Jon Bains

Art? Or commerce with flair? Jon Bains on the BIMA Awards evolution

Posted by March 18, 2015
1 Comment

The BIMA Awards are open for entries, with a new focus on the customer journey and new ways to showcase the transformative power that digital professionals can have in solving business problems. Jon Bains shares his thoughts on why these changes are important – not just for the Awards but the industry at large.

I was introduced to BIMA in the mid-nineties, when I was running an agency called Obsolete. BIMA then was more interested in CD-Roms than the web, to my frustration. Yes, you could do cooler ‘multimedia’ stuff but ANYONE could see the stuff we did on the web.

I remember the Awards themselves being craft awards promoting emerging technologies, principally relating to the use of tech in marketing, with the odd bit of rom-based entertainment and games thrown in for good measure. The industry has moved on since then – digital is everything and everything has an ‘interactive media’ component. The curiosities of yesterday have become the tools of business today.

And as we have matured, our clients have matured. It’s not just about shiny new things, it’s about selling, influencing, engaging, recruiting, helping, informing. For those of us who have been around since ‘the start’ this transformation seems to have taken an age, but at the glacial pace of the corporate world it’s been in the blink of an eye.

Thanks to the rise of social, where once upon a time the vast majority of the entries in events such as the BIMA Awards would have been from agencies and production companies on behalf of their clients, now an increasing number of brands are celebrating their own ‘internal’ activities, a trend which will no doubt continue.

There are still random fads that come and go, like Flash intros, Second Life and, dare I say it, most apps, but evolved clients and agencies are driven by an objective – a purpose – a reason why clients would invest in that activity. We are not art, we are commerce with flair. We should be evaluated on how well we achieved those objectives, that purpose.

We are in an incredibly fortunate and fluid industry. More often than not there are so many ways, methods, channels, platforms to achieve the desired outcomes. The diversity inherent in our world, the incredible variety of skills and talent required to achieve these goals is staggering and should be recognised more holistically for their ability to achieve their goals.

Now where were we?

The categories in the BIMA Awards have changed with the times as new technologies have become mainstream. They have, however, remained focused on the creation of ‘things on a computer’, of ‘stuff on a phone’, or discrete units of ‘blah on a page’. To be fair this absolutely made sense as we as an industry had to bring ourselves into the mainstream. There also simply weren’t that many places where our achievements were recognised.

As an industry we are middle of a massive transition and so is BIMA itself. As we have grown and matured, simply being recognised for the best examples of our ‘craft’ perhaps isn’t enough anymore. We have a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the strategic, creative and innovative thinking that goes into even the apparently innocuous activity.

Furthermore as digital transformation continues to be so high on the agenda there is an opportunity to look beyond agencies to the clients themselves as they become more self-sufficient.

The BIMA Awards are in a prime position to evolve and engage beyond their homeland, but in order to do so they must gain the wider credibility. In order to achieve this we need to demonstrate our collective influence throughout the entire customer journey.

Rome wasn’t built in a day

(or in this instance one drunken evening.)

Yes the craft awards are still there but this year, as a step beyond, BIMA has dialed up the number of categories by sector and changed how those activities will be judged.

Every sector is different, with different commercial objectives. There is a level of complexity and understanding which is required to excel in every one. How does somebody buy a car? How do you keep someone reading your news? How do you get folk to contribute money to your cause? Whilst there are many tricks and tactics which will apply across the board, what matters is where you have demonstrated an understanding of the why – and a flair for the why not!

That said most briefs fall broadly into one or more of the three stages of the customer journey: we either need to recruit, engage/convert or retain them. Regardless of whether you are creating the content strategy or a piece of content there is purpose and by contextualising that within a sector we can level the playing field so everyone has an opportunity for recognition regardless how big or small the budget or business is.

BIMA has been incredibly self-aware in appreciating its own need to evolve, which is something I very much applaud.  As such, for the first time in a long time I’m quite excited to see what our extended universe is doing to demonstrate value, creativity and innovation all over the place, and why they are doing it in the first place. If you haven’t entered them already this year (or ever for that matter) – there is no time like the present.

What do you think? Have BIMA gone far enough, or could they be making bigger changes to the awards model? Let us know your thoughts below.

Jon Bains, who is celebrating his twenty-first year in the industry, is best known for founding Lateral, one of the original digital marketing agencies.

He is currently founding partner of consultancy What&Why – purveyors of internationally proven, actionable strategy. They explore the far reaches of proposition development and business planning for organisations old and young, near and far.
What&Why also partner with agencies, expanding skills internally and externally from the coalface to the C-suite.

On a personal note, he firmly believes that the answer to ‘should two people be able to talk in private’ is ‘Yes’ and as a purveyor of commerce with flair is always up for new challenges, contracts and conversation. Connect with him at He doesn’t bite (much).

Read more about the BIMA Awards 2015 changes, get comprehensive information on how to write an award winning entry and enter your best work here

  1. On March 19th, 2015, Kevin O'Neill said...

    Great ‘state of the nation’ piece Jon. I agree that ‘digital transformation’ is the challenge today; it’s not always enough to deliver a point solution, like a better converting landing page. The challenge is to change businesses, organisations, maybe even industries for the better. The BIMA is in a great position to see the big picture and encourage like-minded players to celebrate big transformations. As an example I’d say the GDS, as a whole, qualifies.

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