Hosting an industry awards at Bafta makes you feel a little film starry. But now, after the last gong has been given out, the last elated "whoop" released and everyone present has (just about) recovered from the Prosecco, it is time to reflect on what the UK Effie Awards have just delivered.
Effies are proud to honour strategy, creativity and effectiveness in equal measure – only if you have succeeded in all three will you be rewarded with a much heavier award-laden handbag to carry home.
Effective strategies that lead to mundane work don’t win big, nor do bombastic creative ideas where strategy played little or no role. In a way it is a true reflection of the importance of collaboration and integrated thinking from brief to idea and beyond.
At the Effies, there was a conscious effort to make everything behind-the-scenes as holistic as the awards themselves.
With the focus on every aspect of what we do, the UK Effies garners a diverse set of entries. In our second year, we wanted to reach a 50/50 gender balance for judges – not diversity for diversity’s sake, but rather diversity of inputs, backgrounds and opinions to ensure only the very best work made it through.
We recognise that gender is just the start and reaching a 50/50 split of men and women is still the lowest common denominator of diversity.
Across judging this year and the last, we have aimed to create a representative jury panel. In our inaugural year, we struggled and women made up only a third of the 103 judges. This year, we are delighted to have beaten this with 52% women out of the 163 jurors.
Diversity in judging panels is important to delivering better, more effective work – rather than just a box-ticking exercise.
In 2017, we also achieved a diverse mix of specialisms making the decisions – 33% from creative agencies, 19% clients, 16% from media agencies and 9% from media owners, and the remainder from research, digital, PR, experiential and brand identity agencies.
Against the broader industry backdrop we felt this was significant, and it didn’t happen by accident. We kept the composition of the jury in mind throughout. It was there when we had to find the last 20 jurors, not just the first few, it was considered when we picked the Chair.
At every step we didn’t let the usual excuses overwhelm our simple goal. But, there’s further to go, and more to do.
It’s why we wanted to share the backstory with you, and our intent to keep pushing. Rather than beat the diversity drum, we wanted to take the opportunity to reflect on why diversity in judging panels is important to delivering better, more effective work – rather than just a box-ticking exercise.
Judging is insanely subjective. What each of us deems award-worthy depends on everything from our personal background to the latest industry fad.
A group of people who don’t all know each other and have different perspectives of greatness will inevitably get to a more objective truth. Because they will take less for granted, debate more, and together represent a more rounded view of the world, not just adland groupthink.
Think of David Walliams on Britain's Got Talent. He’s entertaining because he doesn’t look at contestants through expert eyes, more like a punter who wants to be entertained.
Juries don’t (always) have to be experts. In fact, in the courtroom they are meant to represent a cross section of society to give a fair verdict.
Yes, we have specialist awards for craft and effectiveness, which should be evaluated by people with experience, but they shouldn’t represent the echo chamber of our industry, we need to bring in people from the outside.
Let’s not be afraid or haughty about what they think. Award-worthy work should bear some impact in the real world, stuff that matters in culture, and that can change culture.
You often get Groundhog Day on judging panels, the same people analysing the same types of work over and over and over. You can track this with the trends through time. Beer and football topped league tables in the 80s and 90s whereas the 2010s were dominated by female empowerment.
Our industry should be rooted in cultural innovation, not sheepishly following. Diverse juries are one way to make sure that a particular genre isn’t over-awarded or neglected. Or, at the very least, point out the gaps. Ethnic mix, social mobility, physical ability are still begging for creative representation and recognition. A more diverse jury can help change the precedent.
If that’s why we need it, what about looking at how we can drive it? It really is time to take action, not just talk.
Look outside the box
Be unafraid of people different from you. Recruit your jury from outside the discipline, the industry, the senior rank. Who has a fresh perspective? Whether it’s musicians, scientists, graduates or retirees. They will push us further. Make us better. Help us become more interesting.
Ask clients to help
Clients make up a significant part of judging panels. Get them to help us recruit and promote more diversely. Whether it’s within their organisation or as a representation of the customers they are targeting. Client support and commitment to diversity can really help us speed things up.
Take it personally
Be the change you want to see. Put up your hand to judge, seek out the opportunities to be on panels, even if you haven’t been asked. Don’t think of it as a privilege, but rather as a duty to make our industry a better place.
With the UK Effies only two years old, we’re luckily unencumbered by precedent so can perhaps do more. But the real impact will only be felt when all groups deciding what work’s good (or not) reflects the world that we aim to reach – on that we should all remember there’s a lot further for us to go and a lot more for us to do.
Anna Vogt is the group head of strategy at MullenLowe London. Katie Mackay is the head of strategy, Mother London. They were both judges for the UK Effies Awards.