PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico—The spring sun is baking the white sand of the Quintana Roo coast, and flashing off one of the biggest infinity pools you've ever seen, here at the Grand Velas Riviera Maya, a sprawling, seriously swanky resort where families are shelling out $1,500 a night to enjoy a flawless week in March far from the spring-breaking kids sardined on beaches an hour up the road in Cancun.
Dozens of top advertising creatives are here this week, too. Not that they have much of an idea what's going on down at the beach.
They're spending most of their time in cool, darkened rooms up at the resort's conference center, a shuttle ride away from the coast, judging The One Show. It's a funny thing about judging these kinds of shows: You fly thousands of miles to a stunning vacation spot, and then you mostly have to work—for a dozen hours a day, sometimes more—in windowless rooms that might as well be in Toledo.
The stunning scenery and impeccable accommodations simply serve as solace for an indisputable fact—that judging is a long slog, and can be very hard work.
The One Show jurors for 2016, a who's who of revered creatives from all over the world, have been arriving and leaving, in shifts, for a week now—staying a few days at a time, depending on the rigors of their particular jury. (Some category judging lasts barely more than a day; the Film jurors were stuck watching the monitors for four.)
I've come down, too, to see how it all works: the briefing, debating, philosophizing, voting, the sheer endurance contest of looking at thousands of individual pieces of advertising and design—and deciding, as a group, which of them are any good (and which creatives, as a result, will enjoy a nice boost to their careers).
In many ways, let's agree, it's an absurd task.
Getting a dozen people from a dozen agencies in multiple countries on a single jury to agree on what inspires them, what excites them, what moves them, what could move the industry—it's no wonder these things can get contentious. Then make it 13 of those juries. Then add in elements of nationalism and career-making, and the jury rooms at some award shows can get downright hostile.
The goal, mostly, is an admirable one—honor the year's best advertising. Of course, that's easier said than done. Sure, there are occasionally pieces of work we can all agree are singularly great. The rest? It's subjective—intensely so. Any system that aims to resolve that subjectivity into an objective list of winners will always be fraught with pitfalls.
The jurors all wrestle with this, individually and as a group. Gerard Caputo, executive creative director at BBH New York and a Print & Outdoor juror this week, tells me there's a particular irony in subjecting top creatives to this kind of work in the first place.
"It's a really hard thing to take something that's so subjective and put it into a format to be evaluated," he says. "It's actually what we hate, as creatives, when we do our work with clients. They do that!"
But do it, these juries must. And at least it's creatives doing the judging, not clients.
Both the Direct and Print & Outdoor juries are doing their final judging on the afternoon I arrive. They've already weeded out hundreds of entries at home, judging on the computer, before even coming to Mexico. Now, after another round of judging here, they're looking over the finalists and picking the winners—the entries that will get Gold, Silver and Bronze Pencils, or merit awards, which is a step down from Bronze. (Most finalists will receive one of these four prizes, though a handful of finalists will be left out of the annual entirely.)
As if it didn't have enough to do, the Direct jury has spent much of its time trying to decide what, exactly, the definition of direct marketing is these days. (This is hardly the first ad awards jury to be stymied in this way.) Direct used to refer simply to direct mail and direct response TV advertising. But with the advent of social media, in particular, much more work is explicitly seeking a response from the consumer—even if it's just a "like."
"There's two parts to this," Direct juror Pam Fujimoto, ecd at WongDoody in Los Angeles, tells me over lunch. "One, there's direct in terms of how you target someone more directly. And then there's the response you're trying to elicit on the other side—what kind of response, and what degree of response. Our discussion was around: Is a response that's as passive as a like or a share enough? Or does it have to be something that feels more transactional, or more specific, but maybe not all the way to a 'Call this number now,' like in the old definition, where we're making a sale. There's this big grey area."
"Does a like correlate to a buy? That's the million dollar question," adds juror Dan Fietsam, who was chief creative officer at BBDO Chicago and then ecd at FCB Chicago before starting his own business, The Fietsam Group, late last year.
Kevin Swanepoel, the One Club CEO, likes to be on hand in each jury room during the final round, if he can, to help answer these kinds of questions. (He or the One Club's content and marketing chief, Yash Egami, serve as facilitators of the discussion at this critical stage, as One Show juries, unlike many other award shows, don't have jury presidents.)
In the end, Swanepoel has suggested not putting too strict an interpretation on what could be considered direct work. "I think it helped that Kevin opened up the definition of it to make it a little looser," says Fujimoto. "In the end, it ended up somewhere in between. I was worried about it skewing too far in either direction—that anything is direct, or that it has to be something that elicits a sale directly. That rules out so many great pieces of work."
There was glowing discussion around a number of specific direct pieces.
Among them: McCann Copenhagen's "Europe's Most Punctual Offer" campaign for Scandinavian Airlines, a game that challenged people online to get fare discounts by screen-capturing SAS airplanes that were landing in real time; BBDO Russia's 3M campaign that turned retargeted banner ads into Post-it notes; and BETC's registration form for Canal+ that made the most boring part of paid TV—signing up for it—a lot more entertaining.
"Anything that closes the gap between reaction and transaction, that's what we're looking for," says Fietsam. "If you can express your brand through a registration form, that's when it's amazing."
"They're taking this barrier point, this point of friction, and turning it into the most engaging and fun part of the process," adds Fujimoto of the Canal+ work. "It was about flipping that experience around from the worst part to the best part."
Direct may be one of the least sexy award categories out there. But in some ways, that fact makes the winning work that much more impressive—because it's harder to find creative solutions to many of the business problems that direct work addresses. Thus, if ad awards are inspiring at all, then excellent direct advertising can be doubly so.
"A lot of these campaigns seemed like they were really hard briefs coming in, and not glamorous ones, and ones that had real client objectives behind them that ended up being solved in a really creative way," Fujimoto says. "A lot of other pieces of advertising, like a Super Bowl spot, get so much more attention, but are so much easier, honestly, to do well. These are the kinds of pieces that I show to my creatives, because I'm trying to prove to them that you can do good work on these kinds of assignments."
Two other themes emerge in the Direct judging that will echo in other jury rooms later in the week—first, the sometimes irksome nature of case study videos; and second, the value of debating the work, which The One Show handles a bit differently than some other shows.
Direct juror Vanessa Fortier, creative director at The Martin Agency, tells me that the sheer volume of case studies was overwhelming. (Indeed, the Direct jury fell so far behind in the first round of judging that the Print & Outdoor jury had to come in and help.)
"That first day was like drinking out of a firehose," Fortier says. "We talked afterwards about the art of the case study video and how crucial that is. A lot of them need to be shorter. The first 20 seconds really should have me hooked. You should get the heart of the idea out. You spend so much time on these case studies—and we do this ourselves—that you really want to draw people in and craft the story line. But it's to everyone's advantage to make these shorter and get to the point."
Debating the finalists with the other jurors, though, was a high point, Fortier adds. "That's why they fly us out here. If we could do it all on the computer, then why even leave home? It's that human conversation," she says of the discussion around the best direct work.
"I found them to be very persuasive," she says of her fellow jurors. "My heart was just palpitating last night. You feel people's careers going up and down. They spend all this time making this stuff, and here we are debating it. And whether you medal or not is a big deal in someone's career."
In Pursuit of Fairness
Swanepoel was named CEO of The One Club, the nonprofit that puts on The One Show—and does educational and professional development work in the ad industry—in April 2015. The personable South Africa native has been with The One Club since 1998, and was its president from 2006 to 2015—focusing largely on expanding the U.S.-based show's international presence.
"We think of [The One Show] as a global show with an American accent, much like the D&AD might be considered a global show with a British accent," he tells me during a break from monitoring the juries. "We owe it to ourselves to the keep that American-ness of our show very real. That's one reason why people want to enter. They want to be judged by the Americans."
The show is trying to keep the jury mix at around 50 percent American and 50 percent international. But that 50 percent American is probably only about 25 percent American in reality, Swanepoel adds, since so many U.S.-based creative chiefs now are foreign born.
About 65 percent of the entries are now international, and 35 percent from the U.S., Swanepoel adds. The U.S. still the No. 1 entrant, typically followed by Canada, the U.K. and Germany—though it changes a bit from year to year. The U.K. was a little soft with entries this year, Swanepoel says. (Ian Tate of Wieden + Kennedy London, who's on The One Club board, told him "it's just one of those years where there hasn't been the breadth of great work coming out of the U.K.") Brazil was also soft, as was South Africa, which Swanepoel chalks up largely to economic difficulties in those countries.
Asked what distinguishes The One Show beyond its demographics, Swanepoel says he wants it to be known as the fairest of all the advertising award shows out there.
To that end, it has several mechanisms in place. Voting is done anonymously on iPads, and debate is limited almost entirely until the final round. Even then, jurors are encouraged only to make positive comments about work they like, not negative comments about work they don't like. This is intended to keep lobbying—said to be a big problem at shows like Cannes Lions—at a minimum, and to give each piece of work the fairest shot at a Pencil.
"I've participated in a lot of juries, and there is a lot of lobbying and you get cliques forming," Swanepoel says. "We keep discussion out of it until the end, so at least there is a gauge of what the professionals in the room have determined should be near the top. And then we open it up a bit, so if somebody's missed something for some reason, it can at least have a hearing and get a fair shot."
Swanepoel also tries to control the tone of discussion, which is something at which he excels. With no jury presidents to run the rooms, it's left to Swanepoel to do so. Soft-spoken and accommodating, yet firm in his resolve—and also willing to work with the personalities on hand, and not rush things—Swanepoel commands respect, and any disputes almost always seem to be resolved to everyone's liking.
"The tone of the voice can sway an audience," Swanepoel says. "Talking down work—we hate that. If you're going to say something, say something positive about a piece of work that you like. Don't trash somebody else's piece. Because that's when you get into, 'I want to push this piece up and make it better than that piece.' "
The hidden ballot is a big thing, too.
For several years, The One Show has been using iPads and a custom app developed by Alison Bourdon, The One Club's visual content manager, that allows for seamless, anonymous voting—whether you're watching work on a screen or looking at printed materials on a table. (The app scans QR codes for the printed work, giving the jurors all the information they need. This replaces the old print system of marking scores on Post-it notes for the printed work, which could unduly influence the results.)
"The process is extremely important because the jurors shouldn't have any distractions," Bourdon says of The One Show's efforts to streamline the physical process of judging. "They're here to see the work, and all they should have to focus on is the work. If you're constantly being distracted by systems that don't work properly, it's more pressure on you."
The system also automatically abstains jurors when their own agency's work comes up, where before they were on the honor system not to vote for their own shop's ads.
The final discussions, too, allow for one revote—but only one—on any particular piece.
"When you hear the end-of-discipline discussions, people change their votes, sometimes two or three times," Swanepoel says. "A case should be made for things, and then it should go back to an anonymous ballot. But only once. If you bring it back up and then somebody doesn't like it, they'll want to state a case for something else harder. And then it's lobbying."
Print & Outdoor Judging
If Direct is an unsexy category, then Print & Outdoor—particularly the Print portion—could be considered a dated one. Final deliberations are already in progress as I walk into the jury room. Swanepoel and Egami are both on hand to help guide the discussion.
A number of pieces have caught the jury's eye here. Among them: striking timeline-style print work for Twitter by Ogilvy & Mather Singapore; Domino's funky DXP delivery car from CP+B; and McCann London and Momentum Worldwide London's "Survival Billboard" for Microsoft's Rise of the Tomb Raider game, which forced eight people to stand on a billboard for 24 hours and get pelted with rain, wind and snow.
Caputo, of BBH, tells me that while Outdoor in particular is evolving in interesting ways, both Print and Outdoor are useful in teaching the fundamentals of advertising. In that sense, as with the stronger Direct work, the winners here are worth showing to young creatives.
"[Print] is clearly a shrinking category, for many reasons," he says. "But I do think the value of it—it's concept/execution on a basic level. It's like—say you want to be a great basketball player. Maybe you can shoot a great 3-pointer, but you can't pass the ball, or you can't dribble. For people coming up in the industry to see good print, or to work on it, it builds so many fundamental skills that help them become better."
He adds: "You don't get to do great print or out-of-home that often. Normally it is the hard-working stuff. That's why it's good to come here and see how people have done it. You need that inspiration, even just to show your own creatives—that this is an opportunity for them. … It goes back to the fundamentals of how people communicate. Something well written can move somebody, or stick with somebody. And it's a craft, writing in this space. People are coming out of ad schools with case studies. Slow down. Learn the fundamentals first. So many things can come off the simplest thought and the simplest idea. You could take a lot of these print ads and make cool TV spots or films or digital experiences out of them if you wanted to. It's about that nugget of thought."
So, how is the quality of this year's Print & Outdoor ads overall?
"There's some pretty nice craft," Caputo says. "There's some good writing. It's better than the last time I did it, about five years ago. It's definitely improved. It's evolving."
One of his favorite pieces was DDB New York's "Endangered Love" posters for the WCFF, showing endangered species in sexual positions like an animal Kama Sutra. "Usually you're inundated in these shows with stuff like a dead rhino, or an elephant with its tusks ripped out, which is shocking—and valuable in some ways," he says. "But it's nice to have someone come at it from a different way that makes you want to engage with it. And it's just so well art directed. It had everything going for it."
Sara Rose, group creative director at 72andSunny, is also on this year's Print & Outdoor jury. She tells me a lot of the work reflects today's pop culture—i.e., plenty of emojis, Twitter-speak, hashtag stuff. "There aren't as many visual solutions as in years past," she says.
This is her first award show judging in person, and she's found the discussion at the end to be the most rewarding part of the process. "It's really interesting to see how people from different countries react to the work, even how men and women react to some of the same kinds of work," she says. "Having a jury that's diverse in nationality and gender and areas of expertise invites a lot of great discussion and interesting points of view. I've learned a lot from just talking to them."
The Quality of the Idea
Every ad award show is different. D&AD has more of a design bent. Cannes Lions is the most purely international. The Effies are all about effectiveness and business results. How does Swanepoel describe The One Show?
Quite simply: "This is an award for the best creative ideas that happened this year."
To find those ideas, the show first and foremost puts strict requirements on the judges. Past judges and board members nominate future judges, which leads to a pool of about 2,000 nominees each year. Crucially, they have to be engaged in actually producing creative work.
"You can't be from the client side, or the press side. You can't be a strategist, or the like," Swanepoel says. "That foundation sets the tone for the award. What we are really judging is creative idea and concept. Of course, for something to win a Gold Pencil, it must have both the idea and the execution—that goes hand in hand."
The downside of focusing purely on the idea, of course, is that it opens the door to scam ads, which may feature brilliant ideas but take a short cut—they're made specifically for award shows, and they skirt, or outright break, the key rule that entries must be real work, that really ran, for real clients.
The One Show has tried to protect itself from scam, particularly following the discovery of a scam piece in the show about a decade ago. Agencies submitting scam work can be banned for five years. Agency ecds must sign off on all entries. And The One Show investigates any work flagged by the judges as suspicious.
Still, Swanepoel admits, it's "becoming more and more difficult to distinguish the gray area of scam—work that technically meets the criteria, but is actually produced for award shows."
Given that The One Show is devoted to the quality of the idea, how does Swanepoel feel—at this stage of judging, in the middle of the second week—about this year's crop of entries?
"It's like this every year—when you first look at the work, you feel it might be a light year," he says. "From a television standpoint, I was a bit disappointed. There wasn't that big piece where you turn around and say, 'Oh my God, that was amazing.' "
But he adds: "When you start whittling down and you get to the finals, there is some amazing work. So far, I haven't seen an 'Epic Split' or a 'Dumb Ways to Die.' But when you have a look at the REI [#OptOutside] campaign, which is just such a big idea, or you have a look at [Beats by Dre's] Straight Outta Compton, another amazing idea, there are so many great nuggets of work that we should feel proud to celebrate. We're pushing the boundaries of all these different media."
Social Media Judging
If the Print jury is looking at a medium on the decline, the Social Media jury has one of the hottest mediums on its hands. As was the case with Direct, the jurors here have to deal first with the category definition. What is social media these days? Does making something explicitly sharable make it a social idea? Or does it need to spark a social conversation?
"The whole category is so broad," juror Laura Fegley—who is freelancing these days after a holding top jobs at BBH and JWT—tells me. "When you're talking about social, you're talking about ideas that are inherently passable in social and interactive. Or it can be work that makes great use of a brand's social real estate."
The jurors have seen plenty of both this week.
Among the pieces that have been singled out for praise: Muh-tay-zik Hof-fer's "Netflix or Study" Periscope campaign, which live-streamed a guinea pig in a box half marked "Study" and half marked "Netflix" (so students at finals time could decide which to do); George Patterson Y&R's "Melanoma Likes Me" campaign, in which the disease got social accounts and started commenting on people's posts; and a couple of Deutsch projects—its Pinterest yard sale for Krylon, and its efforts to help Taco Bell get a taco emoji made.
Neisha Tweed, a creative strategist at Facebook and a Social Media juror, tells me that, to begin with, a lot of the work has been miscategorized. And then, a lot of it is just underwhelming.
"I think there is a good range, and I think a lot of people are doing cool, experimental things in social media right now. But I think overall the industry has a ways to go to really start playing in a way that can be really valuable for brands and for people," she says.
The work she likes best has taken really simple ideas and brought them to life.
"The Netflix idea is really super simple," she says. "It doesn't need to be really elaborate. There is a lot of stuff where it's like, 'And then you go here and do this, and then you come back, and then we aggregate' or whatever. But these networks are a canvas for creativity, and you just need to have a strong idea and a strong connection to the platform. The stuff that stands out, for me, is stuff that couldn't have happened anywhere else. The right brand, the right message and the right platform. That stuff all coming together is magical."
To get better at social, Tweed adds, agencies need to open up and be willing to collaborate with outside sources. "We know the platforms. You know your brand. Together we can create something amazing," she says. "I think we [at Facebook] have a lot of work to do on our part to build those relationships, too."
Fegley says the best social work always starts with a social idea, not an idea from another medium that is then activated socially.
"The simplicity of 'Melanoma Likes Me'—I was like, holy shit, that would totally make an impact in my feed. It's dead simple," she says. "That's the one big thing we seem to have consensus about. Anything social that requires me to do a lot, or if the case study takes five minutes to explain how it worked, it probably didn't work very well."
Fegley kept coming back to Krylon, too.
"Pinterest and Instagram is where a lot of brands live. But a lot of times it's just handled by the brands. It's not something that is really in the agency's scope yet. So you're not seeing a lot of cool uses of those places yet," she says. "That's why I keep trying to rally around the Krylon thing. Somebody finally did something great with a brand's Pinterest page. In the next couple of years, that's the kind of thing that's going to explode."
The Role of Award Shows
At one point, I ask Swanepoel: Are advertising award shows really about inspiring an industry to do better, or are they more about wealthy agencies paying to keep a lock on clients and creatives padding their résumés?
He replies by relating a story about Judy John, the Leo Burnett Toronto creative chief who rose to become CEO—and who was here last week judging Film.
"She had this beautiful slide on the role of award shows," Swanepoel says. "It said award shows reward people who are in a pretty anonymous business. And by doing that, you celebrate and elevate the level of work in the agency. And you uplift the culture in the agency. And by doing that, you attract and retain great talent who want to do great work for good clients to put in their book—so if they move, they've got something to take with them. And by doing that, you attract good clients who say, I want you to make me the next Nike ad, or the next Old Spice thing, or the next whatever. It ends up in this circle, which feeds back into inspiring and doing great work."
The dynamic may play out like that for some agencies. But there's no shortage of cynicism around awards, either—a sentiment that's usually muffled but got wide attention in January when Amir Kassaei, chief creative officer of DDB Worldwide, openly questioned the value of awards in a column for Campaign US.
Kassaei's point, in part, was that agencies are making a lot of slick case-study videos for work that hasn't actually had any real impact on the world, or on client business—it's made simply to win awards. "You will see less work from DDB at some of the shows. And maybe they won't win much against the phony prototypes. So what?" he wrote. "We want to be the best and most influential company in our industry, not the most awarded."
Indeed, case studies have been a topic of discussion here all week. And it's pretty clear that flashy case study films do give certain pieces of work an upper hand, warranted or not.
For his part, Swanepoel says he understands where Kassaei is coming from—to a degree.
"First of all, as you've seen, there has been some great work that's been submitted and is winning from the DDB network [this week]," Swanepoel says. "Amir's concern—and I think it's a valid one—is that so often, people are creating case studies for work that probably doesn't need a case study. And they're trying to make an OK idea look shiny and polished. Maybe in the future what we've got to try and do is, in some categories, cut back on the ability to enter a case study, to get back to the purity of great work and let the great work stand on its own."
In some categories, of course, that's not possible.
"Categories like integrated branding or innovation, or the illustration of social media, where you can't very easily go back and show a series of tweets or something that's readily accessible," Swanepoel says. "But when it comes to a print ad, it should just be on its own. Or a 30-second TV spot—we had things entered in Film where the jury was asking, 'Why are we judging the case study? Why aren't we just watching the piece?' You've also got these case studies with music—a really great song that gets the jury going. The production value on some of these things is more than the cost of the original ad. Not all case studies should go away, but if you're able to just show great work, you should let it stand on its own—and let the professional jury, who are good creatives, gauge it on its merit."
To prove the point about case studies, look no further than this year's Mobile judging.
As I arrive to check out the discussion about the finalists, one juror is raising a question about a piece of work that didn't seem to make it out of the preliminary round. Didn't anyone else see this brilliant piece? How could it possibly have been overlooked?
Well, it was overlooked—because the case study was poorly made, and it didn't grab people the same way. The idea was, indeed, incredible—and the jury reinstates it (with Swanepoel's blessing). In the end, it is even voted best of discipline.
That's a pretty remarkable turn of events, and it goes to show that even great work can slip through the cracks completely if it's not packaged properly. Case studies are just advertising for advertising. When done poorly, any piece—even the single best piece in a category—can be in danger of not connecting to its audience.
As for quality of the Mobile work overall this year, juror Cedric Devitt, chief creative office of Big Spaceship, tells me he's a little disappointed.
"I get the sense we'll see fewer Pencils in the category, certainly fewer golds," he says. "There were familiar themes we've seen over the years, particularly this idea of missing children. Facebook won a couple of years ago with an app they developed, and Google had something along the same lines that alerted people on platforms when children went missing, using geolocation. I wonder, are we seeing a rise in missing children in general? Or is it because people are focused on their mobile phones and they're not looking at their kids?"
There are bright spots—among them, Phenomenon's Wilson X Connected Basketball; REI's #OptOut campaign for Black Friday, from Venables Bell & Partners, Edelman, Spark and North Kingdom; and several Samsung apps for Alzheimer's patients. But even some of these ideas felt rehashed, Devitt says.
"The Wilson thing is great, but it feels very similar to some of the things Nike has done in the past," he says. "I liked the Alzheimer's Samsung work. But again, I think people look at that and say, it's brave and important but it's not really a big brand idea."
Maritza Lerman Yoes, a social strategist at TBWA\Media Arts Lab and a Mobile juror, is here judging an award show for the first time. Her response to some of the work also echoes critics who say many award-winning ads aren't really made for the real world.
Take "Melanoma Likes Me," for example—the George Patterson Y&R campaign that Laura Fegley of the Social Media jury enjoyed so much, featuring the disease following people on social media. That campaign has been getting mostly good buzz this week, but Yoes is a bit appalled by it.
"People get really excited about hacking something like Instagram," she says. "But when you think about the reality of it—that human interaction of getting a comment on a photo from an account I don't know. It doesn't register the same way with a normal person that we think it does. You get a comment from the @_melanoma account—and I feel really bad for them that they couldn't even get the real account name—and you go to their Instagram account and there's nothing there that would reward me for that interaction. Having worked in social media for so long, it felt really flat to me. There are a lot of campaigns that have award-worthy hooks, but the experience to real people needs to be a little more gratifying."
On the flip side, the value of great mobile advertising is its utility, she adds. One of her favorite pieces is L'Oréal's "Makeup Genius" app—created by McCann/Clichy, Image Metrics and My Studio Factory—which lets consumers test makeup virtually.
"That's so smart," Yoes says. "They put the emphasis on making it a beautiful technology that people wanted to use. We're going to see more of that, where it's less about the novelty of having something than the actual utility of wanting to use it and make a purchase with it."
Yoes also echoes other first-timers here in applauding the process of the judging.
"I loved how fiery people got. I was really exciting," she says. "The iPads were great. I really enjoyed Kevin [Swanepoel]'s interactions. It felt very equal, and was a bonding experience too. It's not your work, but suddenly you feel like a creative director fighting for it. That's an interesting challenge—finding the real reason for backing up certain work, and the reasons why it's valid."
Dinner on the Beach
It's not all purgatory at The One Show judging. It can be paradise, too. And it is on the Wednesday night of the second week, when everyone is invited down to the beach for cocktails and dinner on the sand.
The Direct and Print & Outdoor jurors have already left for home. Mobile wrapped up judging tonight. Social Media is almost done—they've decided to push final deliberations to tomorrow morning. Interactive and Design are halfway through. And UX/UI starts tomorrow.
For now, everyone is enjoying a picture-perfect night on the Playa del Carmon shore, with the lights of Cozumel across the water. It's like a beachfront party in Cannes, with lots of the same people but without all the extra hubbub. (Even Unit9's Tom Sacchi, famous in Cannes as the mayor of the Carlton Terrace, is here—he's judging Interactive this year.) Swanepoel is the mayor tonight, though, and mingles with his star jurors, clearly relieved to be out of the conference center for a few hours himself.
Over the course of the week, it's become clear that Swanepoel and his team hew to the philosophy that the best judging happens when you remove any and all impediments to it—less friction in the technical process; less discussion, until it's time; less lobbying; perhaps, in the future, fewer case studies.
There's another thing The One Show needs less of—financial profit. But Swanepoel denies the notion that being a nonprofit helps The One Club with entries because people can feel good about supporting the larger cause, even if they don't win. This is no charity case, he says.
"I like to believe people feel good about supporting a nonprofit—whether it's ourselves or D&AD—because we are trying to make this industry better," he says. "But I truly don't believe people are saying, 'We're going to enter because it's going to make the industry better.' I think the industry enters for their own betterment. At the end of the day, entering and winning—that's what's important to them. If they don't win, to turn around and say, 'Well, I still feel happy because it's making the industry better'—for a small agency, that doesn't cut it."
In the end, he adds, The One Club still a business—but it is one with loftier goals than your typical organizer of ad awards.
"The way I see my mission is to actually improve this industry," Swanepoel says. "I started the diversity initiative at The One Club in 2005, and we've built that into a robust program—three countries, 12 cities. We're making a meaningful impact in diversity. We started the gender equality women's series. We do a lot of educational work, and a lot of professional development work. On each of these business pieces, I really try, where possible, to break even on each one. We don't. But that's OK because the revenue from the award show helps to fund these things. We rely on revenue from agencies for those initiatives. If they break even, I'm thrilled. If they don't, I try harder next year."
As for The One Show itself, it all comes down to credibility, fairness and the quality of the work. On those scores, the creatives here, almost to a person, seem to agree that The One Show is worth judging, and worth winning—and not just because so many of them have done both.
"They attract the best people to take time out of their schedules to come here and do this. It's an honor to do it," says BBH's Caputo. "And I do think, in the end, it's one of the shows that consistently has the best work. Winning a One Show Pencil is really exciting. You want the creatives working for you to have that experience. It's highly motivating. There are a lot of other awards that I would trade in for one Pencil."
—The 2016 One Show winners will be announced at ceremonies in New York on Wednesday, May 11, and Friday, May 13.