Webby Awards Adds Categories, Investigates New Trends
It’s been fifteen years since the Webby Awards were launched. The awards, which honor excellence on the Internet, have become synonymous with good design and innovation. As the web has evolved, it has brought new elements and platforms with it, namely new categories and ways to keep their finger on the pulse of the Internet.  

A Commitment to an Evolving Internet

Slowly categories and entry types for mobile, applications and online advertising have emerged. This year alone there are seven new categories, including best writing – editorial (website), social media (website), best copywriting (interactive advertising & media), utilities and services (mobile & applications), mobile advertising (interactive advertising & media) and corporate social responsibility (website, interactive advertising & media).

The last one in particular caught our attention. We turned to David-Michel Davies, executive director of the Webby Awards, for information about the role that corporate social responsibility (CSR) plays in the state of the Internet. Although corporate responsibility isn’t new, the Internet has definitely provided a soapbox for all kinds of causes and campaigns that have allowed companies to engage users in new ways.

CSR has been added under two entry types: Website, and interactive advertising and media. Both categories speak to the ability of a company to encourage

community growth and development, documenting activities and programs that have a positive impact on the environment, consumers, employees and the public sphere."

While it doesn’t hurt to have the word social in a category’s name, a buzzword casually thrown around to showcase a company’s attempt at customer engagement, judging corporate social responsibility doesn’t favor social media campaigns any more than the traditional online advertising campaign, unless of course it has been able to successfully engage consumers to positively impact society.

The Webby Awards are open for submissions until December 17, 2011 with winners announced at their annual Webby Awards show on May 21, 2012.

When Webby Talks, People Listen

As the Webby Awards evolve, so does the brand behind it. In an effort to investigate new trends and to learn from industry leaders, the Webby Awards have started the Webby Talks World Tour. Having begun in September and ending in January 2012, the Webby Talks have been visiting the industry's leading companies in technology, advertising and media to bring exclusive interviews, videos, photos and more.

So far they’ve visited Widen + Kennedy in Portland, Oregon; Warby Parker in New York; and CNN studios in Atlanta, Georgia, among others. Upcoming stops include the BBC, Ogilvy, and G4. And what have they learned? Davies says that, among other things, they are learning more about how companies are embracing Twitter and leveraging it beyond customer service.

While a valuable customer service tool, Davies says that many companies are becoming overwhelmed by their role on Twitter -- sometimes just by sheer volume, other times by trying to uphold a positive brand image despite negative comments. The Webby Talks have helped to reveal the ways that smart brands are taking control of their brand by providing more than just great customer service.

CNN, for instance has developed elaborate listening posts, which scour social media for mentions of CNN and filters them into relevant categories that can help fuel news stories. Jell-O pudding, on the other hand, has launched a “pudding face mood meter” campaign. The campaign aims to track twitter for smiley and frowny emoticons in an effort to “accurately gauge” the mood of America. Those who post frowny faces in the tweets may receive replies inviting them to enjoy a free or discounted cup of Jell-O pudding.

Of course, the exact impact of these campaigns is not entirely known. The medium is just too new to understand whether fun, silly campaign actually drive sales. However, in the meantime, companies can take heart in knowing that they at least brought a smile to someone’s face.