By Nicole Melville

The text read, “I recommended you to be an ADDYs judge in St. Louis this year.” Designer extraordinaire, Joseph Hughes, had judged the year before. For years we have been fans and supporters of one another’s work. I was honored that he thought of me. “Awesome, thank you!” I replied. A couple of days later I received an email from Liz Brenden, ADDYs Co-Chair for Ad Club STL officially inviting me to be a judge. I had attended plenty of ADDYs (now referred to as the American Advertising Awards) and have even won a few myself, but judging would be a whole new undertaking.

I hadn’t visited St. Louis since high school, so I was looking forward to getting back to the “Gateway to the West.” Not that I would have time to explore the city. Upon arriving, I was greeted with a killer judge swag bag in my hotel room, along with a full itinerary. Don’t get it twisted — judging the ADDYs is a long working weekend. So long that they sent us a list of websites to judge ahead of time to assure we had time to review everything thoroughly. Luckily, Liz, her Co-Chair, Kristy “Tucc” Tucciarone and Sierra Thompson, the Executive Director, ran everything like a well-oiled machine. We judges didn’t have to think about a thing. In fact, they made us feel like true VIPs.

I met my fellow judges — Adam VonOhlen, SVP/Creative Director for twoxfour, Ken Spera, Chief Creative Officer for Santy, and Scott King, Writer/ACD for Young & Laramore. I was in very good company, to say the least. Liz mentioned that I was the first woman judge she had seen in her five years with the Ad Club. I felt so proud. I may have been missing the 10,000+ person strong Women’s March that weekend, but I was furthering representation in my own right.

The work was impressive and expansive. At first, it was overwhelming even though the scoring system was very simple. By midday, I had found my bearings and was judging like a pro. The work was divided up into manageable categories. First, TV spots/videos, then print and digital, followed by radio, then print/experiential, and so on. In between judging, our gracious hosts, Anheiser-Busch HQ, provided us with breakfast, lunch, snacks and beverages that would rival some of the best craft services.

Reviewing so many pieces of work gave me new and valuable insight into awards shows. I now understand more clearly what type of work I should enter, and I’m more cognizant of selecting the proper categories.

As a professor at Lindwood University, “Tucc” saw an opportunity to get her students involved in this incredible event. Judges were paired with a student and we walked them through our thinking process as we evaluated the submissions. This ended up being one of my favorite parts of the whole experience. I have had a lot of mentors who helped me along the way, and I am more than happy to do anything I can do to give back to the next generation of creatives.

I am grateful to Joseph, the Ad Club STL crew, and my fellow judges for the opportunity to participate in this experience. I felt invigorated after seeing all the astonishing work coming out of St. Louis and was ready to create some award-winning work upon arriving back in Cheyenne. Judging the ADDYs gave me wings.