Checking out the competition

I recently judged digital designs for the University & College Designers Association’s (UCDA) annual competition, and the experience was an eye-opener. Unlike print design competitions where judges meet on location and review entries together, the digital judging was done remotely from our office computers. I was surprised at the amount of time it took to evaluate each entry. Unlike a print piece that can be sized up fairly quickly, a digital entry may require several minutes of study before getting a well-rounded picture. All in all, it took me several hours a day for about three days to complete the judging. This meant hours of tedium that were occasionally interrupted by a few gloriously smart and moving experiences.

After all three judges submitted their results, UCDA provided us with a spreadsheet compilation of our votes. I was astonished to see how closely we agreed on the award-winning work even though we had no discussion with each other while voting.

What makes an entry an award-winner? For me, the exceptional work did one of two thingsā€”it had an emotional impact on me and/or it taught me something. When design fails to make us feel or learn, there is not much reason to pay attention. When we shine, the work we do in educational marketing stands up to the best out there. That’s quite an achievement when you consider that schools rarely have the extravagant budgets of the corporate world. It proves, once again, that throwing money at a problem doesn’t solve anything. Great ideas, however, can and do.

Here are links to several competition entries that inspired me:

Website
Vassar Admissions
University of California
Arts at Stanford

Online magazine
Brenau Window

Video
Chatham University
Oregon State University
Simon Fraser University

Here is a complete list of gold, silver, and merit award winners. The digital entries are on the last page of the list.

They’re B-A-A-A-CK!

I confess. I’m addicted to the lowest-rated cable series on earth: AMC’s The Pitch, a cringe-inducing reality show that pits two ad agencies against each other in a battle to win a juicy account. The first season’s ratings were so low that the Nielson score for the April 30, 2012, episode was 0.0% or a total of 45,000 adult viewers in the US.

Imagine my surprise to learn that The Pitch is back for another season! AMC is known for gutsiness. Perhaps the enormous successes of other AMC programs like Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and The Walking Dead have given the network space to stick its neck out for a second year in a row.

Back again are the client de-briefings, the late night brainstorming sessions, the internal tensions, the snarky assessments of the competition, the shaping of the creative, and the panicked deadlines, all leading up to the big pitch to the client. You don’t need to be in advertising to feel the chill this show is designed to bring. Anyone who has ever had to create and present an idea understands the dread, the fear, the joy, and the sorrow of exposing ideas for judgement. What makes the show so enticing is that we viewers get to size up the work of the two agencies and decide who has the better idea and the better chance of being awarded the account. Interestingly, the best idea does not always win. Check out the show to see what I mean.

Welcome to Cram Now

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Welcome to Cram Now, our new monthly newsletter that will replace Cram Quarterly. This new format allows us to publish articles more frequently while giving our readers an opportunity to comment on or share stories. Enjoy!