Many years ago I had a disagreement at D&AD with David Abbott.

It was at an AGM, I thought I’d found a way to raise the general standard of advertising.

I said we should credit account men in the D&AD annual next to the work that ran, that way they’d care a lot more about the quality of the work they were selling.

David thought it was a bad idea, D&AD had been founded by creatives for creatives.

He thought, once you let business into it it would cease to be about creative excellence and become something else.

David said account men had their own business award schemes, effectiveness awards and such, we should keep D&AD just about creativity.

Well, many years later we can see David was right and I was wrong.

For several decades, the CEOs of D&AD have been account men, and D&AD is now very successful in terms of business, if much less so in terms of creativity.

Kevin Lynch, creative director at Oatly, mentions this in an article he’s written about awards.

When D&AD started, it often gave out no awards at all in some categories because the jury didn’t think any of the work deserved an award.

But now it’s a business, and so last year D&AD gave out 1,392 awards.

Every time you give out an award, every time you open a new category, you make more money from fees.

The more categories the more agencies can enter, the more entries the more fees.

So opening up more categories, giving out more awards, is big business.

Cannes for instance now has 628 different categories, they give out so many awards it takes several consecutive nights.

And if someone from your agency is on the jury, you’ve got more chance of winning, so you’ll enter even more.

That’s why the One Show used to have just 21 jurors, but now has 366 jurors: more jurors = more entries = more fees.

Similarly, more categories = more entries = more fees.

That’s why Clio gave out 1,135 awards last year (1,521 if you include Clio Sports Awards; 1,779 if you include Clio Music Awards; 3,346 if you include Clio Entertainment Awards; 3,632 if you include Clio Health Awards).

More categories = more awards = more entrees = more fees.

Awards are big business, which is why there now more than 900 awards schemes to enter.

Surely you must be able to get an award somewhere, for SOMETHING, amongst that lot.

Which of course is the point.

(We used to joke about the award for ‘Best Hosepipe in a Foreign Language’. I’m not sure that’s even a joke anymore.)

Awards schemes are about generating fees, finding more ways for people to enter.

Agencies want to win so they enter as many ads as possible, in as many categories as possible, in as many different award schemes as possible.

Many years ago, John Webster and I won at D&AD and at Cannes for a commercial we’d done together.

John said, “I’ve been to Cannes once, why don’t I pick up the D&AD award and you pick up the Cannes award”.

Of course, D&AD was more prestigious, Cannes was just a freebie in the sun.

So I took my wife to Cannes and I could see why John went to D&AD.

Cannes was just Southend-on-speed.

Junior ad-people from around the world fighting over the free food.

Cathy and I left the awards and found a little bistro in the back streets.

It was a relief to get away from it.