This year, under the guidance of Co-Chairs Ty Montague of JWT and Michael Lebowitz of Big Spaceship, the Andy Awards has decided to break with tradition and turn to the advertising community to elect the jury for the 2010 show with the launch of electthejury.com. Throughout Andys history, the jury has always been selected by the Andys Chairman, but the site opens up the selection process to the creative public. It currently features a list of 100 plus candidates that visitors can vote on for the next four weeks or so. The final list of 25 jurors will then be announced on December 1.
"The business is changing incredibly fast and awards shows have not changed all that much in terms of the way they operate, and it seems time for something new," says Montague. Montague's first step was to bring in Michael Lebowitz as his fellow Chairman. That served as a symbolic move, as well as a more practical one in terms of drawing a more significant digital crowd. "Together, we figured out how to make the next phase happen, which was to really open the judging up to the industry and say, 'In this time of massive change that we're in, what is the right makeup of a jury?' and to allow the industry the opportunity to answer that question rather than provide that answer for them."
"I think it's not so much that anybody is doing anything wrong, but there's a sort of a format and the format sort of imposes itself by the force of history into almost every show," adds Lebowitz. "It's a highly, individually curated activity, especially the jury selection in particular. Ty and I did what seemed fun for us, and it's also an experiment. On some level it's a statement about how the industry should be experimenting and not relying on the road oft traveled."
The nominees so far come from an uncharacteristically broad range of creative spheres. There are the usual advertising suspects, including Crispin's Andrew Keller, R/GA's Nick Law, Saatchi's Gerry Graf and David Lubars of BBDO, but you'll also see the likes of artist Takashi Murakami, directors Neill Blomkamp and Michel Gondry, and Jon Favreau—the speechwriter, not the actor/director, but visitors are free to nominate the latter as well. "We're also hoping people will take the initiative to nominate new people who have done amazing work not represented in the current pool," says Montague. "Even the initial round of nominees is consciously not the usual round of suspects from the advertising business. We're hoping that that represents the final makeup of the jury."
The Co-Chairs admit that the idea is experimental and sets the stage for potential snafus, like the skewing of the jury toward a particular discipline or country—or even social media ballot-box stuffing. "People who are naturally predisposed to using social media to market themselves could seize control of the process and begin to game the system," Montague observes. "On the other hand, the whole industry really has the opportunity to get involved, and if it sees things happening en masse that it thinks is not right, the opportunity exists for that to right itself. Our hope is that it's a self-leveling system. If we get a number of people involved, the answer might not be a perfect answer, but it will be a better answer than what we would have arrived at using the original methodology."
Andrew Keller: Stuffing the social media ballot box?
And even after just a soft launch, the process seems to be working. "There are two really encouraging things going on in just the few days we've been quietly open," adds Lebowitz. "One, there's a lot of activity around it even before we've made any significant announcements. The Twitter bios of everyone who's been tweeting about show that it's reached people from all around the world, which is what we've wanted. Also, currently Andrew Keller has the most votes. Of all the nominees so far, he's taken the most initiative and made a fantastic campaign and tweeted about it, so the social media side of it may be working."