Top Advertising And Design Awards

A List Of The Top Advertising Awards & Why Winning Should Be Part Of Your Business Development Program And Design

Note: This advertising awards list gets updated. Let me know if I am missing an award.

OK, the award list also includes a few of my views on advertising awards objectives and strategies. It is mindblowing how many advertising agencies do not know how to enter an award show — to win.

Awards Are Good… But, Maybe Start Here:

A comprehensive guide that will help your agency become a winner in today’s market – The Advertising Agency Survival Guide.

Why Enter Award Shows? Do You Have Business Objectives And A Strategy?

Winning the right advertising awards is good for business and agency and client morale. Just make sure you know why you are entering. Too many agencies don’t approach the award process with a plan or objectives beyond the search for ego fulfillment. This can make the whole effort a bit too C R A Z Y. But, you know that. Or, do you? Go here to hear an advertising award judge on his less than optimal experience reading agency entries.

I have a memory about the power of awards from my first day at Saatchi & Saatchi London way back in the 1990s. I walked through the creative floor and noticed a tall glass case randomly stuffed with lots of creative trophies. This haphazard display delivered two messages: 1) Saatchi wins lots of awards and 2) they don’t take these too seriously. Of course, the second point was bull shit. Saatchi was always about looking like a winner and the award case proved that point in a cheeky manner. It worked better than the usual and obvious shelf of awards that sit behind the ad agency receptionist’s head.

I have always had mixed feelings about advertising awards. On one hand, they are, like winning an Academy Award, i.e. ridiculous. No one ad, digital program or actor is the “best.” On the other hand (the one with the wallet), they are way expensive. As an agency owner, I often cringed when a creative director came to me with his hand out asking us to spend hundreds on award entries.

However money aside, advertising awards have some very big advantages for agencies, clients, and creative-class workers:

The awards celebrate creativity itself. Creative strategies, art, copy and the media platforms that deliver the work.

They help our most talented people get noticed.

They help smart well-designed agencies get noticed by occasionally confused clients who need second party confirmation when selecting an agency. To me, this is a very important point and one that makes writing those increasingly expensive entry checks worth the cost. Awards should be a big part of an agency’s business development program – not just an ego stroker.

To put all of this go-for-it into context, I wrote about the Portland agency Pollinate a few years back that has done very well (!) by hammering Advertising Age’s Small Agency awards show. The blog post, “How To Win The Ad Age Small Agency Award? Twice?” is a demonstration of the value of entering and winning an award that has meaning for prospective clients because it is delivered via an industry-leading publication. Check it out.

Last point before the list. Award judges have told me that around 30% of agencies do not know how to create an entry that is designed to win. Poor copy, poor strategy, even typos. Many agencies rush through the process at the very last minute. Do you? Do you have an annual award plan? Who is in charge?

My 13 Favorite Advertising & Marketing Awards

I did not list every award. Just the ones that I know can launch careers and help grow agencies.

That said, there is a subset of awards that I highly recommend agencies consider. These are the awards handed out by client category organizations. An example is when my own Oregon agency won the best bank advertising award from the American Bankers Association. As you might expect, we leveraged the heck out of that one across the world of potential financial services clients. Yup, we grew our national financial roster. Prospective clients need that third-party stamp of approval.

The American Advertising Awards – ADDY Awards. This is the largest award program with over 40,000 entries – local agencies love this one because it can level the playing field vs. the mega shops. The competition includes three levels of judging: local, regional, and national. Winning an ADDY at each level qualifies the work to progress to the next higher level.

Ad Stars. Lots of Asia… “Ad Stars is the only international advertising festival which combines creativity with cutting-edge technology. It aims to share creative solutions and change the world.’

ANA Reggies. Since 1983, the REGGIE Awards have been the premier industry awards program recognizing the best brand activation marketing campaigns activated by brands and agencies.

International ANDY Awards. The Advertising Club of New York’s International ANDY Awards has been serving the advertising/marketing community for over 55 years. The club goes beyond most awards by providing funding, professional development, access and inclusivity to all. To date via the Club’s Foundation over 10 million dollars has been invested.  In 2019 alone, $400,000 is earmarked to assist students, young and mid-level professionals on their career journeys. (I’ve won a couple of these. Great statues!)

Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. The big boy and, if you like acting as if you are a major playa, it’s a great excuse to use up your expense account. The seven-day festival that includes the coveted Lions award is held yearly in Cannes (that’s France to you). Win this and you’ll get a big bonus.

The Clio Awards. Another big international award that should get you a round of drinks at your local. Time Magazine described the event as the world’s most recognizable international advertising awards. Even your mum will smile.

Communication Arts Annuals. Communication Arts puts out a series of publications that highlight the best in advertising and design. Believe me, you want to have your work highlighted in The Illustration Annual, The Interactive Annual, The Advertising Annual, The Typography Annual or The Design Annual. These are nice mags to send out to your prospects.

The Effie Awards. The Effies honors the most effective marketing programs. That means, your work actually moved the sales dial and not just the right (as in creative) side of another Creative Director’s brain. Clients dig this one.

Ewards. The Ewards are brand new digital marketing awards for marketers and agencies: a high recognition for marketers’ creativity, expertise, and outstanding performance.

The One Club for Creativity. The One Club for Creativity has been forcing winning agency people to drink champaign for over 45 years. The two-night show celebrates the best in creative advertising, design and digital marketing from around the world. Nice to note… the One Show pencil award will fit just right on your shelf.

The D&AD (Design & Art Direction). A British award that, according to the D&AD “…exists to stimulate, enable and award creative excellence in design and advertising.”

Epica Awards.

Founded in 1987, Epica is the only creative prize awarded by journalists working for marketing and communications magazines around the world. It offers an independent jury and global press coverage. I like that the judges are the press – you’d think a sweet headstart on getting some, um, press.

OMMA. Media Post’s OMMA Awards honor agencies and advertisers that push the potential of digital advertising.

Rosey Awards. Portland just might be the most creative city in America (on a per capita basis that is). The Rosey Awards competition is run annually by the Portland Advertising Federation – the oldest ad club in America. Good news… Wieden & Kennedy has stiff competition.

The Webby Award. The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences’ Webby Awards is all about honoring excellence in digital and Internet marketing. Categories include brand content, DIY videos, and over 30 categories in Advertising & Media.

OK, three more:

happy-workersYou might not be a creative powerhouse. But, you could be a really great place to work and winning one of those Best Place To Work awards is a very positive signal to clients looking to work with agencies that have a cool culture. Here are a couple of awards to consider: Ad Age’s Best Places To Work For and Glassdoor and Outside Magazine’s Best Places To Work. There might also be some very local Best Places awards to seek out – try the local business journal.

How To Manage The Award Process

When I was on the board of the Portland Advertising Federation, I got to watch agencies scramble at the very last minute to get their submissions in. In fact, that is still happening right now.

As an ex-agency owner, I’ve seen the late night / weekend madness first hand. My advice… set up a yearly review of what awards you should enter and know why; have an annual award calendar; have clear agency responsibilities and set a budget. Awards can get expensive. Finally, know how you are going to announce any winners on your website, to your clients, the right prospects and appropriate trade and local press.

Let’s talk about growing your business. You are in a hurry, right?

Contact me now and take me up on my impossible to refuse 15-minute Vito Corleone offer. 


  1. Mike Weber
    | Permalink

    I’m not sure where you got that “5 million entries” number for the ADDY awards. When I was National ADDY Chairman in 2004-05 we had 60,000 professional entries. That was the high point in the competition.

    • Sorry for the late fix. I went to the award website and noted the actual number… “The American Advertising Awards, formerly the ADDYs, is the advertising industry’s largest and most representative competition, attracting over 40,000 entries every year in local AAF Ad Club competitions.”

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