Wait, There's an Award for That?

Four categories to consider this award season

For those of us in advertising, award season is upon us. Cue the mad dash to finish case videos, cull submission lists, and book those last meetings to sell in our most creative work. It also happens to be a month of reflection for me. In the midst of a pandemic, political unrest and economic uncertainty, I can't help but call attention to the categories that seem to really matter, now and every year.

Sure, there's no denying the importance and reward of a Grand Clio, a Black Pencil or a Glass Lion, but when was the last time you stopped to assess how you measured up in categories like compassion, empathy, generosity and kindness? While most agencies (appropriately and respectfully) avoided award show costs last year in an effort to save employee jobs (empathy in action!), I also used the year to practice (and place) in categories that should always be relevant.

Below are a few of my humble encouragements as to why you should also aspire to place best in show when it comes to generosity, empathy, compassion and kindness.


This is more than just about being unselfish. It's about giving—your time, your energy, your focus, your encouragement. Whether it be a student fresh out of college asking for yet a third portfolio review, a colleague who needs another set of eyes on a deck they've been cranking on, or a team in need of some brainstorming help, generosity is a quality we can all aspire to have more of in the (virtual) office. And remember, it's a proven fact that giving makes you happier. And clients like to work with happy people.


I fear many people still misinterpret the true meaning of this word. It's not the act of being soft or too nice. It's definitely not about being motherly (or fatherly). It's the ability to share the feelings of someone, and to put yourself in their place, as if you were feeling those feelings. Especially in the era of mental health meets remote working. When it comes to cultivating empathy, it's not about being a great leader, it's about being a great person. And we all have the ability to do that. As one of my brilliant colleagues reminded me, being able to put ourselves in others' shoes (or understand others' positions, needs, desires) … AND care about them is actually what makes us stronger marketers. Insights are born of empathy, and insights drive our work and solutions for clients.


Not the same thing as empathy. This time, we're talking about selflessness. And helping others. When we notice our colleagues aren't themselves and we ask them to lunch, or when we step outside ourselves to do something to connect with and help others, that's compassion in action. We can all do a little more to gett closer to what really matters to people, and motivates decisions. I think it's safe to say workplace compassion also promotes employee engagement, dedication and loyalty.


Some of best leaders I've worked for have put kindness at the of heart of their leadership philosophies. You see, the most beautiful thing about kindness, whether in the "office" or elsewhere, is that it creates a ripple effect. One simple act encourages another. And while it might be harder now to "buy a cup of coffee" for your cubicle mate, you can always "go the extra mile" by offering a smile, being a good listener, or giving a compliment. I think it's fair to say kindness is no longer optional and should never, ever be mistaken for weakness.

So I know what you're thinking. Thanks for stating the obvious, Cass. You're welcome. Because unfortunately, sometimes the obvious isn't always obvious. And besides, the great thing about any one of these "categories" is that you don't have to prep a case video, finesse a budget, or debate in a jury room. You can just be, do, act.

Remember, our people are our greatest assets, and for them to perform well and be happy, they have to feel these things. We are all products of our environments. May 2021 be the year we all place best in show across generosity, compassion, empathy and kindness.

Profile picture for user Cass Zawadowski
Cass Zawadowski
Cass Zawadowski is executive creative director at Wunderman Thompson Canada.

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