Diary From Florence: Judging the Andy Awards

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Mike Byrne
Mike Byrne
Mike Byrne, Creative Director, Wieden & Kennedy/Portland, reports from Florence Italy, where he joins a group of advertising's best and brightest in final judging for the 2006 International Andy Awards. Byrne's Diary from Florence will appear Monday through Thursday this week.

Day Five

It's been raining now in Florence for three straight days. But it somehow doesn't matter; it just makes the city more charming. Everything is stone and, for some reason, wet stone just looks better. We started early today because we have a ton to get through. And we want enough time for a debate over the final round of work tomorrow.

We were told about an Andy film being made by Chelsea Pictures/Campfire that we would all be featured in. The topic of discussion is: Print. Is it dead or not? We're all going to be paired up with other judges to discuss. Seems to be a hot topic. Maybe radio should be included in this discussion as well.

On our way upstairs to the great gallery to view TV, we saw all the Bronze and Silver print laid out on tables. And immediately debate took over. You can vote a Bronze down but not a Silver. A few judges felt some Silver nominations should be out. And a few disagreed. So things should get nice and heated tomorrow. That's what's great about this jury. A lot of passionate people with an opinion.

There's still a lot of bad TV to get through. A lot of gags. Not clever. Not witty. The more intelligent stuff is getting the reaction from the judges.

This category seems to suffer from a lot of mediocre ideas. Feels like people are focusing more about the media outlets as opposed to the idea and letting that inform where the idea lives in the world. Not every idea has to be ubiquitous. And if it's a great idea it will be anyway.

One other note on this category. An inordinate amount of lies. 90% of the ideas were scams. With all that said ? This category is only going to get better. And that will come when we solve our clients problems by finding real and honest insights.

Mixed Media
Mixed media means it's not interactive. Other than that, it's pretty much the same.

At the end of the day, it's about original ideas in any medium—not the ostentatious and reckless use of the media itself.

And finally some other categories that Andy Berlin, Tony Davidson and a few other judges suggest you don't enter:

The It's A Blatant Lie category.
The Gag With The Product You Don't Remember Stuck On The End category.
The People Playing Sports Around Cty Streets With Lots Of Long Lens Shots category.

The Civilization Is Boring Let's Kill Everyone and Blow Up Buildings category.
The This Only Ran Once and I Paid For It Myself category.
The I Won The Lottery, Look What I Bought category.

The Same Ad Done The Same Way Three Times Isn't A Campaign category.
The Talking Animals category.
The Let's Repeat A Not Funny Joke After The Pack Shot category. (aka: The reach around)

The Continuous Piece Of Dialogue Cutting Between Different People category.
The One Person In An Empty City category.
The Someone Talking With Someone Else's Voice category.

The Referencing Our Own Industry category.
The Long-Winded, Over Long and Not Worth It When I Get To The End category.
The I Have No Idea What This Ad Is Saying category.

The Car Driving Down A Winding Road Looking Like Every Other Car category.
The It Could Be Any Beer category.
The Special Effects Is The Idea category.

The Enter It In Every Category Until It Wins Something category.
The It's Real Video Footage and Then Something Totally Unreal Happens category.
The Best Use Of People Coming Together To Make A Shape category.
The Repeating An Idea That's Already Been Done category.

The Gratuitous Sex For No Reason category.
The I Can See The Ending Coming Immediately category.
The Short Films On Websites That Have Absolutely No Relevance To The Product category.

Day Four - Wednesday

It's hard not to sound like a whiny bitch when you are writing about advertising. Especially when you are calling judgment on it. Today we went through a ton of TV. Still plowing through and finding the gems. One note on the Student TV section. Too much concentration on execution and not enough on the ideas.

But I really don't want to talk about judging today rather I'd like to talk about the judges. So many great conversations happen over dinner, on the way to dinner, on the way home from dinner and hours after dinner. This is a really wonderful group of people with really high standards and impeccable taste.

A few random things:
- Pete Favat showed me how to craft the perfect photo album over lunch on iPhoto. He could make a living on it.
- Andy Berlin wrote random words on index cards then put together headlines with words like "bulbous" and "mucous."
- I could listen to Marie Catherine Dupuy talk all day. Her French accent is beautiful. She should be doing voiceovers in no time.
- Tony Davidson has an infectious energy – all day and all night and back again in the morning.
- Jeff Goodby is unable to operate without several cups of coffee.
Mark Tutssel is the Storm Trooper keeping everyone on their feet. The man has stamina. - Andrew Keller is one of the nicest guys I've met in the business. He too has a wonderful energy. You just want to be around him.
- Bob Scarpelli is one of the nicest guys I've met in the business as well and when you look at his timeline of great work you know why.
- Elspeth Lynn from Zig in Toronto is a beacon of positive energy.
- Mike Hughes is the reigning Professor.
- Steve Hayden is a very very funny man.
- Bob Greenberg wears all black and always is armed with a smile.
- Jose Molla still has a really amazing tan and amazing stories.
- Tony Granger reminds me a lot of George Clooney.
- Piyush Pandey you just want to hug every time you see him. Kindness just drips off and pools around him.

It was a long day and I'm going to stop it here. We get into the final rounds tomorrow and Friday. I promised Tony Davidson had something to say about print. So here it is:

"Seeing a lot of ads all at one time laid out in front of you makes you realize how similar most of them are. Most are visual gags with a pack shot in the bottom right hand corner and no words. It was disappointing to see so many ads for local film festivals and advertising awards, rather than real brands. Sometimes it feels like we are getting inspirations from our own industry and what has won awards in the past, rather than looking outside and then bringing something fresh to the table." —Tony Davidson

Day Three - Tuesday

Breakfast (8:30 AM):
Things were a little slow going. Consumption of coffee is on the rise. More laughing though.

Interactive (9:15 AM - 11:00 AM):
This was the first round on digital. We broke into five groups. I have to say a lot of websites are just a big waste of time. No brand experience just silly games and really bad films. Watching Andy Berlin navigate through a website was very entertaining. I heard some new words coming out of his mouth. I was really confused why he kept being asked for his birth date. The final rounds on this, however, look promising.

Print (11:00 AM – 1:00 PM):
Day Two on print was a little more promising but it just feels like we all need a good slap in the face on this one. There are some really smart ideas but the executions just don't punch you in the balls. There is a lot of banter back and forth with the judges on this work. Everyone wants to be inspired. It's as simple as that.

A couple of nice things in the student section.

Lunch (1 PM):
More pasta. More good.

Print In The Afternoon:
I should really let Tony Davidson write this entry. In fact I will. See tomorrow's post.

Dinner (6 PM):
A lovely evening hosted by Atlantic Records. The food in this city is ridiculous partly because of the pride of the Italians. They want you to be happy. They want you to enjoy their food. A lot of love goes into the whole experience and you feel it everywhere. Not thinking about weight gain this week.

Day Two - Monday

Breakfast (8:30 AM):
If you like your eggs wet, than you should have breakfast at the Grand Hotel in Florence, where we are both staying and doing the judging. They also have this wonderful blood orange juice. But really nothing can hold a candle or a stick or a candle stick to the coffee. Delicious.

Mark Tutssel opened breakfast with a toast - the man is good on his feet. Followed by a round of applause then the sounds of eating and drinking. I didn't pick up on too much of the conversation as I was dealing with the wet eggs. I did overhear Bob Greenberg talking about the future and if you ever get the chance to hear the man speak, do it.

To give you an idea, the Grand Hotel kind of feels like being in a castle. The rooms have about 20 foot ceilings. Where we view all the print is in a large ornate ballroom with a beautiful stained glass ceiling. Art is everywhere you look. Maybe that's why we're all a bit self-conscious about the work. It's almost as if we're being judged.

Television (9:15 AM – 1:00 PM):
The judges split into little groups and went to judge television. You get a little remote control with some numbers on it. One is in. Two is out. I was in a room with Bob Greenberg and Mark Waites. Greenberg has three Ducatis and Waites invented a new category called "Landfill."

There were a few gems in there but overall nothing that makes you want to run back to your room and write. I am looking forward to the final rounds because the cream does rise to the top.

Lunch (1:00 PM):
Pasta. Good.

More Television/Animation (1:30 PM – 3:30 PM):
Lots of wonderful stuff and much of it coming from the automobile category.

Print (3:30 PM – 7:00 PM):
This was rather disappointing. Mostly visual gags. One after the other. And not much writing. Doesn't feel like the industry is paying attention to this craft right now. The bar needs to be raised again.

Dinner (7:30 PM):
USA Today took us to a lovely little place about a ten minutes from the hotel. It was a rather quiet evening except for the laughter coming from the Tutssel, Davidson and Keller table.

Day One - Sunday

I left Portland at 11:11AM Saturday morning and got to Florence, Italy on Sunday at 7PM. My breath could strip wallpaper, peel paint, and perhaps end the life of a very large nosed person.

I was met by several other judges in the lobby. All smiling. First person I saw was Tony Davidson. He has a wonderful smile especially with his brand new braces. I saw Jose Molla. He has an amazing tan.

Then Yahoo! threw a party around the corner with really wonderful little finger snacks. Red wine was flowing. There was a great deal of small talk: "When did you arrive?," "Florence is beautiful, isn't it?," "I thought it would be a little warmer. Don't think I packed enough warm stuff. I guess I can do the layering thing." Et cetera.

There's a great energy flowing through all the judges. Mark Waites, in particular, has a kick in his step. If you never met him he kind of reminds you of Eddie Izzard without the dressing in women's clothes thing.

Tomorrow we hit the judging hard. 8:30AM to 7PM. Everyone is looking forward to seeing great work. You know the kind that fills you with envy and sparks that internal fire in all of us. And then you take that fire back to the office and see if you can spread it around.
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