Preetesh Sewraj, CEO of the Leories. Picture: Supplied
Preetesh Sewraj, CEO of the Leories. Picture: Supplied

At a time when the ad industry is questioning the value of awards ceremonies, the new head of the Loeries award programme says these events create competitive excellence, which he believes is vital for brand sustainability and ultimately profit.

Preetesh Sewraj takes over the reins from Andrew Human, who served as CEO for 15 years. Sewraj was previously CEO of Product of the Year, a consumer-voted award for product innovation.

The pushback against awards shows started about four years ago when DDB Worldwide chief creative officer Amir Kassaei announced that his group would invest less in entering creative awards. He said too many agencies had bought into the idea that winning awards was proof of creative effectiveness, "so much so that we’re willing to sacrifice our integrity to get them and in turn that [has] lessened the integrity of awards themselves".

After that the global WPP group, along with some of its competitors, said it would cut awards spend by 25% in the face of declining revenue growth. And those sentiments have led many in the industry — including in SA — to question why events like the Loeries still have currency.

Sewraj says the Loeries represents more than just the ad industry. "It helps shine a light on great creativity across the multiple facets of brand communication. In a market that is in a state of flux, the Loeries is the only regional index that gives brand communication stakeholders insights into how effective their communication is across the region."

He believes the Loeries is more than just an awards show. It’s a platform for brands to gauge the strength of their communication versus that of their competitors and put a face to the talents who are building brands, as well as a tool to disseminate innovative and creative thinking, he says.

But in spite of his upbeat assessment, agencies — particularly smaller shops which find multiple entries expensive — still wonder how to measure a return on that investment. Sewraj says the Loeries delivers ROI through a number of avenues, including generating insight into which brands and agencies are creating the best work and which creatives are delivering new and exciting thinking, and offering brands proof that their agency is the best partner. He’s also not fazed that agencies are cutting back on awards entries due to costs. "The Loeries entry rates are the lowest in the world for a major award and we are a nonprofit."

Questions are also being asked about how award winners are selected, with some in the industry suggesting that the system might be too in-house and parochial.

Not at all, says Sewraj. "We are constantly evaluating our research methodology to ensure it is robust and relevant. We have some of the strongest brand communication minds on our board to guide us, and we receive advice from exceptional international judges every year. "

Another oft-levelled criticism is that agencies are judged by the market only on the awards they win when only their best work is entered, which is often a small percentage of broader output.

Again Sewraj disagrees. "An agency’s best work is an indication of what it is able to achieve when it is trusted to take human truths and turn them into creative output that touches the hearts and minds of consumers. When an agency wins, it is truly a combined win for both agency and brand."