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Reflections on Judging the Hatch Awards

12 Sep 2011 11:35 AM | Deleted user

This post was written by Dana Satterwhite, one of the judges of this year's Hatch Awards. Dana has held full-time creative positions at Arnold Worldwide, Bartle, Bogle, Hegarty, and Gearon Hoffman and worked for DDB, Footsteps, Hill Holliday, J. Walter Thompson, Mullen, Ogilvy and Mather, Sanders Wingo, McCann Erikson, and Wieden + Kennedy among others.

Judging is one of the hardest things I'll ever do. It's right up there with child rearing, solving a Rubik's Cube without pulling the stickers, and listening to Gilbert Gottfried for 3 minutes uninterrupted without cutting myself. Hard, I tell you. Really, really hard.

So when I was recently invited to judge the 2011 Francis W. Hatch Awards in Boston, I accepted but knew it would bring with it some challenges. Nine creative people in a room trying to achieve some level of consensus? Hilarious.

I served on a jury (not an award show jury, a REAL one) for the first time in my life earlier in the year, and that was a lesson in human behavior and courtroom theatrics. Everything you see on Judge Judy is true, all true, and then some. Still, that process pales in the face of determining creative award-worthiness and the pressures of deliberation.

And for me, not having judged a show in several years, I could only wonder how things may have changed. Since print is dead or so they tell me, and the 30-second TV spot is headed the same way (again, rumor mill talking), do we completely reconfigure our standards and put a new system in place when separating bronze from silver from gold in the social digital age? Or do we take a step back and realize that there are certain things likeundefinedpardon the planner-speakundefinedprimal emotional drivers that will never change, no matter how savvy and hash tagged we get? I prefer the latter.

The sun will always rise in the east. Most mystery meats will always taste just like chicken. Emotions will always drive behavior. Professing the death of traditional ads in the wake of digital diversions is kind of like saying a sudden spike in the population of oxygen bars is going to revolutionize the way we breathe. Or a sparkly new fleet of Rascal scooters parked inside the sliding doors of our favorite big box retailer is going to completely change the way we shop. For a few of us? Absolutely. My early-adopting brethren will go skittering down those wide aisles, popping wheelies while filling their baskets full of mega-roll toilet paper any day. But for the great majority, it's a novelty; a supplement; a welcome distraction. Then life as we know it resumes.

What became overly apparent in the throes of judging is that great ideas will always rise to the top, despite how we define them, where we place them, and beyond their ability to live in a virtual social space. Social media is revolutionary in some respects but in others it's primal and its prominence, as the next shiny object comes along, will wane. It happens with everything. Disagree? You're entitled. When you get a minute, Google "Friendster" or "MySpace."

True, the internet has put many an encyclopedia salesman out of business, but the precious content of those extinct volumes lives on in perpetuity. It's still very much the wild west out there and these media, like all media, need to be understood and used appropriately. And not by everyone. Toilet paper companies, I'm talking to you. Not gonna "Like" your 3-ply fan page. Don't care how many coupons you promise in your sweepstakes. Not gonna do it.

Has embracing social worked wonders for certain brands, like Old Spice? Wieden's happy and I bought a stick. I hear sales are still flat but Isaiah Mustafah's glistening, rippling pecs have captivated more Tubers and Tweeters than any other campaign known to man. But no matter how you slice it, where you watch it, or if it's got Fabio smeared all over it, you're still consuming content, brilliantly written, wonderfully executed content. What we consume hasn't changed very much at all. When, where, how, and why have. But even that, in the grand scheme of things, is a grain of sand on an isolated beach. Maybe a beach where the Old Spice guy hangs out when he's not shooting 71-second spots that will air on Youtube. You never know.

In the end, I met some really unique and talented people on the panel and at the Ad Club. The process was smooth and things ran like a top. Though there was mild dissension in the ranks when it came time to agree on best of show, we worked it out. If we all saw eye-to-eye, that would defeat the purpose of a panel.The iPod's role in changing the way we listen to songs? Undeniable. The digital camera's role in the way we capture images? Humbling. The DVR's role in the way we watch commercials? Not as catastrophic as presumed but still apparent. Other than how it's packaged, coded, or otherwise compressed and streamed, the impact on our lives is negligible. Music is still music. Photos are still photos. Stories are still stories. Brilliant ideas are still brilliant ideas, and our industry could always use more of them.

Having said all of this, thank you for welcoming me back to the New England ad community, if only for a short few days. It was great to be among you. I continue to judge as I've always judged and encourage you to do the same, tallying with your heart, not your device.

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