If you’re anything like us, you’ve raised many an eyebrow at award show winners. You’ve wondered “Why did that piece win?”, “Why not that other piece?”, or simply, “What were they thinking?” Well, ladies and gents, believe it or not, we finally got some answers to those burning questions.
This year, the Andy Awards lifted the veil on award show jury rooms, and we got to be a couple of flies on the wall as the discussion between 18 industry leaders unfolded on Facebook Live. Categories that were broadcast included bravery, student, social good, and the Grandy (best of show). We were able to participate in the conversation through social media, which opened up an avenue of insights on the judging process that we haven’t seen before.
While there were many things we learned from watching the discussion live (Nacho Fries are in fact a thing. Who knew?), we’ve narrowed our learnings down to five essential takeaways:
Brave agency + brave client = brave work
During deliberation, judges recognized that the courage to produce brave work was not merely stemming from the agency, but from the partnership of a courageous agency and a courageous client.
The winner in the bravery category, Nike “Breaking2” was a great example of fearlessness. Together client and agency took on something seemingly impossible—completing a two-hour marathon. They took a risk, not just for their brand but for the sport of running as a whole. Pieces like this, that move culture forward, seem to carry more weight for judges when evaluating work.
Unfortunately, the judges didn’t reveal a secret weapon to convincing clients to take these risks. However, we hope that when pieces that reflect this willingness to “go big” win, they serve as proof to future clients and agencies that bravery can go a long way. Clients and agencies have to form a partnership rooted in courage so that they can move forward as a team to create brave work.
Creating a solution > raising awareness
During the social good deliberation, the judges concluded that solution-driven work beats awareness pieces. While awareness is indeed baked into the solutions, they don’t stop at bringing up an issue, but rather find clever and simple ways to make the situation better.
The winner of the social good category, “The Immunity Charm” for Afghanistan’s Ministry of Health stood out among the awareness-driven ideas as a simple, elegant solution for a life-threatening problem. Anyone can state that there is a problem, but this work leaned into actual behaviors and found a solution.
Barf if you must, but we are advocates for using our skills to make the world a better, smarter, safer, more inclusive place. And if you can win an award for doing so, that’s pretty cool too.
Cultural context counts
This takeaway is twofold. First, the context of a piece can be imperative in understanding the idea, so that context has to be apparent in the work. But, the best work crosses both geographic and cultural boundaries. Whether a piece is hyper-local or global, work rooted in genuine, human insights becomes relatable to everyone and, thus, more potent in its communication.
For example, look at the spot “Capture” for Verena Sure. This ad is distinctly Thai, yet it could make people laugh in presumably any corner of the world. It’s got great writing, refreshing humor, exceptional editing and, above all, it zigs while other pharma ads zag.
This year’s theme: humanity
Every year, award shows seem to carry unintentional themes across many pieces of work. When the judges were asked what this year’s theme was, their answer was “humanity.” Humanity was leveraged in the tone of many ads creating a genuine, transparent persona. The KFC apology print ad was a great example of this. The theme was also widely present in pieces that encouraged empathy and real, positive change for humanity.
People are looking for brands that are changing the world, and with this year’s emerging theme, we think it’s clear that clients and agencies are on board to be more human.
Great work ≠ winning work
An important reminder that surfaced during the broadcast was that just because an ad is fantastic, doesn’t mean it’s positioned to win an award. The judges were adamant in grounding themselves in the criteria for each category.
When watching the bravery category, this point was raised while judges discussed Ikea’s reaction to Balenciaga. Was the work great? Yes. Was it original? Yes. But was it brave? Ehhhhh. We didn’t think so. And the judges reached the same conclusion.
It’s easy to see amazing work and to think, “What the hell, Pete. That was awesome. Give that baby a gold!” It’s harder to consider the criteria in judging work and to weigh the “awesomeness” of an idea against the benchmarks of an award category. Just because an idea is gold, doesn’t mean it’ll take home the gold.
Because we got to eavesdrop on the judging process, we saw these “whys” answered on the spot. We’re excited by the transparency the ANDY’s showed and have our fingers crossed that this trend continues. These takeaways can give brands and agencies insight into what creative leaders look for in winning work, and can be used to your advantage when evaluating work in the future.
Becca Antonucci is senior copywriter and Hyobee Kim is senior art director at Deutsch.