ADDYs: We’re playing, but last year’s question remains unanswered.

Last year Cayenne did not participate in the ADDYs. The event slipped up on us (it falls right on the jingly heels of the holidays), and we simply didn’t have the bandwidth to get a submission ready. This year, we joined the fray. We started back in December. And it took our entire pepper village. But, we’re in it.

For you initiates out there, The ADDYs, sponsored by the American Advertising Federation (AAF), are ostensibly a celebration of the combined output of the advertising community in any given metropolitan area. The events are also fundraisers for local chapters of the AAF. These events take place all over the country. Some are better than others. In the days of yore, ADDYs were a much bigger thing than they are nowadays. The business community paid closer attention. The event was a formal, festive affair. The judges were important figures in the ad business. And winning an ADDY was quite an accomplishment. Over the years, the shine has been knocked off the ADDYs.

But, while the significance of the ADDYs might have waned, the effort required to make the event happen has not. Producing the event requires more than a village… it requires an army.  (Ask any of my colleagues who’ve done it in the past and they’ll tell you it’s mind-boggling.) The effort required for an agency to enter them properly is also substantial if not overwhelming, (especially for an industry that tends to be run by ADD people. There’s tons of detail involved… labeling pieces, entry numbers, specifications, and so forth. The effort must be organized and efficient. The account staff dreads them. I wish Cayenne were lucky enough to have one person we could devote to preparing our submission, because really that’s what it takes. But, we don’t. Which is why it takes our whole village.

Last year, about this time, I wrote a blog entry that posited the question: “What is the business case for the ADDYs?” [See To ADDY or Not to ADDY: Relevance & the Business Case, 1.17.11 ] We are a business after all. And the ADDYs represents a fairly substantial investment for a shop our size. We could, for example spend the money we spend on the ADDYs and the value of the productivity we lose in preparing the submission, on new computers. Three or four really good ones. Or we could take the entire agency to Florida for a weekend. So, what is the business case? Does it impact our reputation beyond our community of competitors? Are our clients aware of the ADDYs? Does it help us with productivity? This question still stands. And I put it out there to largger community of business people (ad folks and others).

Last year’s blog entry (rant, to be more precise) made for some interesting dialogue in the comment stream that ensued. I ended one of my comments with the following:

1. How can we make our Ad Club more relevant to agencies?

2. How can the ADDY’s (the largest celebration of work the Ad Club undertakes) be more relevant to agencies? Our Ad Club is struggling financially. I believe if it were more relevant to the companies that create advertising, it would not have to struggle. Can that change?

3. Lastly – I, for one, would like to petition the American Advertising Federation for a winnowing of categories. Personally, I don’t think they represent what’s going on in advertising these days. Having so many of them makes for a ceremony that often compares in excitement with eating a thousand pounds of grits at one seating.

As for questions 1 & 2, I feel like there has been noticeable improvement. Under the leadership of Satina Richardson, (and following on the heels of Jeff Roe) the club has done some really great things. The Ad Expo a few months back was a fine example. The event pulled together advertising folks and a nationally respected keynote speaker from Google, to offer a day of seminars to anyone interested in advertising, brand-development, marketing, etc. It was a strong, well-attended event that did a good job of bringing together the advertising community and the outside world.
The ADDYs last year set the bar higher (it’s a shame Cayenne didn’t get it together to play). Thanks to the efforts of people like Stephanie Holland, Jeff Roe and a host of others, the Birmingham AAF Chapter began to reestablish some of the grandeur the ADDY event has lost over the decades. They stepped up the quality of the judges. They standardized the award itself (yes!!!)  I suspect this year’s event, which, as I understand it, is being put together by a collaborative group of folks from several agencies (I don’t know all the players, but I DO know that David McMath from Intermark has pulled out much of his hair making this thing happen), will clear the bar set last year. It will be black tie. It’s at The Club. Some of the bygone grandeur is back. And I’m looking forward to it. I hope I see more people there who aren’t ad people. I’ll be the one in formal Scottish attire (any excuse to don the kilt).
And I’ll be the one still asking the question I asked last year. “What’s the business case?”
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