Here comes the judge

I was contacted by Mark Landon on Thursday and asked if I could judge the Las Vegas entries of the American Advertising Federation (AAF) on Saturday. Even though it was a short notice, I was intrigued by the opportunity to go to Las Vegas for the weekend, especially since The Las Vegas Ad Club was going to pay my airfare and hotel accommodations. Mark is an AAF Officer and Western Region Chair and they needed a third judge because they had only two. My name was given to Mark by Cindy Saylor of The San Diego Ad Club because we had won a national award the previous year. Since the Las Vegas Ad Club was willing to fly me there for the weekend it sounded like fun. So, off I flew to Vegas on Friday evening.

At 9:30 a.m. Saturday morning I was driven to local television station along with Mark, Norman and Kevin to judge the entries. We were led into the station’s back room where 10 tables were set up with the entries to be judged. And, for the next seven hours we perused, inspected, pondered, critiqued and determined which entries were worthy of bronze, silver, gold and —ultimately —best of show. It was an exhilarating experience.

There a few things about judging creative work that I’d like to mention:

1 It’s humbling judging other creative work
I realized long ago (when it comes to the subjective act of assessing creative work) that I always see work far better — and worse — than I create. Judging the creativity of a particular entry, I was told, should be reviewed in context. Couple that with the more finite aspects of a creative piece — like execution — which can be judged more objectively. For instance, one radio spot we listened to had the voice talent read a litany of brand promises too fast to be understood.

2 The AAF judges some entries in a category called: “elements of advertising”
For the AAF “elements of advertising” are things like logos and stationery systems. Some graphic designers I know think this identifies how admen (an women) feel about graphic design; with the implication being that graphic design is demeaned a level below advertising. What do you think?

3 Subjectivity still trumps objectivity
I wish there was a way to objectively assess work so that the criteria for award-winning work was more comprehensive. Since judges are not given any metrics or measurables of a campaign (in addition to concept, style and execution) the reason for judging a piece worthy remains: “Do I like it?”

4 First impressions remain true
Paradoxically, the amount of time spent refining a campaign is less important than the immediate impression. During the judging of a multitude of entries this is a necessary instinct to embrace in order to judge all the entries within the allotted amount of time.

I hope everyone in the creative field gets a chance to judge a creative show some day. It’s an uplifting and respectful experience.

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