AC: How do you see the Effies, and where do they fall in the landscape of advertising awards?
Ty Montague: I've always wanted to win Effies because it's so difficult. How long has the advertising business existed? A couple hundred years. And we're still having the debate about whether advertising works or not. Any award that recognizes the effectiveness of the art form of advertising is an important award because it helps us answer that question. Any creative who is worth their salt cares a great deal about whether their work works or not. I think that we do ourselves a disservice as an industry when we make too big a deal out of stuff that is not effective.
AC: We often see very creative work here that often has a tenuous relationship with the brand.
TM: Exactly. Honestly, who cares if a piece of work is creative but doesn't work? Because if we're celebrating it for creativity on its own, then the people who made it should be making fine art. The pure creation that has no commerce attached to it whatsoever. That's very important too in the world. But to celebrate creativity for creativity's sake an applied art like advertising is empty.
AC: How much do the case studies come into play? What kind of consideration are they given and how much time do you spend with them?
TM: I'm only chairing the judging for the grand Effie. I know that in other awards shows it's a mixed bag. In some there is no discussion of strategy or results. In some awards shows, specifically the Content & Contact category at the Clios, which I chaired last year, is unusual because it is judged by media people and creative people. There is a case study that is given a great deal of time. We asked, was it a creative creative idea, a creative media idea, and did it make an impact out in the world? To me that is a really important aspect of the judging because if results don't matter, then I don't know what we're doing.
AC: What do you do when an ad is sub-par creatively but has a good case study?
TM: You know, the way that I would answer that is that creativity and effectiveness are inextricably linked, but the creativity in some cases is in the creation of the product itself. For example, if you create a product that has a really compelling product benefit, you don't necessarily need creative advertising for that product to sell. It's often a category where there is no communicable product benefit that there has to be great creative. I would offer for instance the cola category. Brown fizzy water. The communication that surrounds those brands is so important because there is no significant difference between Coke and Pepsi at the product level. The image that you put in people's heads is important. I think that you have to take that on a case by case basis.
AC: Do you expect the creative caliber of the work to be better this year?
TM: I always hope to see inspiring work. I don't really know what to expect. I know that great work has won in the past. The Apple work, for example, showed admirable client restraint in terms of the communication. They kept it really simple, there wasn't a lot of blah blah blah about the product, it captured the essence of the brand in a non-verbal way, and the product sold like hotcakes. I think that's a tremendous example.
AC: How do you feel, as a judge, about the use of films to explain some of the more complicated integrated campaigns? Does it help? You used one for the Sega "Beta 7" interactive campaign.
TM: I think it's tremendously helpful and also potentially manipulative. I think that all judges, and rightfully so, should approach those films with some skepticism. It really helps to get client endorsement, and that's what is great about the Effies. The clients are involved in the submissions and the judging. In creating those [films] it really helps to have the client raise their hand and say that it really works.