So there I was, first to arrive at Belgrave Square and, one by one, the cream of British advertising arrived. Apart from the ever gracious John Hegarty, my years away from advertising meant that I didn't know a single person in the room. One by one I was introduced over coffee: Jim Bloggs of Bloggs and Splonk. Dave Spliff from Spliff, Clunk and Thirdguy, etc. Boy, was I out of date.
We sat down at a horseshoe-shaped table and began the day's work. Our task was seemingly simple. We were to judge the best of the best from an assiduously compiled list of every award scheme relevant to the advertising world. From a long roster of more than 500 names, the IPA had done its maths with regard to who had won what, and how many times, and narrowed it down to a shortlist of about ten names into six main categories. These were: Best Creative Director, Best Creative Team, Best Commercials Director, Best Agency Producer, Best Use of Photography, Best Typographer.
As the chairman, it was difficult to lay down guidelines for a totally new awards scheme. We quickly decided on the ground rules; some obvious, some not.
a) Of course, no member of the jury could speak or vote for their own agency's work.
b) We had pre-voted to narrow down the list, but although I alone knew the numerical votes, I opened up the debate to find a consensus among the jury. This proved to be pretty conclusive, so much so that we had an early lunch and all jumped into cabs back to our day jobs.
The process had two surprises for me. First, I was taken by how generous everyone was about their competitors' work - unthinkable in my day.
Second, the sheer quality of the work was an eye opener to me. As someone who has secretly harboured the smug thought that there hasn't been a good commercial since Ridley and I stopped doing them, I was in for a shock.
Seeing such a concentration of the best work was a revelation. The creative envelope has been pushed so far that, from a director's perspective, I have to say I wouldn't know how to go about making many of the films we watched, let alone say "action" or "cut".
The depth of talent is so encouraging and I'm sure the movie moguls in Los Angeles are already ticking off the names - except, of course, these same directors will have to take a considerable pay cut if they want to work in the film business.
So here are the Best of the Best for 2002.
Caroline Marshall - editor, Campaign
Andrew Coombe - marketing director, Volkswagen
Paul Briginshaw - creative director, Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy
Emily Bell - editor, Guardian Unlimited
Sir Alan Parker - director, chairman of the judges
Robert Campbell - creative director, Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R
John Hegarty - chairman and worldwide creative director, Bartle Bogle
Dave Droga - creative director, Saatchi & Saatchi
Dave Waters - joint creative director, DFGW
Bruce Haines - president, IPA
Chris O'Shea - executive creative director and deputy chairman, Banks
Peter Souter - creative director, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO