Never judge a contest by its cover
Last month I had the honor of judging entries from the American Advertising Federation – Great Lakes Bay Region (AAF-GLBR) for their upcoming ADDY awards, which is the first step to a national award.
This was my first time judging and it was a fun, eye-opening experience. I learned quite a bit and wanted to share some random bits and pieces from the day.
- Judging is hard. In this type of competition, you run into some entries that clearly had a large budget and some that had a very small budget. How can you compare something professionally printed on high-quality paper versus something printed on a home printer? There are so many factors to consider, like how well the campaign was executed and how creatively they worked within their budget. I had to strip away the bleeding-heart element at times to fairly judge a piece – and that was not fun.
- Judging is so subjective. There were three judges with three different perspectives. I may have scored something highly because they used the color green and we all know how much I love that color. But another judge may hate the color green and scored the same piece lower. Now I have a better understanding for when I submit work and know not to take anything personal.
- A small market can produce big work. Just because you work in a smaller market doesn’t mean your work is small. I saw pieces and campaigns throughout the day that could easily compete on a national level. Don’t ever underestimate a market based on size or location.
- Don’t let the piece dictate your work. One of my favorites was a corporate standards brochure. The brochure had a die-cut on the front, nice paper and engaging content. When was the last time anyone was excited about corporate standards? That piece changed the conversation and was a good reminder that just because the project sounds boring doesn’t mean the execution has to be.
- Nonprofits rule! Some of my favorite pieces of the day came from nonprofits. They traditionally have zero to small budgets and little marketing experience. Their materials proved where there’s a will, there’s a way.
- Judge’s fatigue happens. There were some entries submitted in multiple categories. And to be frank, I got tired of seeing the same piece over and over again. Be careful and considerate with your entries.
Competitions are a great way to show off your work and reenergize yourself. Enter contests (or judge one) to make your work better, so long as you expect to accept some criticism.
I left the day feeling inspired by the work I had seen and excited to share with my co-workers. Thanks again to the AAF-GLBR for allowing me to spend a day in your market. And good luck to all who entered their local ADDY awards!