It has been nearly 2 years since I ranted about how I felt about disingenuous tool “awards.” And you know what? It still really bugs me off that some magazines and online publications require payment before they will consider a product for an award.
Some – but far from all magazines and websites that do this – have official “rules and regulations” that describe how awards selection is basically run like a contest, but where brands and companies that want to be considered must pay an entry fee. But they don’t elaborate upon the “odds of winning,” and unsurprisingly they don’t mention the entry fee or payment requirements when discussing award “winners.”
Most that I have seen do not openly disclose the fact that an entry fee is required.
Why don’t these magazines and websites mention that there is a mandatory entry fee when discussing award winners? I cannot think of a good answer to this question. Why bury or flat out hide the existence of entry fees, indeed?
I cannot shake the feeling that magazines and websites that charge entry fees simply give “awards” or other recognition to every single paying entrant. Maybe I’m wrong, but it’s hard to imagine otherwise.
One magazine that requires entry fees for their awards process has an initial entry round, after which an award winner is named. When there are award finalists and a final award winner, even if all paying entrants are named as finalists, maybe there is at least the resemblance of a selection process, and hopefully one that is based on merit.
Let’s say that there’s a website or magazine accepting entries for their “best review site” awards. ToolGuyd is the only tool-related site that enters, and is given title of Best Tool Review Site. Let’s say 2 tool related sites enter. Then, ToolGuyd might win an award “Best Wide-Spectrum Tool Review Site,” and the other site might win a slightly different award. All the site has to do is create slightly different awards category for every entrant.
Would companies keep paying for awards entry every year if they weren’t guaranteed a commensurate level of exposure?
So why bring this up again?
I regularly receive press releases from companies that boast about the various “awards” they won. Oh really? Did your company pay a fee for consideration, and was it the only product in that particular category? Is your product even out yet?
In one instance, a brand showed off a product prototype at a show, but it wasn’t fully functional. A part crucial to the functionality of the device was not yet available, and so there was a substitute not at all representative of what would be in the final product. The product looked like it came off the production line, until you turned it on. So how the heck could this product have won top accolades as anything but a paperweight?
Another product was only in the “proof of concept” stage in the development process, months away from production, but it too won an “award”.
I can understand why magazines and websites might have a paid entry awards program. I don’t agree with it, but I can understand it.
It was an email exchange with a brand representative earlier today that added to my disappointment and brought all this back to the surface.
Brand: Yay, our products are awesome, they won some awards, you should post about it and tell the world.
ToolGuyd: Thanks, but I’m not interested in hearing about paid entry awards.
Brand: We pay to enter, no guarantee we will win.
ToolGuyd: Let me guess, every “entry” you paid for resulted in an award, right?
Brand: You got that right.
They then went on to say things about brand exposure and marketing and what-not which only further hurt my impression of the brand they represent.
Some brands even have an “awards” page, where they list badges and various awards that they “won.” Some of those awards seem to be genuine, while others look to be completely bogus. How are readers supposed to tell the difference?
I don’t trust product awards at all anymore. Heck, I can’t even trust a lot of tool or product reviews anymore either, as too many seem to come straight from a brand’s PR or marketing contact. There are some “reviewers” that won’t take a look at a product unless it arrives with a check.
When you see a brand boasting about an award their product won, or they put an award badge or label on their website, or worse – they put it on product packaging, ask yourself:
Did they pay for consideration?
What was the criteria for winning?
How many products were in the running for that award?
And if you’re not sure of the answer, ask them.
In a perfect world, you should have all the information you need to answer all 3 of these questions. Even 2 out of 3 answers might suffice. But as it turns out, transparency and paid entry awards “contests” don’t go hand in hand.
Some magazines and websites even have companies sponsoring their annual awards, and no I’m not kidding. So they have advertisers paying for them to accept mandatory entry fees as part of an awards selection process. I’ve mainly seen these in more specialty product areas, but it’s nonetheless ridiculous.
It’s not what is being done that bugs me, but that it’s all being done behind curtains. Sometimes I wish that my naivety remained intact.
Oh, and if you clicked through from the front page, that’s an unrelated image from a post sharing a satirical video about a fake firewood-making business.