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JUDGEMENT WEEKEND: A rookie RAF Board member’s guide to how the ADDYs are judged.

March 8, 2011


“We have one heck of a creative communications community in Rochester. And the purpose of the RAF is to keep that community thriving. Through events and programs, we educate, connect, and inspire great work–and we have a ton of fun doing it.”

One of the more widespread misconceptions about The Rochester Advertising Federation’s ADDY Awards is that the winners are decided by local creative professionals. Not true. Traditionally, seasoned creative professionals of diverse skill sets from around the U.S. are invited to judge the entries submitted by Rochester’s creative community. Then, representatives of the RAF’s Board of Directors typically travel with all of the work to a single city/district where the group of judges is located. To celebrate our 20th Anniversary we did it a little different for 2011. We used our association with the National American Advertising Federation and chose one judge each from four major markets that we had utilized in past years. The RAF is an affiliate of the AAF, empowered by 50,000 professionals in 220 advertising clubs, 220 college chapters, and 100 corporations.

All images by T.C. Pellett except where noted – thanks so much John!

I had attended the awards in the past and had even volunteered on the committee, but was still intrigued about a side of the process most participants don’t get to see. After being asked to join the Board of Directors just about a year ago and being a relative rookie, I saw a chance to get more involved with what’s widely considered to be the RAF’s signature affair. Of course, the ADDYs are like a lot of events. There’s a roller coaster ride to find a theme, arrange for a venue, and constantly explore how the event can remain relevant to the membership and beyond. But this event dares people to offer up the results of their art and creativity in advertising, beyond the customer, to their peers. And then that day came, where thirty or so six-foot tables later, more than 300 entries were organized according to their submission numbers and categories.

We watched the airport arrivals ticker with despair

All we needed then was for the judges to arrive. However, one of the more annoying snow storms of the year hit the Rochester area the exact Friday we were bringing everyone into town. We watched the airport arrivals ticker with despair and by Friday night, we only had one judge safely in Rochester while the other three were stuck in the throes of domestic travel. Needless to say we were worried, not only for the safety of the nice people we invited here, but for the execution of the judging process as a whole. One judge unfortunately became stranded in Washington D.C. and never even made it to Rochester – but the other two eventually made their way and we were ready to get the process moving again.

By late morning Saturday everyone was settled in and ready to start. What was most refreshing was that the judges were a lively panel of individuals who set a tone mixed with levity and professionalism. Certainly a good group to be with for an entire weekend. All the judges we invited had typically done about two to four of these types of events a year so they have seen a real diversity of work. Given the “salvation” theme of the awards show this year, we thought it was a little more than coincidence that two of the judge’s names were Mark and John.

“You guys made it very hard for us…”

The judges were more than complimentary of “the work coming out of a market our size” with one going so far as to say, “You guys made it very hard for us because so much of the work was truly great. Definitely one of the better crops of work I’ve seen.” By early evening Saturday most, if not all, of the printed pieces, mounted campaigns, etc. was rated while some interactive pieces had been viewed and scored as well. Sunday morning would mean wrapping up the rest of the interactive pieces and then viewing all of the broadcast entries.

Representing the RAF in a situation like this is interesting in that you have to be helpful in making sure the judges understand the entries without any sort of bias or extra info. Even the thought of laughing at very funny broadcast pieces could feel awkward in their presence knowing their interpretation of the work has to be pure.

Once all of the judging was done it was time for them to select Best of Show and the pieces that were their personal favorites. Fellow board member Wayne Calabrese was on hand to film interviews and reactions to the work. Those interviews will then be put together for inclusion in the actual awards show. And that marked the end of “judgment weekend.” We all shook hands and exchanged contact info and thankfully, their exit from Rochester was much less dramatic than their entrance.

You’ll find out more about our great judges the night of the ADDYs – salvation can be found starting at 6:30 on March 24th – you can find all of the event details at aafgreaterrochester.org/events/addys so get your tickets and we will soon see who will be saved!

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