The RAB Aerial Awards 2006: Introduction

When my namesake Al Young and I were invited to jointly chair this year's Aerial Awards, one of the first questions pitched to us was: "Can we improve upon the existing format?"

The format certainly wasn't broken and didn't need fixing, but there was a vague sense that maybe it could use some buffing up. We had both long admired the Aerials as a champion of radio creativity, and felt that with some judicious monkeying around, we could help in the process of, one day, establishing it as the champion.

After sitting down with the Radio Advertising Bureau, we introduced two small changes: the entire composition of the jury and the whole voting structure. If the Aerials is ever to become the authoritative voice of radio creativity, it needs a jury that knows what it's talking about.

So we developed the Aerials 100 - an uber-jury, whose members have all made a proven contribution to great radio, whether by creating or encouraging it. While most are creatives, 30 per cent have been selected from a list of sound engineers, voiceover artists and clients.

As for voting, while the existing Aerials process of rolling up on the night and voting was incredibly democratic, it tended to favour funny spots that made the assembled creatives laugh the loudest. Of course, many of the best radio ads are indeed funny ones, but many fresh (but gag-free) ideas get overlooked.

So our 100 lone-wolf jurors listened and voted online in their own time.

And having just read the resulting winners list, I think much of the work has a more innovative and interesting feel to it. Of course, some will dispute that; half the fun of awards lies in disagreeing about the winners.

But, given the quality and diversity of the Aerials 100 jury, I hope that disagreeing will feel harder than usual this year.