Judging the ADDYs: A first-timer’s experience.

Earlier this winter, I was given the opportunity to judge the ADDYs (or the American Advertising Awards, as they’re formally known) when my boss couldn’t make it. I volunteered and eventually took the short, three-hour drive to Akron, Ohio. There, I was lucky enough to meet a talented group of creatives, stay in a gorgeous B&B where I ate pastries handmade by a lovely woman named Gayle, and have my first real judging experience outside my own brain. It was a two-day whirlwind, and these are some of my takeaways that I hope you can learn from when the opportunity to be a judge rolls around.

Start smaller, if you can.

The Akron and Canton AAF chapters recently merged, combining for 330 entries that needed to be judged in 48 hours. If it doesn’t sound like a lot, you’re either a seasoned judge – or wrong. It took every last minute (and ounce of energy) we had to finish. And even then, I was questioning whether I had given every piece the attention it deserved. That said, in the grand scheme of things, the Akron-Canton market is fairly small and was perfect for a first-timer. (For perspective, AAF Buffalo brought in 500 entries this year – 33% more than what was on the table in Akron.)

Scan through the entire body of work.

Time’s always tight on judging weekend, but should you have the luxury of an extra hour, start by flipping through all the entries to get a general sense of the body of work you’re being asked to score. Don’t make a single note or mark down even one score during this time. This will help you get a general understanding of what’s being done in the market.

Pray to Baby J that your fellow judges are amazing.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, in my case), this is just plain luck. I was set up with two amazing judges – Anthony Taylor of Who Say in New York City and Cameron Gnass of Traction in Lansing, Michigan. I learned a lot from these two talented and open-minded human beings, who both encouraged a healthy (not heated) Best of Show discussion that made room for everyone’s opinions.

See where things stand.

Once all the scores are in, ask the committee to pull out the golds. Take stock. Is there an entry that really stood out to you that’s missing? Consider talking it over with the other judges. Maybe they missed something about a campaign that you thought was brilliant. Maybe something they loved, you scored low. These are conversations worth having, which leads me to my next point.

Remember what these awards mean to you.

Whether your agency takes the ADDYs absurdly seriously or is just out for a good time, every entry in every AAF award show across the country is there because people worked their heart out creating it. Be kind. Be respectful. And be humble. We’re all just out to do the absolute best work we can.

Don’t forget: AAF Buffalo’s 2017 Advertising Awards Preview Night is tonight at Big Ditch Brewing Company. We’ll see you there!