“Judging from the number of entries, social and experiential are more important these days than print,” says juror Steve Rutter. “That’s certainly what we’re experiencing at our agency.”
“While print was lacking a little in quality, there were some great long-form content and digital pieces that made it into the book,” juror Zak Mroueh says.
“It was great to see people pushing film into long-form content,” says juror Rick Condos. “We’re not shackled to 15 or 30 or 60 seconds anymore. But let’s also remember our audience and ask ourselves whether we’re being disciplined with our idea. Just because we have more time to tell a story doesn’t mean we have to use it.”
“Most of the work was surprisingly solid,” juror Renee Miller says. “A portion of the work was incredibly original, steeped in strategy and profoundly creative. That’s the kind of work that makes me proud to be in the ad business.”
“As with any judging, there were pieces that made me jealous—ideas that stood head and shoulders above the rest, executions that were so startling that they made me reevaluate the work I was doing,” says Condos. “It was invigorating to see such craft and excellence.”
“At a time in our industry when too many marketers believe that the goal is to create more and more content, sacrificing quality, it was refreshing to see that great ideas still win the day,” juror Mike Sukle says.
“With the meteoric rise in spending on SEO [search engine optimization] and SEM [search engine marketing] and ‘clickbait,’ it’s nice to see that our industry is still rewarding consumers for their time and curiosity,” says juror Cal McAllister.
“Surprisingly, radio—one of the forms of media that most people avoid—was really strong this year,” Sukle says. “There are some amazing writers out there that can create an incredible world without any pictures. Bravo!”
“There was a more conscientious tone in a lot of the advertising entries, especially the ones that made it past the first round of judging,” says juror Jill Lin. “Overall, the message behind the ads leaned toward the serious side, and we didn’t see as many entries where humor was the driving force. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it was interesting to note, given what’s happening in US culture right now.”
In the interest of balance, I always ask the jurors what they didn’t like as well. The most common response this year was about how shorter deadlines have impacted the craft of advertising.
“I was hoping that the craft of the work would be stronger,” juror Debbi Vandeven says. “With the speed of the industry, we can lose the craft of good storytelling and attention to detail.”
“You can feel the industrywide pinch on time and budgets,” says juror Britt Nolan. “We saw a lot of ideas that could have been great with better execution.”
“We’ve known for a long time that print craft was on the decline, but I was surprised at the overall quality of work in the print category,” Mroueh says. “But what an amazing opportunity for some young creative team somewhere to make their mark in the category next year.”
Another area of discussion assessed the structure and content of the ubiquitous case study video.
“It seems we’re in an era where even a billboard comes with a case study video of how it worked,” says McAllister. “Car drives by, people see words, some people take action—I mean, I get it.”
“I was surprised by how absurd the results sections of the case studies seem when you watch them back-to-back,” Nolan says.
Other complaints centered on the content of student work, much of which attempted to connect commercial brands to social causes or was for public service.
“Don’t get me wrong; we should absolutely use creativity to make the world a better place,” says Nolan, “but the hard part of our jobs is coming up with brilliant solutions to real client problems. That’s what we should honor, and that’s what we should focus on. Much of the student work was public service. These poor kids think that’s what we’re looking for in a new hire.”
“We need to teach students to think through the ‘why’ when it comes to collaborations,” Lin says. “It’s not easy getting a brand to allow you to jump on its platform and hijack it. There needs to be something that is mutually beneficial in order to make these ideas a reality.”
A similar area of discussion was about the growing movement of brands to stand for something more than commerce.
“So much work today is reflecting a brand’s desire to be causal, to do something bigger,” says McAllister. “I think it’s a good thing—advertising owns the loudest voice in the world. We had better start using it for good.”
“If brands want to stand for something good, great,” Lin says. “Make sure it’s on brand—that your message is relevant to your target demographic—and make sure there’s an activation that’s not just a ‘look at us, we care too’ approach.”
In closing, I asked jurors which business, cultural and social developments may dramatically alter the future of advertising.
“The proliferation of online platforms that match employers with freelancers signals a shift in the workforce and the eventual restructuring of ad agencies in the future,” says Miller.
“I’m sure we will continue to see a technologically driven evolution that will change the role of advertising, but I don’t think it will be dramatic,” Lin says. “We’re all in an exploratory phase together, looking at how we can get people to pay attention to a brand, interact with it and remember it.”
“Culturally, people consume media differently today by the mass of different choices they have,” says Vandeven. “Storytelling in advertising will be more important if brands want to reach and connect with consumers.”
“We live in an always-on world today,” Condos says. “Integrated campaigns are a must. When this is done with discipline and planning and is executed flawlessly, it’s much more exciting than the way work was done before. We need to keep educating and encouraging our clients to have the courage and discipline to think not only ‘executionally,’ but also holistically about how their brands behave in the world.”
“The amount of content being created has grown exponentially, but the amount of content a person can consume has not,” says Nolan. “Brands would be well served to do less, but do it better. We can never forget the lesson the Super Bowl teaches us every year—people don’t hate advertising, they hate bad advertising.”
Selection for this year’s Advertising Annual required a minimum of five out of nine votes. Judges were not permitted to vote on projects in which they were directly involved. When judges’ pieces were in the ﬁnals, editor Jean Coyne or I voted in their stead. I would like to extend our grateful appreciation to our jurors for their conscientious efforts in selecting our 58th Advertising Annual. —Patrick Coyne ca
Rick Condos and his partner, Hunter Hindman, are chief creative officers in the San Francisco–based agency Argonaut. Their partnership began ten years ago while working on the +HP campaign at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners (GS&P) in San Francisco. Over the next decade, they split time between GS&P and Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam, where they pitched and won Coca-Cola’s global business, launching the widely awarded Happiness Factory campaign. They’ve won many awards, including from the Art Directors Club, Cannes, Communication Arts, the One Show and D&AD.
Jill Lin is a creative consultant for MullenLowe London. Most recently, she was a group creative director with MullenLowe Los Angeles. Lin previously held creative positions at Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Deutsch and Hudson Rouge and has freelanced for many more, including Bartle Bogle Hegarty, Google, Mother New York, R/GA and 72andSunny. She has worked on numerous brands across a wide range of categories, and her work has been recognized by Cannes, the Clios, Communication Arts, the Creativity Awards, the Effies, the FWA, the One Show and the Webbys.
Cal McAllister, chief executive officer and executive creative director of the Seattle-based advertising agency Wexley School for Girls, is a proud Detroit native who cut his teeth as a reporter for the Chicago Tribune. After getting in trouble for making things up, he switched to advertising. Since cofounding Wexley in 2003, his work has been recognized by every international advertising awards show, including Cannes, the Clios, Communication Arts and the One Show. Seattle magazine recently named McAllister one of Seattle’s 25 most influential people.
Renee Miller, founder and creative director of the Pacific Palisades, California–based Miller Group, opened her agency in 1990. Her first client was Transamerica, followed by the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, Homeboy Industries, Goodwill, 7-Eleven and the Wolf Range Company. She has won creative awards from the ADDYs, the Art Directors Club, Communication Arts and the One Show. The Miller Group was named one of the top 75 woman-owned businesses in Los Angeles by the Los Angeles Business Journal, and Miller has been featured in dozens of other publications.
Zak Mroueh is chief creative officer and chief executive officer of Zulu Alpha Kilo, the 95-person Toronto-based agency he founded in 2008. Zulu won Advertising Age’s Small Agency of the Year in 2016 and International Small Agency of the Year in 2017. Prior to founding Zulu, Mroueh worked at BBDO and Chiat/Day and helped build TAXI Toronto into one of the Gunn Report’s top-ranked agencies in the world. Several of his campaigns have ranked among the top five most awarded, and his work has been recognized by Cannes, Communication Arts, D&AD and the One Show.
Britt Nolan, chief creative officer at Leo Burnett Chicago, arrived there in 2009 after soaking up experience at agencies of every shape, size and specialty. As a creative director at Leo Burnett Chicago, Nolan led the Mayhem campaign for Allstate and stuck with it to do wonderfully horrible things for seven years running. More recently, he re-created van Gogh’s bedroom for the Art Institute of Chicago and worked on Samsung’s global launch of the Galaxy S8. His work has won Gold, Yellow, Grand Prix and Best of Show awards at nearly every major advertising festival in the world.
Steve Rutter is executive vice president and executive creative director at BBDO San Francisco. He has been with BBDO since starting at the flagship New York City office in 1990. He has led the creation of content for AT&T, Bank of America, Johnson & Johnson, Lowe’s, Mars Candy and Mars Petcare. He and Susan Credle helped create the M&M spokescandy characters, as they’re known today. His work has appeared during the Super Bowl and has won awards from the Association of Independent Commercial Producers, Cannes, the Clios, Communication Arts, the One Show and more.
Mike Sukle is the founder and creative director of Sukle Advertising & Design in Denver, Colorado. Since starting the company 21 years ago, Sukle has demonstrated a passion for social marketing. Past clients include the Colorado Governor’s Office (for its historic youth marijuana prevention campaign), the National Sports Center for the Disabled, the UNICEF Tap Project, the Wyoming Department of Health and the Wyoming Governor’s Council on Impaired Driving. His work has been recognized in Communication Arts, at the OBIE Awards and at the Venice Festival of Media.
Debbi Vandeven is the global chief creative officer at VML, headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri. Under her creative leadership, VML has grown to become one of the top global digital agencies, with 26 offices on six continents and 2,500 employees worldwide. Since joining VML in 2000, she has led creative engagements for global brands such as Colgate-Palmolive, Dell, Electrolux/Frigidaire, Ford, Gatorade, Kellogg, Mastercard, New Balance, PepsiCo, QuikTrip, Sprint and Wendy’s. In 2014, Vandeven was recognized in Advertising Age’s Women to Watch series.