To begin with... Why the Epica Awards? Mark is pretty clear about, "rather like the Effies, we occupy a unique place in the industry because we’re different – our jury is made up of journalists who write about creativity and communications. So there’s a natural PR incentive for agencies who want to maintain a high profile in the press. I’d say we generate more press coverage than any other award apart from Cannes."
Epica is indeed changing, as a juror I can tell you that there are so many categories now and yes, it does drive one up the wall to think a category was concluded only to have additions to it. This year, according to Mark, "the biggest news is that we just added a seventh Grand Prix, for PR. It made sense as we already have a Design Grand Prix and we’re getting an increasing amount of PR entries. It felt right to recognise and respect PR as a discipline. The world of creative communications is always evolving, and we have to reflect that, so we added two new categories this year: Creative Use of Data and Gender Equity. The latter joins our Public Interest categories. In the age of #MeToo it’s a vital addition."
Well, what is rather funny, is this year's campaign for the awards which really hits the spot, Mark adds on a high note: "This year’s campaign was created by Hecho Studios in Amsterdam. "It’s quite cheeky as it accuses other awards of “self love” – since they’re all about the industry awarding itself. The studio worked with the photographer André Bakker and even a body paint artist called Ton Nizet."
But, here's a catch, with print in deep problem, and all things going digital, how can one still speak of journalism proper. Mark is quite upbeat about it: "We know that social media can be biased and inauthentic, so solid fact-based journalism is more important than ever. That goes for our jury too: our journalists are strong-minded, independent and objective – remember they can’t even vote for work from their own countries. They are also passionate about great creative work, as they write about it for a living."
Mark further explains regarding how the festival expanded its approach to journalism: “When Epica launched in 1987 there was definitely an ‘establishment’ of magazines that weighed in on the creative offerings of the year. While those titles continue to play a very valuable role, we have since opened up to the diversity of voices and opinions in the digital world. Bloggers like you, Tarek, are often more outspoken than some of our more traditional titles and thus help us come up with a shortlist we can be proud of.”