The Oscars, the Golden Globes, the Stanley Cup: all of these awards signify top achievement in specific fields, but often we forget the ancillary benefits of winning something of this caliber. For example, in early 2001 the Baltimore Ravens' Superbowl win united a previously sports-depressed city where the older generations were still bitter about their beloved Colts franchise leaving in the middle of the night. In Mumbai, India the residents, regardless of financial status, were brought together in 2008 when thousands gathered around televisions to watch the film Slumdog Millionaire win the Oscar for Best Picture.

Awards can have a ripple effect that don't just affect the recipient, but the larger community they belong to, and this principle certainly applies to the Creative Services field. Having a member of your team win a local, national or even international creative services award can have incredible positive effects on both your team and your stakeholders. Winning industry awards leads to repeat business and provides your top creative something that he/she really deserves: validation from a third party that his/her work is truly excellent. But the awards process isn't a small task, winning industry awards (yes, that is plural) takes time, effort, organization, financial investment and possibly a few nights spent late at the office.

If beginning this process from scratch, it is beneficial to think long term. After all, you become an "award winning" Creative Services Team for winning awards consistently year after year. An award mention that happened four years ago loses its marketability and also might cause people to wonder why more awards have not been won recently. There are many different awards to win and the deadlines can come annually, semi-annually or even quarterly--your team has enough to remember as it is, thus an award strategy should include assigning one person on your team with the task of keeping a calendar of award application dates. The application process can be time consuming; a general benchmark is to allow for 8 hours of prep work per award, although the paperwork required varies from award to award. This might seem excessive but the process serves a very important purpose: to support the judging process by providing information such as the creative brief and brand attributes. By understanding the creative brief the judges can determine if the project is subjectively well done with regard to quality and design, but also make sure that it followed and achieved what the client asked for. This is a much better alternative than being judged for work by personal preference alone.

In addition to the time investment, there is also a financial investment aspect of your awards strategy. Almost all awards require an application fee, ranging from $50 all the way up to $500. And if you win the award, you generally have the option of receiving a paper certificate or investing in the trophy, which may cost you an additional $100 to $200 but is a far better representation of the accolade your team has won.

Despite the time, energy and financial investment, winning a creative services award is certainly worth it. But what if you don't win? There are still positive benefits of simply instituting an awards program, the most obvious being the statement you make to your team: that you really believe their work is top quality and thus, award worthy. Also, the internal selection process can serve as a team building activity, where each team member brings their best work to a meeting and presents it, with the team deciding by vote which project would best represent the department in the contest.

Awards contests within the In-House Creative Services industry can be fiercely competitive, and the awards that are open to In-House teams as well as ad agencies (like the Addy's or the Webby's) can be even more competitive. But going after these "open" awards has even greater potential to increase credibility from clients and upper management, because you beat an agency. So as 2010 is coming to a close, take some time to develop an awards strategy for your team (or delegate this task to a team member).