We’ll be the judge

Sans gavel, these two McGuffins recently touted their expertise as they crossed the aisle from contestant to judge. Here are the most notable insights Chris and Ryan took from the American Advertising Federation’s ADDY Awards.

Chris Sculles, McGuffin President and CCO

Judge at Fargo, ND ADDYs

I took part in the Fargo competition where each judge awarded a personal Judge’s Choice Award. This past summer, I happened to be driving close to the area in North Dakota where I wound up being an ADDYs judge. We pulled off at a rest stop where they had racks of local attraction promotions — think pamphlets that encourage visiting The County’s Largest Moose Antlers. There in the rack was an amazing visitors guide that caught my attention and forced me to grab it, which rarely happens. Coincidentally, the same piece I grabbed off the rack last summer was a piece I judged at the ADDYs.

What I loved about this piece, and why I eventually gave it my Judge’s Choice Award, was that the team who received this assignment could have easily done a visitors guide like any other, which is probably all the client and its audience expected. But whomever received this assignment took it upon themselves to do something more than what was expected. They made the piece an unusual shape and size, they elevated the paper and the printing, and they carefully considered photography and typography.

2017 Fargo Visitors Guide

The visitors guide truly stood out on the rack the summer before and it stood out again when I saw it on the judging table.

I got to award a piece that could have been forgettable, but someone took the initiative and made the effort to make something so much more than ordinary.



Ryan Carpenter, McGuffin Creative Director

Houston ADDYs

Taking a mental walk through all the work that was reviewed over the weekend in Houston, one thing that stands out is the effort agencies and their clients are putting into telling a human story. How they are really striving to connect emotionally. Some of it was artfully done, some of it was a little heavy handed. Nonetheless, you could very easily see that the idea of storytelling is being embraced across all clients: a health system, a line of trucks, a brand of tractor, ice cream, and even accordions. If there is any criticism of this trend, it’s that in a sea of stories, the execution is often not closely relevant to, or supporting of, the brand in a meaningful way.

We all know when someone is setting up to “do the storytelling thing.” There’s a slightly wobbly camera, B-roll shots of “the simple things,” lots of smiling people, children playing in slow motion, soft and poignant piano music, and lens flares. These devices signal “authenticity” and hit the mark to “not be corporate.” But after viewing a number of these as a judge, you become immune to the cinematic effects and signaling. It’s at that point you’re left with a real idea, or an impression of the brand.

Or, maybe you aren’t.

As professionals, we may need to begin asking ourselves more direct questions about what it is we are communicating when evaluating or embracing storytelling, and how to stay on target.

Without a clear message, this powerful tool can devolve into a treatment or style that simply delivers an emotional punch, leaving the audience confused as to the point without a real connection to the product — and even less insight to the brand delivering the message.

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