Why award competitions should die

We called ourselves an ‘award winning’ agency, until we learned that ‘award winning’ is a scam. The award competitions as we know them should die.

Awards are bought

Obviously a lot of creative agencies deserve to win competitions. But only when they are won fairly, which is today most of the time not the case. When an agency joins an award competition they pay and when they pick up the award, they pay again. We think it’s pretty disturbing.

How we learned awards are for sale

In 2014 we launched The Award Reminder. A monthly reminder for other agencies packed with dates of the next award ceremony applications. The launch of the reminder was hailed by AIGA and the Dutch Design Association because very few agencies will tell other agencies when to sign up for awards. We thought we were making competition fairer through sharing our own award calendar, but soon we realized the competitions were not fair in itself.

For all award competitions an average of 300 USD needs to be paid to take part. Another 500 to sometimes 1000 USD is then paid ‘to pick up' the award. Meaning that these competitions are far from neutral.

From other participants we learnt that award event organizers will sometimes even create extra categories to make more agencies win (more money and more exposure). It also happens at times that the award ceremony sponsors win more awards because of their support for the award event. Long story short: agencies are not winning awards, they are buying awards.

The alternative: make award competition free and independent

The concept of winning awards is fine. As long as the competition is neutral and everyone is able to join for free. But right now, everyone is pretending the winners are true winners because it generates exposure for everyone participating (the client, the agency and the organizer). The loser is the best creative who was too humble to participate or simply could not afford to compete.

Competitions should do therefore more effort to make awards free and accessible for everyone. As long as this does not change ‘award winning agencies’ should rename themselves to ‘award buying agencies’.


If you agree to make award competition free and accessible for all creatives hit ‘Recommend’ 💚 or share the article with others to push the transformation from buying awards into actually winning awards.