Monday, June 29, 2020

On the joys of being a juror at an ad festival

The PHNX festival just closed its jury grading window. I must have graded more than 2500 ads.
The PHNX was a bit of an anomaly though: Being free to enter some people plugged their portfolios to the cringing reaction of the jurors, there was an incredible mismatch in the categories which also sent the jurors over the edge, and many entries were not eligible due to their broadcast date being earlier than was stipulated.
To be a juror means either you are a masochist or you have enormous dedication. Remember, you need to finish the category you started because either your vote will not be counted or you will skew the average if you do not fulfill the whole category. With around 250 entries per category on average this becomes a drudgery.
Yet, again, in my case not only passion but dedication is there. For the PHNX, I was given a full day head start in judging because I am incredibly fast at doing so (when I used to teach at university level I immediately knew if I liked the creative idea the student was presenting or not), and because I was able to pinpoint technical errors and immediately report them.
Just to clear though, the PHNX which was a one time only festival and the Epica Awards where I have been judging since 2016 are no walk in the park. Both online and as a physical juror. When you sit about 16 hours in the same room putting grade after grade, or when you do that at home doing the same amounts to pseudo-insanity. The problem? An ad which is a total disaster in the film category actually has a great use of sound, one with a horrible activation strategy is excellent in its branding, hence the need to be alert as to what category you are judging and to combat mental fatigue.
Another issue? Peer pressure.
Many ads fellow jurors fell in love with left me incredibly cold. At times I would throw another glance at the ad in question only to say - "nope it still leaves me cold". It really takes a lot to make me change my mind. But again, you need to really hang on to your opinion and not say "Oh so-and-so-head-of-agency-liked-it-so-must-I". You have your opinion and head-of--agency has theirs.
Of course, one also needs to be fair. Normally as a juror you are denied voting on work from your own country. But work for the Lebanese market is often presented from Dubai so I end up judging it - often poorly - without playing favoritism.
With all its folly, the excitement of finding the next great ad overcomes all the insanity and frustration. And this alone is a tremendous joy!