Judging awards brings home the pace of change
A view from Josh Krichefski

Judging awards brings home the pace of change

At some point in your career, you will be sitting with an industry luminary and they will begin to moan about the endless days they have spent sitting in darkened rooms, judging awards.

They will expect your sympathy. Do not give it to them.

Yes, judging is hard work and the days are long, and the 21st-century human animal – with its short attention span and many mobile devices – finds it hard to adjust to focusing on one task for so long.

But being asked to judge awards is still a privilege. And, as a judge of the Media Lions over the past few weeks, I found that the task itself is an exciting, challenging and intensely inspirational one – as the best work of the best brains in the industry is showcased in front of you.

I have also come to realise that judging offers an incredibly useful perspective on the state of the industry – not just on how good the work is, but on what the work is.

We know, in theory, that the industry is in the middle of extraordinary changes as client needs and technological possibilities evolve. But nothing brings this home quite as dramatically as the judging process. Even though awards festival organisers are alert to changing trends, again and again you are looking at work that refuses to sit neatly in any one category.

Often entries that boasted plenty of free media exposure would have sat better in the PR Lions than the Media Lions. Another clear sign of lines blurring was (what seemed like) plentiful creative entries in the Media Lions. But it’s a positive sign: the more we can break down the old silos, the better we can serve our clients and engage the consumer.

The task is exciting and challenging as the best work of the best brains is showcased in front of you

Speaking of technological change, emerging science has played a role in enabling brands to picture what somebody might look like. This was used cleverly in a campaign to prevent people dropping litter, with the faces of people who had dropped rubbish in a station in Hong Kong appearing on six-sheets on the Underground – based on DNA taken from the rubbish. A bit creepy, maybe, but smart. Out-of-home was a category with great creative and media collaboration on show – usually with technology at its core.

Human vulnerability was at the heart of several reactive campaigns where brands made mistakes and were attacked in social media – but then decided to "celebrate" those mistakes rather than ignore, justify or cover them up. One example was Chevrolet’s #technologyandstuff.

Perhaps one of the key lessons brands need to learn in an age when consumers control most of the brand dialogue is that when you let your guard down and reveal weakness, people love you more.

Josh Krichefski is the chief operating officer at MediaCom UK.