Judging the Philadelphia ADDY Awards. A tight show but I do have one question…

February 1, 2010

I was honored to judge the Philadelphia ADDY Awards this weekend. While I did not get to see much of the city I did view a mess of advertising and assorted marketing communications. As is usually the case, this show had a few remarkable pieces, some that were god-awful and lots in between. As far as the winners are concerned, I took a vow of secrecy. I will say the judges were fair and fairly unanimous. The hot category was multi-media, with several fine examples of guerilla and experiential work. Numerous high marks given there.

Refreshingly, I saw no dubious work i.e. potential scam ads. That’s saying something. Indeed, I heard the ‘radio’ we’d just judged in a cab and saw various billboards that were in the show on the highway. In other words: IT WAS REAL! Kudos to the Philadelphia advertising community for their integrity and to Alan Tempest of the Philly Ad Club for putting on such a solid, straight show. The PAC should also be commended for assembling a diverse panel of judges. Of five, three were black. I wish I didn’t have to write how unusual that is.

I’m always amazed by the amount of mundane work that gets submitted to advertising award shows. Here was no exception. For example, we saw many TV commercials featuring little more than a voiceover reading strategy over pictures of the product. No concept. Zip. I realize the world is full of such advertisements. But in an awards show? This I don’t get. Why would an agency or client submit work (paying entry fees and filling out forms) that has absolutely no chance of winning a prize? Every creative director knows the criteria for award-winning material, even if they don’t produce much of it themselves. Don’t get me wrong. Doing so-so work isn’t a crime and neither is entering it into an awards show. It’s just dumb. Yet, I’ve never judged a show (local, regional, national and even global) where the vast majority of entered material wasn’t mediocre.

My agency does plenty of work that isn’t outrageous or remarkable. (I’m not apologizing for it; I’m just being honest.) But because of knowable, rigorous standards in judging criteria, we don’t enter it into awards shows. There is a vetting process. We do not want to waste money or embarrass ourselves. When determining entries, we look at our work with hypercritical eyes. We make many kills.

Therefore, when I see an ad entered into competition that features stock images of people shaking hands or staring into their computers accompanied by copy about “state-of-the-art business solutions,” I say loudly and profoundly: What were they thinking?

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3 Responses to “Judging the Philadelphia ADDY Awards. A tight show but I do have one question…”

  1. tracy said

    They know not what they do. They are genuinely proud of their work and don’t see a cliche as a cliche. Or recognize that using an over-used stock photo is…just …ugh. Daily, I see work being bragged about that I wouldn’t admit to having the loosest connection to. Maybe it’s coming from agencies and in-house departments that are “all suit, no creative.” This sort of naive pride has always been around but it seems more prevalent now. Blame it on the great American self-esteem, which grows bigger by the generation.

    ps- hope you get to see a little more of Philly the next time around. It’s a great town.

  2. machinery said

    DA&D does it best. No winners in categories if they are not judged to be exceptional. Most often you’re judging the work against other entries. If they’re all bad, a bad one wins. Not good.

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