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.

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.