As my girlfriend and I were passing through airport immigration, the unusually friendly customs officer asked me if the purpose of my visit was business or pleasure. "Both," I replied predictably. Yes, I know it’s a cliché but it was said in all sincerity. You see, I was here to judge the ANDY Awards in the British Virgin Islands.
The ANDY’s have certainly raised the bar when it comes to judging locations. We are staying on Scrub Island: a private resort, a tiny island full of vegetation and surrounded by shallow turquoise waters. It’s every bit as beautiful as you might imagine.
The quality of the judges has always been of the highest pedigree, and this year is no exception, led as we are by Co-Chairmen Ty Montague and Michael Lebowitz.
Unashamedly, we intend to mix as much pleasure with our business as possible. So that’s what we did.
The room in which we will be spending five days judging has no windows. Then it dawns on me: Seventh film for the integrated financial services award VS bronzed woman walking past in a bikini carrying a tray of beers.
Fair enough. The work needs our undivided attention.
We divide and conquer. Me, Andrew Keller, Gerry Graf, and Mike Monello start the IN OUT phase. (Out of context, how gay does that sound?)
Meet up with WAGs and catch small boats to The Last Resort restaurant, a quintessential BVI experience. Numerous Red Stripes later, Andrew Keller joins the band on stage belting out "Hit Me Baby One More Time." This got a number of us up and we continued to dance the night away. There are some real characters judging the awards. The ad industry needs to retain the characters we have and entice more of them.
I enjoy judging TV, because when the ad is finished, it’s finished. You don’t have to sit through a three-minute film telling us that what you just saw was the most well received thing in human history.
Personally I would do away with reporting the results. We judge the ideas and execution. If both are great then of course it will be successful. If you must, give a few key stats. No one cares if some crappy 24 hour news agency in Japan did a feature on it; they also run stories about surfing squirrels.
Also make your videos half the length you think they should be. They will do twice as well and avoid using the phrase "The blogosphere lit up" at all costs.
Beach barbeque, complete with roaring fire, cocktail bar, amazing buffet, and an elaborate karaoke machine. Mark Tutssel singing "It’s Not Unusual" and Lars Bastholm "Do You Really Want To Hurt Me" steal the show. I quickly sink as many rum-based cocktails, just in case someone drags me up to sing. It goes horribly wrong and the next morning I regret throwing the promotional display over the balcony in the Activision lounge. However, I was playing Guitar Hero, and the Activision man had the good humour to laugh about it.
Kris Kiger, Lars Bastholm, Andre Matarazzo and I are taken away to what we called the geek suite to judge some very late interactive entries.
We join the rest of the group to judge print -- there are some beautiful looking ads; craft categories are really strong with some stunning photography and beautiful illustration. Mainly vacuous stuff though.
Hooray! Out by 3pm and an early finish today. Everyone is excited as we board the boat heading to the infamous beach bar, The Soggy Dollar. To get to it you have to anchor your boat 100 yards offshore, and then swim for it. Hence the name.
On the way home, Iain Tait and I mix business and pleasure by devising a brilliant anti-knife crime campaign: "Don’t Stab Whittle." If anyone has that account, we would be happy to talk it through in more detail.
Getting to the business end now, we proceed to debate a really strong short list. Lots of over analysing though, with some people worrying about the message we send out to the industry. Personally I think we over egg this line of argument. We’ve got to think about the now. The future will sort itself out.
Meanwhile, I love the way Jimmy Smith judges from the heart. "Man, am I the only one who thought that was dope."
We had a free night so 20 of us went to a local chef’s house set in the hills of Big Scrub, a neighboring island adjoined to Scrub Island by a dusty narrow track.
Jeff Goodby, Ben Malbon and I decide to walk home.It’s much darker than we expected as we tentatively negotiate the twisting hilly paths, with nothing but the light from Jeff’s torch app to guide us. We make it back, where we find Gerry Graf all alone playing Call of Duty. He’s wearing a cowboy hat and is smoking a fat Cohiba.
The last day judging isn't nearly as contentious as I thought it would be. TV is really strong, there is one of the funniest radio campaigns I have heard in years. There are some outstanding bits of digital work, although it has a short tail. As for the GRANDY winner, all I can tell you is that there is an unexpected twist.
Judges in a conga line dancing through the legs of scantily clad carnival queens on six foot stilts. All this before we even sit down for dinner. The evening coincides with another, less important, awards night. The Oscars. At least the Brits won the top prize in that one.
I split the days up between Business and Pleasure but the truth is we are lucky enough to be working in an industry where we can experience both at the same time. If you don’t feel this, then change the agency from within. If that doesn't work, change agency.