What I learned at the ADDYs

Last night was my first trip to the ADDYs, the annual awards shindig put on by the Rochester Advertising Federation. Not having any sort of reference point or expectations, I went into the evening with an open mind and hoped I would find it challenging and encouraging. I found all that and more. Here's what I learned:

  • I need to collaborate more. Being a freelancer and small business owner, I tend to work in isolation. My clients are small and typically can't afford a large team of specialists or a full agency. In fact, it's one of the reasons they hire me — I can develop the strategy, write the copy, select the photography, art direct the materials, build the layouts, hand off to trusted vendors and manage the client relationship. But last night's event was a clear indicator that this needs to change. There were a LOT of talented people and some very impressive work. But for all of the talent, the best work was collaborative. If people way more talented than me aren't trying to do it all themselves, I'm a fool if I think I should.
  • These people understand me. I didn't expect the night to start with a manifesto (see video at the top of the page), but it did... and they nailed it. The event was a celebration of the creative process itself, starting — where everyone starts — with a blank page. I find a blank page inspiring. A fresh start, a new sketch, one more idea. Everything recognized last night was born in that moment while someone was staring at a blank page. It takes hard work to nurture that idea, build on it, refine it, criticize it. In the words of the evening, "Extraordinary starts from nothing... and takes everything." It also takes a certain kind of insanity to enjoy that process, and they're as crazy as I am.
  • Recognition is great, but it's not the most important thing. Some people submitted stellar work and walked away empty-handed. That has to feel crappy on some level. Even though I didn't have any entries this year, I immediately started thinking about my own clients. They don't care if I win awards for their projects... they're thrilled with the results and enjoyed the process. If it wins an award, they won't be surprised; if it doesn't, they won't really care. Their satisfaction is the highest praise, and I suspect many of last night's non-winning entries were already gold to the people with the most at stake. 

I can't hit "save and close" without congratulating a few winners. Ron Manley picked up an award for his work on a project at Partners + Napier. I worked with Ron back in our Icon Graphics days, and he was a dependable source of bullpen entertainment while constantly amazing us with his talent. You deserve it, pal. LaBarge Video and Roberts Communications produced a killer promo for Gould Pumps, walking away with ADDY Gold and Best-in-Broadcast honors. Dave, Jason and the team are at the top of their game and wonderful people. Congratulations, guys... well done. Dock 2 Letterpress came away with two awards, and I couldn't be happier to see Tony Zanni and crew recgonized for their superior craftsmanship and demonstration of old-school design chops. Beautiful work, as always.

I'm grateful to the RAF for their considerable effort in producing a show that was so much more than empty glitter. What could have been a vapid, self-congratulatory freak show was in fact encouraging and challenging after all. You've made me look at that blank page with higher expectations. Color me #RAFAddyInspired.