“Considering that most big holding groups had pulled out of award competitions this year, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of a significant number of entries,” says juror Farrokh Madon. “This shows that independent agencies are keeping the fires burning and that great work will always find a way. It’s a reminder to all of us in the industry to keep the faith.”
“It was great to see voices from the regional markets in North America,” juror David Guerrero says. “There were a lot of quite localized cases that perhaps we would not normally see in a global context.”
“Many of the entries surprised me, such as Jeep Gladiator, Snickers Hunger Insurance, Oreo × Game of Thrones and Canadian Women’s Foundation: Smells Like Inequality,” says juror Marcelo Reis. “These works were impressive for the quality of their production, and for being truly bold and memorable.”
“I found the most refreshing and inspired work to be by students,” juror Jennifer Putnam says. “I admired and applauded their perspectives on world and cultural issues, and the problem-solving they brought to the table to truly engage through innovation, technology and relevant channels. With this kind of talent in the pipeline, I’m excited for the future of our industry and how we can more effectively use our powers for good.”
“The student work was amazing,” says juror Rob Sweetman. “There were a few times I had to double-check I was still judging the right category and hadn’t accidentally slipped into the professional work. Most of the student entries were really well thought out, and trying to solve real business problems instead of just winning awards.”
“I was blown away by the student work,” juror Will McGinness says. “The quality of thinking and the overall craft was pretty amazing. The fact that high-quality production is more accessible than ever is really going to change our industry for the better. It gives me great hope for the future of creativity.”
Several jurors commented on how their perception of the entries was altered by current world events.
“Obviously COVID-19 has changed everything, so it felt nostalgic to see work that was entered from a pre-COVID time,” says juror Nellie Kim. “I think I even recall seeing an ad for disinfectant wipes that were meant for pet cleanups and not lethal viruses, and it felt kind of nice. There were a few ads about COVID-19 that were entered, and I imagine there will be a whole lot more coming our way in the near future.”
“It’s stating the obvious, but it’s a weird year,” juror Laura Fegley says. “There were plenty of bright spots, but less of them. It’s like we only got half a year of our best creativity. Judging during COVID also skews your eye a bit—things that you might have loved six months ago now can seem tired. But great creativity will always be great creativity.”
“Creativity is still here and is as important as ever in producing work that matters in the world,” says McGinness. “There’s been so much talk of commoditizing creativity in recent years, and it’s refreshing to sit back and take stock of the work that truly moves brands and businesses forward. That being said, most of this work was created before the world changed dramatically this year, so it was hard to not feel oddly disconnected from the time and place in which it was created. I think that reality is simply a reflection of how monumental this year has been.”
In addition to praise for the quality of submissions, several jurors also offered some criticism of the work and the industry as a whole.
“I don’t feel there’s a revolution or evolution happening in the craft of writing. If anything, it seems to be slipping,” Madon says. “That’s a real pity, as usually work coming out of the United States tends to have a bold slant to it. Adversity can be the mother of invention, so I’m hoping we will see bolder and fresher writing next year.”
“I derive a childlike joy when I get a fresh CA Annual and see those beautifully crafted long-copy ads that you could spend endless hours with,” says Kim. “I didn’t see many of those this time around, which is probably more telling of the pace at which we’re all working right now.”
“Like every industry, ours is being hit hard,” Sweetman says, “and as a result, we’re working longer hours and delivering faster, safer work than ever before. For many clients, they’ll have a hard time going back to the way things used to be done.”
“I am astonished by how many agencies and brands are still not recognizing that how consumers feel about a brand today is often a reflection of whether they can see themselves or their views in the ads,” says Putnam. “There was little attention to cultural diversity—or worse, homogenization of the people in the actual work.”
I asked the jurors how advertising is utilizing the ever-expanding number of media platforms to reach increasingly diverse audiences.
“With all the precision targeting these days, it is easy to get complacent,” says Madon. “We can say with a degree of certainty that we can serve up the right message to the right person. But to get them to engage with brands positively, we still need creativity. The better communications still manage to keep a strong, yet often simple, idea at the core to make an impact.”
“We’re still looking for a big idea that can live everywhere seamlessly, and it feels like we’re not doing each medium justice,” Sweetman says. “I think we’re our own worst enemies sometimes. One idea that can reach everyone equally might not exist for every brief. It still feels like we’re trying to figure out how to extend our big ideas from the screens into all the nooks and crannies, instead of doing what’s right for the space we’re working within.”
“Sometimes ‘the big idea’ is what you need to keep it all together in a cohesive way, and sometimes you just need to create what’s right and relevant in that moment for that particular project or demographic,” says Kim. “Without it sounding too meta, I think the way that we are adapting is by being open to adaptation itself, as well as understanding that it’s a dynamic landscape out there that will probably just continue to expand.”
“You either need big, meaty brand ideas that can flex for many audiences while being true to the mother ship, or really know who you are and be confident in speaking to a very selective swath of the world,” Fegley says. “People have little interest in brands with no point of view and massive interest in brands that do have one.”
“Media and audiences have always been dynamic, which is why it’s so critical to be thinking about the fluid and rapidly changing context to how creative work is experienced,” says Putnam. “In today’s world, change has accelerated exponentially, so it’s essential we rethink our approaches.”
And what might advertising’s near future look like?
“I think the great change in the advertising industry will come from the pandemic we’re going through,” Reis says. “We are going to see changes in creative work and in production, probably by the next Advertising Annual.”
“It will be really interesting to see what this body of work looks like a year from now,” says McGinness. “In the wake of the murder of George Floyd and countless others, as well as the global Black Lives Matter movement, the industry is finally waking up to the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion. More diverse perspectives within agencies and more underrepresented talent in every aspect of the production process will make the work in these competitions better. The agencies who empathize, learn and fundamentally change will be the ones who succeed in the future.”
“Advertising is so baked into our nature that it will always exist,” says Guerrero. “But we will constantly need to reinvent it. That’s what makes our business so interesting.”
Selection for this year’s Advertising Annual required a minimum of six out of ten votes. When judges’ pieces were in the finals, I voted in their stead. I would like to extend our grateful appreciation to our jurors for their conscientious efforts in selecting our 61st Advertising Annual. —Patrick Coyne ca
Laura Fegley is chief creative officer of Chicago, Illinois–based O’Keefe Reinhard & Paul. Fegley has learned from the best and made up the rest. In her more than 20-year career, she’s worked on everything from cars and beer to diapers and frozen lasagna at agencies including BBH, Cliff Freeman and JWT. A recovering New Yorker and relapsed Midwesterner, she’s won most of the major awards and some really weird and random ones. She’s thrice been named one of “the most creative women in advertising” by Business Insider. Fegley began working at her first agency after seeing its work in the pages of a Communication Arts Annual.
David Guerrero is chairman and chief creative officer of Makati, Philippines–based BBDO Guerrero, the agency he founded in 1998. Guerrero gained his experience in London, Hong Kong and Manila. In the years since, he has won the Grand Prix in both the creativity and effectiveness categories for clients including Pepsi, Procter & Gamble and the Philippine Department of Tourism. He has also won hundreds of international and local awards and judged numerous times at AdFest, Ad Stars, the Clios, D&AD, LIA, the One Show and Spikes Asia. He was also the first Cannes jury president from Southeast Asia. This, however, is his first time judging at CA, of which he is a great admirer.
Nellie Kim is partner/executive creative director in the Toronto, Canada, office of lg2. With more than fifteen years of experience, Kim currently leads brands such as Casper, Rethink Breast Cancer, State Farm and Under Armour. In 2014, she was tasked with launching the lg2 Toronto office to help solidify the independent agency’s national creative presence in Canada. Since then, lg2 has gone on to win Canadian Agency of the Year at the Advertising & Design Club of Canada, the Clios and the Marketing Awards. Kim has sat on juries including the ADC Awards, Cannes Lions, the Clios and the One Show, to name a few.
Farrokh Madon is chief creative officer of Singapore-based PIRATE. In a career spanning Singapore, the Netherlands and India, Madon has garnered more than 200 prestigious advertising awards. He has also been the global and Asian regional creative lead on numerous multinational brands. Madon is a winner of the Creative Director of the Year award at the Institute of Advertising Singapore’s Hall of Fame Awards. And he’s the only creative director to have won the Grand Prix in the history of Singapore’s Effie Awards. Outside advertising, he has written a novel, Offside, which briefly sat on the best-sellers shelf in bookstores in Singapore.
Vidya Manmohan is executive creative director of Grey Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. From walking out of the medical school gates to entering an art campus and then switching to copywriting from art direction halfway through her advertising career, Manmohan has always followed her passion. After four decades in Dubai and having witnessed sand dunes transform to skyscrapers, Manmohan creates work that reflects the pop culture around her. Her work has won numerous international awards in the print, outdoor, radio, design, integrated and advertising for good categories, and she has also been a part of many international and local award juries.
Will McGinness is partner/chief creative officer of San Francisco, California–based Venables Bell & Partners (VB&P). McGinness joined the agency in 2010, helping to win significant new business, and garnering a Breakthrough Agency of the Year honor from Adweek and inclusion in Fast Company’s 2017 Most Innovative Companies list. McGinness came to VB&P after seven years at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, where, as a creative director, associate partner, he assisted in the agency’s transition from a traditional to an integrated business model. He’s won awards at every major award show, including the coveted Titanium Grand Prix at Cannes. His wife remains unimpressed.
Jennifer Putnam is chief creative officer at Allen & Gerritsen in Boston, Massachu-setts, and Phila-delphia, Pennsylvania. Putnam’s career arc reveals her unquenchable thirst for memorable experiences, purpose-driven marketing and innovation. From DDB, Leo Burnett and Ogilvy Chicago to the forefront of digital at Digitas and SapientNitro, her dynamic vision, team-building style and passion for results have helmed integrated work, awards and firsts for a range of clients as diverse as Blue Cross Blue Shield, global nongovernmental organization CARE, General Motors and Procter & Gamble. She actively mentors women in and outside of the industry.
Marcelo Reis is chief creative officer and co–chief executive officer of Leo Burnett Tailor Made in São Paulo, Brazil. Recognized by Ad Age as one of the most awarded creative professionals in the world, Reis started at Leo Burnett in 2011 as business partner and chief creative officer, managing the agency’s creative team. In 2014, he became co–chief executive officer, the same year the agency was the most awarded Brazilian company at Cannes, with 22 Lions. Reis was born in Belo Horizonte and arrived at São Paulo in 1999. Since then, he’s worked at agencies including W/Brasil, DM9DDB, Loducca, Y&R and Lew’Lara\TBWA.
Rob Sweetman is cofounder and creative director at One Twenty Three West in Vancouver, Canada. He helped launch the agency in a garage to embrace the current realities of the industry. Today, the agency proudly boasts a senior team with twelve working creative directors, and clients all over the world. Sweetman has had his work featured in Communication Arts and at Cannes, D&AD and the One Show. As a result, he’s been ranked the top-awarded art director three times by Strategy and a top ten creative director. However, according to his mother, nothing tops having an ad featured on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
Lisa Topol is co–chief creative officer at DDB New York with her partner, Derek Barnes. Since their arrival, they’ve won multiple gold Cannes Lions for their Tribeca Film Festival work. As an executive creative director at Grey New York, Topol oversaw accounts including Best Buy, Bose, Pringles, the NFL and TNT Networks, which won her several gold and other nice-colored Cannes Lions. Before Grey, she was a group creative director at TBWA\Chiat\Day New York. Topol’s other interests include tennis, knee surgery and competitive dog agility, for which she recently represented the United States in the world championships with her rescue dog, Plop.