Judging Effies and West 44th Street, NYC

History lives on this street in the form of a roundtable, a theater, a hotel and a club.

The Algonquin Round Table: Writers, critics and actors dubbed themselves, ‘The Vicious Circle’. Dorothy Parker, Charles McArthur, Harpo Max, Art Samuels and Alexander Woollcott lunched daily from 1919 to 1929
The Lamb’s Club originally opened in 1905 as the America’s first theatrical professional club. Esteemed actors John Wayne, Charlie Chaplain, Irving Berlin, Fred Astaire and Cecil B DeMille would frequent the establishment.
The Parisian Woman, with Uma Therman played at the newly renovated Hudson Theatre

I recently judged the North American Effie Awards in NYC. I’ve been making this pilgrimage for the past four years and I always stay on West 44th Street. It started because the judging took place at the Sofitel on West 44th. Whenever I go to New York, I always walk as much as I can to explore the nooks and crannies that make this city rich. No street has captured my imagination like 44th street. It’s become a touchstone for me every time I’m in the city.

I visit the Algonquin to marvel at the Round Table and imagine the witty conversations that took place every day for nearly a decade. I get tea at the The Lamb’s Club across the street where it feels like Fred Astaire could waltz across the floor at any moment. I see whatever play is on at the Hudson Theatre. This time, it happened to be, The Parisian Woman, a contemporary play written by the creator of House of Cards. While drinking a glass of rose in the theater, I thought about the original proprietor, Henry B Harris, who died on the maiden voyage of the Titanic, and his wife, one of the survivors, who ran the theater as one of America’s first female producers after her husband’s death. I always duck into the Iriquois where James Dean used to stay when he was here. So much drama and magic happened on this small street that lives in the shadow of 42nd Street.

Effie North American Finals Judging at the Sofitel, NYC March, 2018

Judging Effies is one of my favorite competitions because the judges hail from multiple disciplines; client side, agency side, consultants, creative directors and strategic account directors and planners. They also have you judge categories where you have experience so you know the barriers to doing effective work. By the time we judge cases, they’ve already been through 2 rounds of screening, so the majority of the them are solid. Clients love Effies because they are awarded on effectiveness but in the past, creatives haven’t clamored to enter because historically they’ve been judged only on effectiveness alone which makes them hit or miss. In the past few years, they’ve tried to increase the creative quotient on the awards through screening the work along with the case studies and bringing in more Creative Directors during the judging process. That’s helped elevate the status for both winning and judging.

One of my favorite parts of the judging process is having an open dialogue about the cases with the judges in the room after you’ve had time to privately read through all the cases. Hearing the different perspectives on the work always casts a new light on the work. What a client sparks to is quite often different, but not any less important, than what a planner picks out as important which is different than what resonates with a creative. Once you’ve heard all the perspectives, you cast your final vote for the cases in the category.

If more competitions adopted this approach of having multiple disciplines judge the work, award shows would be embraced and validated as an effective tool for doing good work with the client and the agency.

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