381 became seven as the North American round of regional judging for The Immortal Awards concluded at the end of last week
. The jury virtually convened to vote on and discuss which of the 49 pieces of shortlisted work from the original 381 entrants deserved Finalist status and the opportunity to be judged in the global jury at the end of November.
Judges representing the North America region included David Rubin, chief marketing officer of The New York Times, Kinney Edwards, global creative lead of TikTok, Tiffany Rolfe, global chief creative officer of R/GA, Joe Sciarrotta, deputy chief creative officer of Ogilvy Worldwide, Per Pedersen, founder and creative of & The Network, Shayne Millington, global executive creative director of McCann New York, Myra Nussbaum, executive vice president and executive creative director of Leo Burnett, Samira Ansari, executive creative director of FCB New York, Amy Carvajal, chief creative officer of Code & Theory, Lora Schulson, director of production for 72&Sunny New York, Chris Duffey, senior strategic development manager of Adobe Design, and Lauren Connolly, executive vice president and global executive creative director of BBDO New York.
This crop of jurors are the first to specifically represent North America as a region at The Immortal Awards as part of a new, regional format aimed at ensuring that excellent local work and nuances, which might be missed by a broader, global jury, are picked up on and have a worthy opportunity to shine on the global stage. To begin, they watched the reel of 49 pieces of work, voting on which they believed worthy to proceed to global judging before the highest scoring pieces were put to a more vocal debate.
“This is not a typical year,” said Per. “Far from it. That's also why it doesn't really make sense to compare the work we judged with previous years. Most of the great work this year happened despite lockdowns, budget cuts and layoffs. In a way this makes the few outstanding pieces of work we picked as finalists even more special. And even if it's hard to celebrate these days, it's worth celebrating the resilience of the creatives behind the work and the client brave enough to believe in creativity.”
There were seven pieces of work singled out from the shortlist that made it through to global judging (coincidentally the same number from the LATAM session of judging
, the first of the regional heats). One spot that (perhaps unsurprisingly) received rapturous support from all corners of the jury Zoom screen was Nike ‘You Can’t Stop Us’, the exhilarating split-screen epic from Wieden+Kennedy and director Oscar Hudson, which detailed 36 pairings of athletes, relating the kinetic movement of one sport to another, via research of more than 4,000 pieces of footage and an absolute otherworldly feat of editing. There were murmurings of its potential Immortal status from numerous jurors.
“The combination of a human truth about being an athlete and some of the most outstanding craft I've seen makes You Can't Stop Us from Nike a top candidate for Immortal status,” says Per. “Covid has made production harder but that didn't stop Wieden+Kennedy from crafting a masterpiece in the edit room. The result is a film that is shared and a conversation about the brand at a time where the Olympics and a lot of other Nike moments were cancelled.”
“You Can’t Stop Us by Nike is certainly a timestamp of our time,” adds Chris from Adobe. “Beyond the fact that this film is a masterclass in editing with its 4,000+ seamless sequences as a metaphor for togetherness – it’s message is what makes it prevail: ‘We will come together for change. No matter how bad it gets we will always come back stronger, because nothing can stop what we can do together.’ And for this reason the jury felt it’s potentially Immortal worthy.”
Sandy Hook Promise’s ‘Back to School Essentials’ proved a topic of intriguing debate with some members of the jury concerned that it played into advertising cliches, despite its undoubted ability to make the viewer feel something and highlight the brutal normality with which the US treats the danger of school shootings. It was also raised that Sandy Hook Promise and its agency BBDO deserved praise for the consistency at which they release work of a similar quality to Back to School Essentials, considering the subject matter and legality issues surrounding it.
Less traditional campaigns were well represented too. Tinder’s ‘Swipe Night’, an interactive adventure by 72andSunny LA that dictated both a narrative and who Tinder members could match with next, was praised for its cultural impact among the ever-so-tricky to get to Gen Z group. And Publicis New York’s ‘Jif vs Gif’ campaign for Jif, the peanut butter brand, was highly rated for placing what is a run-of-the-mill and a pretty silly point of contention on the tips of the tongues of TV hosts all across America.
“In Shakespeare's Macbeth, Macbeth is told that he will only be defeated when Birnam Woods comes to him,” Chris says, taking a philosophical stab at summarising the North American Immortal Awards Finalists. “It’s a cryptic message that he doesn’t at the time understand. Later, enemy soldiers creep up on the castle little by little hiding behind tree branches. Much like this, for years digital transformation has been creeping up in virtually all forms across industries, however often times overlooked or deprioritised. Covid has in many ways accelerated digital transformation, forcing all aspects of work and business to be re-imagined. And yet when forced to find new ways, the creative industry has found even better ways to inspire and be inspired. The ability to empower every voice with creativity + digital is Immortal!”
It remains to be seen how North America’s super seven will fare against its creative counterparts from Latin America, Middle East & Africa, Europe and Asia Pacific, and only time (and one final round of intense judging) will reveal which, if any, of the selected works will achieve Immortal status.