PLEASE, PLEASE Don’t Do the InfoComm Pay-for-Play Awards From Industry Magazines

You’ve all seen them. Emails from the plethora of analog and digital magazines covering InfoComm this year — all asking or you to PAY to ENTER their awards programs.

I am writing to BEG YOU to stop doing this. This is not only a rip-off, but it’s completely unethical.

Sure, a $10 or $20 fee to enter an award could be justified and even understandable but one that’s $150, $250 or even $350 is ridiculous. No, it’s pathetic.

Awards seem to have become a profit-center for these publications. And, basically, if you can’t afford to enter them — like many small companies can’t), you aren’t even considered. Winners are only picked from paid entries.

THIS IS UNETHICAL.

The obvious: By attaching a ridiculously high fee, they’ve already eliminated a bunch of companies that can’t afford to “pay to play” and can’t apply for an award because they have to pay a fee that’s not affordable to them. Remember when you were just starting a business? Every dollar you spent on your company was money you took away from your kids or family vacation. So, this may not seem like a lot of money ($300 or even $500), but it is. So, if they can’t afford to enter, they don’t. Do you think product innovation only comes from well-established companies? It doesn’t. I have seen many start-ups in 10×10 booths at InfoComm or even people carrying around a cool new product in their briefcase at a show that had amazing technology. That’s how I found Crowd Mics — I WAS THE FIRST PERSON in AV to write anything about them. They couldn’t have afforded a $499 fee when they debuted.

So those companies that can’t afford to have their products entered are not even considered for these unethical, magazine-sponsored “pay-for-play” awards programs. So, that leaves those that pay-to-play as the only ones that will be considered. Is that really representative of the best products of InfoComm? Or, should they be re-worded to be called the “best products from companies who have a lot of money” awards?

Next, the second most obvious issue with these awards is that many companies will pay the giant, over-bloated fee (we’ll get in to what that fee really goes to pay for) and not win one. So, they’ve “paid-to-play” and they don’t get anything — other than a PAID-for nomination. Yay, we were nominated for an award, so check us out (P.S. — we paid to nominate ourselves…).

The bigger the company, the more entries they can afford to make — heck, they could even, potentially, enter any category — most awards don’t have limitations. So, if I were still running marketing at Extron, $499 was not that much for us, so I’d enter my stuff in every category. That increases our odds of winning by a lot.

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So, now we’ve eliminated all the “normally” funded start-ups AND those that didn’t pay enough to win.

Now we’re left with awards that are only representative of those that have enough money to PAY-to-PLAY.

Oh, many of this publications will say, “Hey, these fees go towards managing these awards programs — they are expensive to plan and execute.”

Uh, that’s bullish**. Why? Well, we do awards every year — in fact, we do five sets of them (we gave out a total of 250+ awards in 2016). All of them are respected enough that hundreds (not tens, but hundreds) of manufacturers run press releases and promote on their websites, e-newsletters and social media accounts that they won. You know how much we charge? NOTHING. That’s how much. Zip, Zero, Zilch, Nada. Oh, and we SPEND (not charge) over $5,500 on trophies and certificates that we distribute to the winners. For FREE. Nope, we didn’t even charge the manufacturers to get the physical trophies. We just felt that was, well, unethical.

Well, we at rAVe use tools like Survey Monkey and Evalandgo and ZOHO that all have FREE (and even the paid versions are inexpensive) programs that manage things like this. Sure, that means that you see their logo on the forms, but it’s free. And, verifiable. So, no cheating or ballot stuffing.

No, this is greed-laden. They are making a TON of money to award companies and products that are not even remotely representative of reality. Do you really think this is fair? Do you really feel an award you pay for is representative of reality or of something you should be proud of?

If you’re a large company, it’s easy to just say, well this isn’t that much money in order to potentially be able to promote winning an award, even if the premise seems wrong, so we’ll go ahead and do it. But every time you pay that money, you’re hurting the industry as a whole, perpetuating these unethical awards. If no one enters, they’ll stop! If they face enough pressure, they’ll stop!

So I’m challenging ALL manufacturers and dealers in the industry — put your foot down. DO NOT enter paid awards anymore. Tell the other publishers that put them on why you’re not going to enter anymore. Do what’s right for the industry.

Gary Kayye

About Gary Kayye

Gary Kayye, founder of rAVe Publications, is one of the most prominent personalities in the audiovisual industry. He has been a contributor to WIRED magazine and a technical advisor and columnist for Sound & Communications magazine as well as an opinionated columnist for rAVe [Publications] since 2003. In addition to his writing and market analysis, Gary has been a product, marketing and business operations consultant to dozens of AV companies in the U.S. and overseas. Clients have included companies such as Sony, Sharp, Epson, Lutron, InFocus, Sanyo, Mitsubishi, NEC and Philips.   Gary, who has been involved with the audiovisual market for over 20 years, was the recipient of the InfoComm 2003 Educator of the Year Award and the 2007 NSCA Instructor of the Year Award. Over the years, he has donated much of his time as an active volunteer in the AV industry’s trade association and served as chairman of InfoComm’s Professional Education & Training Committee (PETC), chairman of the ICIA Design School Committee and chairman of InfoComm’s Installation School Committee. In addition, he has served on the InfoComm board of governors. He also helped grow the InfoComm Projection Shoot-Out as the premiere AV industry trade show special event serving on the committee from 1991 through 1997, and was instrumental in launching the Shoot-Out in the European market at the Photokina Expo in 1994 and 1996 as well as the Asian market at the 1995 and 1997 INFOCOMM Asia shows.   Prior to founding his own company, Gary was vice president of sales and marketing for AMX Corporation (www.amx.com), a manufacturer specializing in professional AV and residential AV control systems. Prior to AMX, Gary spent nine years at Extron Electronics (www.extron.com), rising to the position of vice president of sales and marketing. Gary earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1987 from the University of North Carolina and is currently Adjunct Faculty at UNC in the School of Journalism teaching a class on how future technologies will affect the future of advertising, PR and marketing.   He is also the founder of Swim for Smiles, a non-profit that raises money for the N.C. Children’s Hospital through swimming and other fitness-related events for kids. You can contact him at gary@ravepubs.com..

  • Danny Pratt

    i wholeheartedly agree.

    Case in point: Infocomm ’15. I discovered a company, Mystery Electronics, that made a phyical mixing console that connects to most major audio DSP platforms. motorized faders to provide a mixing console experience, Without the hassle of an actual console. Totally awesome for something like small to mid conference centers. we have used a TON of them! They had a super tiny booth, probably not much money to spare to enter in a competition….

    That was the single coolest and most innovative product I saw at that show for my company’s wheelhouse. It was amazing. Yet I havent heard anything about it in any type of press release from the magazines. That is a big problem for the creators of such a fine, and really neat, product

    • Gary Kayye

      Help me spread the word!!!!

  • Thanks for keeping the industry honest Gary.