campaign and make it better, but it’s still just a channel to execute an idea. Moreover, taking a campaign-centric point of view for Facebook might be great for extracting dollars from marketers and selling Facebook ads, but doesn’t build the long-term social relationships and connections that brands really want from social media.

The Facebook Studio Awards would have you believe that a “social”-specific insight was critical for each campaign’s success. While certainly helpful to generate free media and spread the word, the campaigns are successful because they’re rooted in actual communication insights that consumers find engaging. The “my kid could paint that” critique is the center of KIASMA’s Gold Award-winning contemporary art museum campaign. The What Zurich Needs Gold Award-winning campaign is about listening to consumers—something Dell’s IdeaStorm, My Starbucks Idea and Toyota Ideas for Good have been doing for years, without Facebook. Personally, I love the Nike+ GPS mobile app, the website and all of its social features. Nike+ just doesn’t have all that much to do with Facebook, with the exception of broadcasting your runs, which, in practice, can quickly become akin to spamming the shit out of your own timeline and friends’ newsfeeds. While certainly novel, for some, the Facebook integration is arguably the least compelling feature of the mobile application.

If Facebook’s real interest was in recognizing a pioneering shift in the way brands use social media to connect with consumers, I’m confused about why the judging panel is mostly advertising execs and not creative technology professionals. It seems to me that the visionaries who actually create, manage and grow adoption of new technologies would be better suited at recognizing pioneering use of those technologies than ad industry people struggling to make sense of it all—and we’re all struggling to make sense of it all. Plus, surely there are already enough ad agency awards given by ad agency people.

Really, the Facebook Studio awards are not about recognizing pioneering use of the platform, but showing the advertising industry that Facebook is a safe place for brands to spend money on constantly changing ad campaigns. The best way to demonstrate that? Have the agencies that you want to use Facebook become a part of giving out awards for using Facebook. It’s hard not to regard the Facebook Studio Awards as chiefly an attempt to cozy up to the people responsible for determining where billions of marketing dollars are spent.

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