DMA Awards: Nicky Bullard takes us inside the judges' room

DMAs:: Ramblings from the judges' roomDMAs:: Ramblings from the judges' room

Ian Botham’s offcuts or not Ian Botham’s offcuts?

Kylie or Cheryl?

Thong or waisties?

It can be hard to make a judgment at times.

But no more so than when you are asked to look at the great and the good’s work in the award shows.

I’ve judged quite a few this year.  And I’m about to judge the DMAs here in London, the Caples in NYC and Cream in Glasgow.

I take it incredibly seriously of course.  Plus I rather enjoy it; it’s a massive honour. 

It’s also a massive responsibility. 

Your judgment could have a direct impact on somebody’s career.  (And speaking as a creative, I know awards are the only things CDs will look at on your CV after looking at your book.)

They are hard to win – that sounds like a ridiculous statement I know – but what I mean is, if your work is fabulous but not an obvious winner, it has to work harder.  So scream about what’s great about it.  Make it easy for us. It’s an unsaid truth, but some judges will lean towards work that’s won in other shows, as it’s already had a seal of approval and won’t be a contentious winner. In other words, their judgment won’t be judged.  (But fear not, fresh and brilliant work will always make it through.)

I have to say, I find the whole thing fascinating.  Seeing what other creative directors have entered and think is worthy of a gong.  Having the chance to see truly inspirational stuff that gives you the tingle.  And then there are the different styles of judging.

I kind of think judges fall into two categories – ‘the instinctive’ and ‘the interrogators’. And when they both agree you know you’re onto something.  When they really don’t, that’s when the fun starts.

I’ve been locked in the room.  I’ve cried.  I have very nearly wet myself with laughter.  I’ve got really bloody angry.  I’ve been so, so jealous when a competitor agency’s work is an obvious gold winner, and then I’ve had to admit it.  I may even end up fighting for it.  But the delight of seeing great work transcends the green-eyed monster.  Honestly.

I have also had my mind changed.  That’s pretty amazing, when another judge makes you see something you’d written off in a completely new way and you turn-turtle.  Or when you’ve all absolutely loved something, and only one judge in the room has spotted a fundamental flaw.

And then there’s the desperation to see something fabulous.  You wade through an awful lot of stuff that just isn’t good, let alone great.  And for us CDs, that can be incredibly depressing.  Especially when it’s for a fab client and has a fab budget.

But the brilliant work leaves you buzzing; you walk out of that room with a spring in your step and look forward to awards night when the audience gets to share your pride in the industry. 

As I said, the DMAs is my next judging commitment.  For me it’s the most rigorous of awards, giving clear criteria for both the entrants and the judges– the work has to excel in strategy, creative and results.  It means they are harder to win, but hugely satisfying to win. 

Of course judging is excellent for benchmarking when you get back to the department, but to see a fantastic idea that’s innovative, has a cracking strategy, is beautifully crafted and has actually worked, is for us, well, that’s what it’s all about.

Rock on the DMAs.

Nicky Bullard, ECD, LIDA

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