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Judge not lest ye be judged.

I was recently one of five creative directors from around the country invited to descend on Pittsburgh, PA to judge their American Advertising Awards, formerly known as the Addys. The first round of this awards completion is local, which is why even though we enter these award shows each year as well, I was able to judge in another region. So there we were, judges from Boston, Birmingham, San Francisco, Baltimore…and Holland.

When you’re asked to attend something like this you experience a few emotions: Excitement, because it’s a new professional experience and a feather in your cap. Anxiety, because even though most creatives won’t admit it, we’re about as insecure as they come – and having to judge with four accomplished peers can be an intimidating thing. But perhaps the most prevalent emotion was dread. We enter these types of things annually – and when certain work you were just so sure would win, doesn’t, the after parties are filled with comments like “where the (expletive) did they find those stupid (expletive with an -ing) judges?”

I thought I should get a head start on the whole judging thing – so I began with judging the lady in front of me at the grocery store for still being a check-writer. And I didn’t stop there. I judged 42 people in just three days in regards to their driving abilities (or, inabilities, I should say). I judged peoples’ Facebook posts, Instagram photos, clothes and lunch orders. When it came time to head to Pittsburgh, there was only one lady in the TSA line. Turned out she was the slowest person at everything EVER, so I went ahead and judged her too. I judged the guys from Germany I saw on my layover in Chicago because they were bringing 36 Krispy Kreme donuts home with them (seriously, what the…?) and I judged the parents of every nasty child on the plane – because my wife and I would never have let them wear that or behave that way.

By the time I rolled into Pittsburgh I was really in my judging groove. And not all of it was negative. I judged Pittsburgh to be an awesome town. I learned it has more bridges that any other city in the US (more than Chicago? Whaaaaaat?) I met the other judges and pretty quickly judged them to be wonderful people with whom I had a ton in common. We ate sandwiches at Primanti Bros., drank beer and collectively judged the state of advertising today as we know it.

Other than dinner, we spent every hour of the weekend at our hotel, which is also where the judging would happen.

The judging itself was a lot of fun, albeit exhausting. I thought we’d look at all the work as a group so we could discuss it and eventually rate it – but they wisely ask everyone to rate the work independently to prevent any strong personalities from shifting the tides. The work was well-organized and easy to go through. We saw examples of photography, art direction and copywriting that reminded us why we love this business, and we saw other pieces that made us question how some people got in it in the first place. The print, design and packaging was strong. The TV was weak – although I was able to submit a judge’s choice and I picked this TV spot as mine. I loved the fact that it was built on the simple premise of “if you’re sick, please just stay home from work” – and was perfectly executed in terms of directing, casting, editing and timing.

We arrived at our best of show selection pretty quickly as a team. I can’t say what it is yet because their awards show has yet to happen. But I can tell you it was a campaign that exemplified consistent and terrific writing, design and strategy across all platforms (in-store, outdoor advertising, TV, web and packaging). And, above all, it was obvious the client entrusted the WHOLE brand to the agency, and was rewarded in spades.

This week we attend the American Advertising Awards in this region. We won a good amount, but as usual it’s never as much as you hoped for and motivates you to bring home a greater haul in the year to come. Judging the show in Pittsburgh was a great opportunity for me to be on the other side of it, and I hope to do more of it in the future.