Eardrum Australia’s Joe Hawkins on his LIA judging experience in Las Vegas and the best work from the Radio & Audio category.
According to a lot of the LIA judges, I’d won a golden ticket. Judging in the Radio & Audio category meant being part of an esteemed club where, for the first two days, you got to judge work… outside. So, armed with noise cancelling headphones and a healthy dose of imposter syndrome, I settled in to being outdoors with a group of super talented, enthusiastic, and friendly industry leaders, all chaired by Oriel Davis-Lyons, CCO of Mother New York.
My fellow jury members were;
Nancy Crimi-Lamanna – CCO, FCB Canada, Toronto
Paul Wauters – Regional CCO, Accenture Song, Paris
Jill Kershaw – Founder/CEO, Sound & Fury, Los Angeles
Odin Saillé – Founder/CCO, Mutant, Antwerp
Florence Leibaschoff – Founder/CCO, Beautiful Beast, Dallas
Juliana Leite – Special Projects & Creartive Content VP, Africa, Sao Paulo
Joao Braga – ex CCO, Wunderman Thompson, Sydney
Erica Roberts – CCO, BBH, New York
Chris Smith – Co-Founder/Principal/CCO, Plot Twist Creativity, Dallas
Unlike many award shows, there’s no pre-judging at the LIAs. That means jury members get to independently hear and judge every single entry, on site. In our case, that meant hearing over 160 spots and case studies, and reading a lot of well-written supporting material.
The first thing I noticed (aside from sitting within peg-leg jumping distance of the pool) was the prominence of AI driven executions. There were lots of ideas based around recreating the voice of a deceased person. Sure, the technology and effort to bring them to life is commendable, and no doubt would’ve taken a lot of stake-holder management, hoop-jumping and finesse. But many of them felt like an exercise in tapping into tech rather than the listener.
The second thing that struck me… no Aldi entries from Australia!?
After two days of Yes/No In/Out voting, we’d whittled the entries down to 70 or so. The next round of voting required us all to give these spots a score from 1 – 10. This got the final pool of entries – the ones where we’d decide metal – down further. And it was at this point we all made our way into a well-appointed conference room with an appropriately semi-circular lounge to discuss and re-watch/listen to each entry as a group. Oriel and Terry Savage (Chairman of the LIAs) gave us a reminder of what we were looking for and off we went.
A show of hands to indicate if a piece was worthy of Gold, Silver, Bronze, Finalist or Out determined who won what, but not before a seasoned amount of discussion on each entry. This is where things got really interesting, in a great way. Opinions were shared, along with any background or cultural insight the jury could offer. And unlike some other shows, the insidious presence of network and country politics were absent. I’d heard this about the LIAs numerous times before coming to Vegas, and I heard it reiterated again by many jurors across all juries while I was here. It was clearly something that everyone appreciated and enjoyed – judge the work on its merits, not from where it came from.
Being on this side of the fence, I can say that each and every winner, regardless of the award given, was subject to a lot of debate and scrutiny. Some entries were re-voted on. Some went up, some went down. But everything was given the full attention, thought and discussion of a room of passionate radio and audio junkies.
As for the entries that stood out most for me, or those that just made me fall in love with the medium all over again, these are all worth a listen. Maybe grab a nice comfy seat outside and your noise-cancellers.
“Dr Rick Will See You Now” – Progressive Insurance
An audiobook of Dr. Rick’s best-selling physical book on Parentamorphosis, a term used to describe young homeowners who start turning into their parents when they buy their first home. The writing on this is next level. Not a word or sentence wasted to create a laugh out loud guide on how to not become your parents. Hard enough in a 30 second spot. Ridiculously difficult for a 30+ minute audio guide.
“Comma”, “Ellipsis”, “Em Dash” – Kit Kat
Wunderman Thompson, Philippines
A brilliantly crafted campaign that visualises the role of underappreciated characters of punctuation. Another win for the beauty of painfully well-written copy.
From the casting, perfect performance, scripting and the use of breath (“breathe in, breathe out”), this is a masterclass in the sum of the parts working to create a story that builds and releases perfectly. ‘Boss Face Sticker’ was the standout.
“Dreamcaster” – Michelob ULTRA
FCB, New York
Michelob are making a name for themselves when it comes to creating big, unimaginable, inspiring content stories made possible by ground-breaking tech. Following up their McEnroe Vs McEnroe achievement, ‘Dreamcaster’ grants the wish of a blind, basketball mad fan to become a legitimate game announcer through the use of a bespoke audio language and speaker system to ‘see’ the game in real time.
“I See Coke” – Coca-Cola
VMLY&R Commerce, New York
A devilishly simple promotional campaign that uses smart-speaker technology while watching a movie or TV show. More than a great bit of commerce powered by audio, there’s also some lovely writing here that elevates the craft and builds brand love.
“Worth Every Try” – Burger King
DAVID, New York
If memory serves, this received a unanimous 11 votes for a Gold. DAVID have created a new template for doing on-air giveaways. It’s something that could’ve worked for any fast-food brand’s product, but the tone of this is 100% Burger King – entertaining, irreverent, and clever. You’ll wish it was longer than 80 seconds, too. The longer it goes, the more bonkers it gets.
“McDonald’s Jingle Board” – McDonald’s
Scholz & Friends, Berlin
Maybe the biggest brain-bender of the entries. For the most part, the ‘audio’ in this spot is what you create inside your head. OOH posters displayed the musical notation of the McDonald’s jingle outside of classical concert halls across Germany, along with the direction and distance to the nearest restaurant. No logo. Anyone musical could read the notation, hum the tune and work it out. After the initial launch, and for those less musically inclined, the audio sting played whenever a viewer was close by.
Such a simple idea that blew the lid off what constitutes audio – hearing something without actually hearing something. We were lovin’ it.