Tim Doherty
Sep 15, 2015

Spikes impressions: Say yes to judging (and pack a sweater)

Tim Doherty, chief creative officer of Isobar China, now warmed up from many hours in a freezing judging room, tries to explain why the juries in general were cold toward work from China.

Spikes impressions: Say yes to judging (and pack a sweater)

Last week, for the first time, I was on a Spikes jury. I had the privilege of judging the Radio and Outdoor categories. And it was a genuine pleasure to spend time looking at work from all over the region and discussing it with a room full of very smart people (even if that room’s air conditioning was somewhat overactive).

I found myself looking at the work (or listening to it) and imagining how all the meetings and emails and everything all culminated in this piece of work before me. And of course that’s really all that matters in the end—what crosses the finish line and appears in media.

There are no categories like “It Would Have Been Great If the Client Were Only Braver” or “Our Budget Was Cut But We Tried Our Best.” There is just the work, which must speak for itself.

When it comes to judging what goes on the shortlist, the work is assessed pretty quickly. As in the real world, you have just seconds to get attention. Winning work was bold and clear, and could telegraph its meaning almost instantly.

On day two of judging, we discussed what on the shortlist should move up to the medal list. The conversation was very thoughtful and considered. No one is just giving away trophies. It really is exceptional work—and exceptionally considered work—that takes home a gold.

For Radio, we did not award a Grand Prix. But for Outdoor, our jury did award, after much discussion, the “Life saving dot” campaign the Grand Prix. We asked, “Is a bindi even outdoor?” But transforming an ordinary bindi into a kind of life-saving transdermal patch is genius.

What was disappointing to me (I have lived and worked in China for over seven years now) is how little work from mainland China won anything. For all the money spent on digital in China, for example, not one piece of digital work from the mainland took home a trophy in Singapore (and only one piece from the mainland was shortlisted).

Why is it so hard to get truly superlative work done in China? I think unless we can tap into more universal human truths and do work that can truly move people, we will always be coming up short.

There were two Grand Prix for Greater China though. For the “House of little moments” campaign, ADK Taiwan created a fictional noodle shop with accompanying Uni-Noodle dishes. The recipes of the dishes were available online, and interest in the films and recipes led the ADK team to actually open a real noodle shop. Brilliant.

And from Saatchi there was the very funny film for Changyou, a game developer. There is a sense of humour in this piece that really stands out. While I don't think that there are many Chinese mothers who especially worry about their still-in-school sons not having girlfriends, the dead-bored look on the lead actor’s face in many of these scenes is priceless.

All in all, seeing so much great work and talking long and hard about what makes work great is a genuinely inspiring experience. So, if you are ever invited to judge Spikes, I say, say yes.

Tim Doherty is chief creative officer of Isobar China


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