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Radar InvestigatesThe Bogies
Radar nominates the most bogus awards in America
DISHONORABLE MENTION In the lucrative world of token awards, the only loser is youSure, it's a great idea, but did your new invention win Strunk and White's 2006 Technology Innovation of the Year award? Didn't think so. There's no such thing—yet. Send us $50 and we can work something out.
In the rapidly expanding world of awards marketing, winning is rarely free. In fact, the dirty little secret is that it just might be better to give an award than to receive one, thanks to an ingenious pay-to-play model that involves perfunctory judging, zero accountability, and very little overhead—not to mention an extremely gullible public. Such prizes are now given out in the thousands every year. And some people have actually started making money compiling them into lists, people like Lynne Marcus, who charges $595 for her reference tome, Marketing with Honors. She also consults for companies seeking to give out awards, while at the same time collecting fees from companies hoping to win them. (No conflict here, she says: "If I'm running a competition, I try not to help people win it, too.")
Marcus admits that most corporate honors are far from scientific, or even reliable, because the vast majority are bestowed by for-profit enterprises. Many don't even pretend to be impartial; they just want the entry fee. In exchange, recipients can use their spurious accolades to convince the public to buy what they're selling. The system works, says Marcus, because "if you've won lots and lots of awards, consumers will believe you know what you're doing." That explains, for example, why Dell dedicates a major part of its website to the dozens of awards its won, including the prestigious Buyers Laboratory Inc. Outstanding Small Workgroup Color Printer Award. And why ExxonMobil, the world's largest oil company, crows online about the 54 awards its garnered in the categories of Health and Safety, Environment, and Social Responsibility.
In the spirit of competition, we took a closer look at some of the most grievous offenders in the field. The envelope, please ...
Given in four categories—
American Business, International Business, Women in Business, and Selling Power Sales Excellence—the Stevie Awards are the brainchild of Michael Gallagher who, after years in the media and tech industries, saw an opportunity to fill a desperate need for "the Oscars of business." He takes care of his own needs by charging entry fees up to $425 for consideration in 300 separate categories. Nominees have the option to buy $355 tickets to the gala, $1,200 ads in the banquet program, and $500 for the trophy if they happen to win. Gallagher gets companies like Pitney Bowes to sponsor the ceremony, offsetting his overhead costs. And since the awards are based on unverified applications filled out by entrants, you can cross off judging expenditures too.
At a lavish June ceremony held at New York's Marriot Marquis—and emceed by CNN's Ali Velshi, author of the forthcoming It's Never Too Late To Start: Practical Lessons for Creating Wealth from Middle Age Onward—the incredibly long list of winners were announced. Among them were Julianne Martin of 1-800-Geeks-On-Call for America's Best Support Staffer and the giant utility concern Entergy Corp. for Best Employee Recognition Corporate Video. But we have to give the night to PostcardMania, which won the prize for Best Writing thanks in large part to an application that contained the following artfully-crafted prose: "The objective was ... imparting to all our visitors that they can be causative over their income and expansion by understanding marketing and implementing the basics we hope to teach with our articles." Give that company a Stevie!
File Under: Champion of Industry Award, Cinque Awards, Five Star Diamond Award, JD Powers and Associates, The Stevie Awards, WeatherRate
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Man, this is genius. Thanks, Ken for a great article. Well researched and a testament to your journalistic know-how. Keep 'em coming.
Posted by: CarlesterCrumpler | December 15, 2006 04:27 PM
I think the Stevie award went to 1800GeeksOnTime, not Geeks On Call. AO Geek
Posted by: aogeek | December 16, 2006 07:00 AM
Apparently you're not located in LA. Either that or you are oblivious to the fact that LA Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) has been awarded "Transit System of the Year" by the American Public Transportation Association. The award sounded credible when it went to OCTA (Orange County) last year, but Metro??? What a joke.
Posted by: mcgeo52 | December 17, 2006 03:32 AM
count the golden globes as a bogie
Posted by: ladyli1 | December 17, 2006 01:19 PM
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