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The thinking behind the new Chip Shop Awards categories

With the Chip Shop Awards deadline now extended until 10 April, the next week will see a massive influx of last-minute entries from people hoping to blow our minds with their creative ideas. And this year sees a whole bunch of new categories which offer more creative freedom than ever. Dave Birss, The Drum’s editor at large and the brains behind the new categories, tells us the thinking behind them.

Dave Birss

Let me tell you a story that you may already know. Way, way back in the 1980s, Andy Cheetham and Tony Veasey, two young and ambitious creatives in Manchester, wanted to bag themselves some creative awards. They weren’t short of great ideas. However, they were short on clients. So they went to Andy’s mum, who owned Barnacles Fish & Chip Shop in Llandudno, and asked her if they could do some ads for her. She agreed, our heroes got into a bunch of awards annuals, embarked on a pretty impressive career and the idea of the Chip Shop Awards was born.

From the very beginning, the Chip Shop Awards have been championing the people with brilliant ideas but not the clients to embrace them. It’s become the place for agency creatives to show the work they wish they could run and a haven for students and juniors to show the industry what they’re capable of.

This year I wanted to refocus the awards on that initial purpose. I wanted to make sure they were offering every opportunity they could to the talented people who enter them. So I spent a bit of time refreshing the categories. And I thought I would share some of my thinking behind these sparkly new gongs.

Best ad from the future

When the internet took off, we had a wave of ads that featured computer mice, real mice, surfers and spider webs. Some of them were quite good (the ones I was responsible for, naturally). But after you’d seen a dozen ads featuring similar imagery and wordplay, it became tired and it was time to move on. I wanted to give people the chance to get in on those great clichés before they become clichéd. This is the chance to create that iconic ad for self-driving ionic fusion hover cars, decades before anyone else spoils it for you.

Best political ad

The general election is just over a month away on this side of the pond. And it's just over a year before the US waves goodbye to Obama. It’s politics a-go-go right now and it seems like a good opportunity to lampoon the parliamentary twits expecting us to put a cross beside their name. It would be foolish of us to pass up this chance to generate some topical ads.

Best vandalism of an existing ad

I don’t think I’m the only person who screams swear words inside their head when they're subjected to a bad poster. Or talks back to the telly when a shitty commercial comes on. This is the opportunity to apply creativity where not enough creativity was previously applied.

Best ad without a headline

You should get a bonus if you create a good ad without a headline because it saves a fortune on translation services. And it makes it easier to communicate with the sub-literate munters who make up Jeremy Kyle’s viewership. It’s a real challenge. But an amazing thing to pull off, if you succeed.

Best ad without a visual

If the marker jockeys are getting a category to excel in, we need to give the biro wrestlers one as well. We don’t see that many good headline-led ads these days. I just wanted to check that the skills are still out there, in case one day we need to save the universe from an alien invasion with a pithy slice of linguistic wit.

Best ad for something that doesn’t need advertised

When I started as a lowly copywriter in the early 90s, the ads were all about soap powders, instant mashed potatoes and chocolate bars. These days they’re about debt consolidation, insurance comparison sites and cut-price supermarket offers. It’s time to look for some new things to advertise. Like your own kidneys, the cuteness of puppies or those strange bits of plastic under toilet seats that look a bit like undercooked sausages. If no one else has advertised something, it’s easy to create the best ad ever done for it.

Best use of an alternative media space

Apparently creative departments aren’t the only ad-folk that use creativity. I wanted to test that theory by inviting media people to show us what they can do. If this goes well, next year we can open up the awards to planners, finance assistants and receptionists. Of course, creatives can always hijack this category with some clever ambient executions or something.

Best use of an animal

We’ve got an infestation of wildlife in our ad breaks these days. You can either call in the exterminators to rid you of meercats, platypuses, ponies and puppies – or you can embrace it. We’re hoping you’ll succeed in turning some lesser-known species into a brand spokesbeastie. If someone manages to get one of those little jungle fish that swims up a stream of urine into a GoCompare ad, I’ll be impressed.

Best use of a celebrity

I hate celebrity-based advertising. And even more so this year, thanks to Peter Andre. This is just a category to see if you can convince me to change my mind.

Best use of tech for tech’s sake

I love technology. But mashing up the latest technology fads in the name of ‘innovation’ has become a ’thing’. And therefore it’s ripe for lampooning. This is your chance to create a smartwatch-enabled, 3D-printed drone that snapchats its location whenever your mum sends you a text – or some such tosh.

Ad most likely to get Chip Shop Awards in shit creek

Some Chip Shop entrants seem to be rather potty-mouthed. Others like to enter things that would make a lawyer on Prozac throw a hissy fit. If you want to enter any ads that you'd be embarrassed to show your mum, this is the category for you, you filthy bastard.

Best Chip Shop trophy design

Seeing as we’ve revamped the categories, we thought we’d open it up to you to revamp our trophy. Ideally, we’d like you to send us a 3D file of your design so that we can actually print it for our jury to drool over. And if you come up with something better than our beautiful chips and vinegars, we may just use your design for our next awards.

I’m really hoping that these new categories inspire a whole bunch of amazing ads. Because that’s what the Chip Shop Awards are all about. We’re standing by to reward the brilliant ideas that deserve to see the light of day.

The deadline for entering the Chip Shop Awards has been extended is 10 April. Make sure you get your entries in before it’s too late by visiting chipshopawards.com

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Dave Birss

I used to be an advertising Creative Director. Now I'm on a mission to demystify creativity. I do that by writing, speaking, broadcasting and consulting.

I was the writer, director and presenter of The Day Before Tomorrow - which you can find here: /daybeforetomorrow

I also wrote and presented the VR history documentary Secret Spaces, which you can find here: http://secretspaces.tv

I'm the author of A User Guide to the Creative Mind.

I'm the founder of OneDayCodeSchool.com

And I'm the Editor at Large of The Drum. So you'll occasionally find my face on this site.

All by Dave