In an interview with Werben & Verkaufen, Heinrich Paravicini goes into detail: why we are opting out of all awards for now, where we will invest instead of this and why we have no fear of loss of reputation.


W&V … »The list of withdrawals from awards is getting longer: now Mutabor has also decided not to submit any work in 2021. This is a first for the agency of former ADC president Heinrich Paravicini.

So now Mutabor too. The Hamburg-based design agency does not intend to submit any work to creative competitions this year. And it finds itself in good company: several agencies want to pull out of award shows entirely, or only enter a small number with their own work. Jung von Matt and Grabarz, for example, have opted out completely, while Grey and Thjnk only intend to take part in three or four competitions. A discussion with Mutabor co-founder and co-owner Heinrich Paravicini.

Mr. Paravicini, just weeks ago you were ADC president. For the Kreativclub, the ADC competition is the most important event, some would say almost the very reason for its existence. You’re not submitting anymore? That might not come over well.

I can reassure you there. Of course, I’ve already spoken with my colleagues at ADC, and that’s simply not the case. For many agencies such as Scholz & Friends, Thjnk & Co or JvM, it has been the norm to take breaks from awards without immediately upsetting the industry. But in fact, it would have sent the wrong signal in the office of ADC president, and it could also be a challenge for JvM, which is currently the president.

Is this a temporary break, or does Mutabor intend to turn its back on the award circus for good? If not, how long do you want to sit it out?

It is too early to make a definitive statement here. Instead of awards, we are planning a series of other initiatives in the area of self-communication, which will maintain our high reputation as one of the most creative companies independently from rankings. If everything goes as planned, the break could last longer than a year. But if necessary, we will return as an additional measure. That remains to be seen.

The award budget is channeled into CSR measures.

Why now in particular? For economic reasons? To save money?

We are fortunate not to have gotten into financial difficulty due to Corona, but were able to make up for our loss in the events sector with our strong growth in the digital and brand identity sector. So no, these are not cost-cutting measures. From now on, we will be investing the entire former award budget more sustainably: in CSR measures and their communication. This includes the creation of two jobs for this purpose.

How much money have you invested in competitions each season in recent years?

Always a six-figure sum, but not a high one.

If It’s not the money, what is it about the competitions that bothers you?

There is absolutely nothing about creative competitions that bothers me per se. It is very important to challenge yourself and argue with colleagues about the best solution. After all, we were dedicated to doing this for almost 20 years, and I was personally actively involved. Since 2002, we have consistently built our reputation as a creative agency through awards and the PR surrounding them. After more than 600 awards, various Grand Prix and titles such as ‘Agency of the year’ by Red Dot and hundreds of nails of all colors, the market in Germany has come to understand that we constantly deliver creative excellence, including over a long period of time. We are simply looking to try something new.

You talk about CSR products. Can you name any examples?

We are currently working on our CSR agenda. All I can say is that we are planning various creative initiative projects with a focus on sustainability and digitalization. We want to inspire people to make more space for design solutions in areas like sustainability and equal opportunities. As designers, we have a great responsibility, especially at this time. And awareness of issues like sustainability and CSR is stronger than ever.

A first project was already launched before Christmas and, as the Japanese prime minister has just confirmed that the Olympic Games will take place, it will certainly have some impact during the 2021 sporting year. The campaign, known as ‘Sports4Trees’, is committed to reforesting this planet’s critical forests, including those in Africa. The idea: athletes motivate their colleagues, fans and followers to join in. People like Dietmar Hopp, FC Bayern and the German Sports Youth in the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) are already giving their support. We are a creative partner in the project and work pro bono. More projects of this kind will follow in 2021, in addition to our own initiatives.

Social media should generate visibility

No competitions or inclusion in creative rankings, and thus less visibility. Are you not hurting yourself by doing this?

As we are excellently positioned with second place in the sales rankings of design agencies, we don’t believe that we will vanish into obscurity now. And on the topic of visibility: we are increasingly turning to social media — especially LinkedIn and Instagram. And of course, the new activities we are planning are also geared toward communication in these channels. We strongly believe that we will have visibility with the creative themes that drive us. And if we discover that our competitors are missing us too much in the creative rankings, then we will certainly have an answer to that.

It is often said that good placement in rankings is important for recruiting. What are you doing to counter that?

That is certainly not incorrect. But what is also true is that potential employees of design agencies always heavily research their future employer on social media. This offers clear advantages over classic award communication: a creative post on Instagram, for instance, is particularly attractive when the topic is currently being discussed. A post about a creative award for a topic that may be over a year old performs significantly less well. That’s why we want our creative initiatives to be social first in the future. Those who attract attention there are interesting for applicants.


This interview was conducted by Peter Hammer.
Source: W&V