(Public Record, The (Riverside, CA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) The valley's creative community will be gathering on Friday, March 9 at The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort in Rancho Mirage for the annual ADDY Awards. It's the advertising industry's version of the Academy Awards or Emmys, where ad agencies and independent designers experience the thrill of victory - or the agony of defeat. The awards are sponsored by the local chapter of the American Advertising Federation (AAF) Palm Springs Desert Cities.
The Public Record went behind the scenes to meet the ADDY judges and observe the process of selecting the winners.
It's 8 a.m. on a sunny Saturday. The judges assemble in a conference room in the Palm Springs Life building to being the day-long process of reviewing the 158 individual entries, many with multiple components to be judged.
The judges are imported from other markets, such as Redlands and San Diego, to minimize the potential for local favoritism. "We selected people that were in similar sized markets, maybe some that are a little larger," said Scott Burch, ADDY chairperson. "We tell the judges before we start to take into consideration the budgets (in this market) ... to look at production values, but also to really consider the creativity and the message that gets behind it."
Major market TV spots, for example, can cost between $350,000 and $500,000 but Burch says you don't need to spend half a million dollars to make a good commercial. "Most of the effective pieces that are out there are done on a smaller budget," he said, adding "When I was in school I read about how the largest architectural firms in the world would clamor for projects that have little or no budget as a competition; because you really can throw a lot of money at something and make it look great, but if you can execute something pretty amazing on a very limited budget - that's an art."
MEET THE JUDGES
Jon Burgess is vice president of Redlands-based RedFusion Media as well as president of the Inland Empire AAF chapter. He has also taught classes on Internet marketing at the University of Redlands.
Burgess observed that there is a lot more video production here in the valley than in the Inland Empire, where Los Angeles-based broadcast media dominate.
His firm is heavily focused on business-to-business advertisers that still use a lot of direct mail. "In our eyes we tend to think that (direct mail) is a supporting tool. We like to think of marketing in terms of relationships, that's the way the world works, so even for industrial clients that might be in manufacturing or distribution we still want them to shake hands so wherever we can find that handshake is where we go. We encourage our clients to do training classes or get people in the doors to see with their goods are, and then we support that with the media," he said.
Burgess has attended the national ADDY Awards for the last several years and admits to being impressed by some of the work done at major metro agencies, backed by large budgets. "There are some unbelievable campaigns that the big shops do, but I always say, 'well, that's not fair. Nobody else can do that. We don't have millions of dollars.'"
What impresses this ADDY judge when he looks at entries? "Some of the best campaigns I think are actually the humorous TV commercials. I like humor. I like spots that are a little offbeat, a little counter ... it catches you (off guard) just a little bit. The other stuff I've liked recently in print are ads with really high end photos. I'm gravitating toward good photographers because I think use of stock photos is overdone. It's nice to see a really good shot that someone's set up, he said.
Ellen Shakespeare is a veteran of this judging team. This is her fourth year. She's a freelance writer and instructor in the advertising program at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena.
Of the work she'd reviewed by the lunch break, she said, "I've seen a couple of things that I thought were wonderful, wonderful pieces. Some of the work I've seen goes beyond the facts in the matter to come up with an interesting way to tell the story of the product."
How much time do copywriters have to grab the reader's attention? "I think you need to get it almost immediately because if it's not interesting in the beginning - the first five seconds or so - they will do something else," she said.
Erika Brechtel is owner of Small Shop. She says she is "a brand stylist my made up term for a graphic designer." Her company is based in Orange County. This is her first time serving as a judge.
Today she's been most impressed with an entry she says went beyond good design and made an effort to develop a brand - a family resemblance to other design features of their marketing program. "I could see the elements being used in that particular piece are probably used elsewhere," she said.
Her advice to aspiring entrants? "Know your competition. If you're a client, hire a professional. For me, the most successful pieces are those that have some impact - without trying too hard. That's where you get success in design," she said.
What's the most common problem she's observed in some of today's entries? Trying to do too much in one piece.
Chris Vance is art director for LAK Advertising in San Diego. "I've seen some really good stuff today. Obviously I've seen some things that had a (bigger) budget, but I've also seen some projects that maybe didn't have the budget but the creative turned out really good," he said.
Do you really need a big budget to have an edge in the competition? "I think a big budget helps, but as we've seen today, there are projects that are engaging and memorable (on smaller budgets)."
Can you recognize a good ad when you see it? "Oh yes, instantaneously. You can tell the person who was doing it knew what they were doing: the typeface, the white space, the balance and the message."
Next week: The judges' verdicts on the 2012 ADDY Awards. The event is open to the public.
For information call (760) 325-2882 or visit www.desertadfed.com.
(c) 2012 Desert Publication, Inc. and Sharon Apfelbaum