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Treating Patients and Judging Award Shows – Not so Different

When I was at the Cannes Lions Health & Wellness International Festival of Creativity two summers ago, I attended a session aptly called “How to Win a Lion.” It was there that I realized that award show judges are a lot like doctors.

According to a survey by Statista, doctors on average see about 20 patients a day. That’s thousands of patients a year, each with multiple symptoms, a unique medical history and their own set of concerns. Though they may have a common condition that they share with millions of others, each patient wants to be seen and treated as the individual that they are.

Similarly, a judge who’s a regular on the award show circuit can be exposed to thousands of entries. In fact, judges at the Cannes Lions Health & Wellness are given only a few days to review about 40,000 entries. I can absolutely guarantee that there are not 40,000 unique submissions. I know – I’ve been in the judge’s seat before.

Award show submissions are a species unto themselves. They share a formulaic physiology. You know the one: problem, solution, results. After a while, they start to sound the same, look the same, suffer from similar strains of hype and hyperbole. But you give each one your full attention, and you treat them as individuals, setting aside your prejudices and cynicism to become an empathetic listener. It is, after all, your job. Or at least your side hustle. And a pretty important one at that.

You see, award shows are the lifeblood of creativity. They push the entire industry to have better ideas and to find better ways to engage customers. We owe it to our clients to be as creative as possible in order to help them grab onto this holy grail of brand goals. As creatives, we also owe it to our agencies to continually push for better. Not just to feed our award-hungry egos, but to help fill the talent pipeline. Awards help agencies recruit and retain the best talent. Which means when a client asks if they are getting the best people on their brand you can answer with an emphatic YES.

So while I’m not a doctor, I have played a judge before and, as such, I have a request: Take better care of yourself. Drink less. Eat better. Exercise more. Because no matter what your role is, we need you here, alive and well, to help push the industry to be better, to be more creative, and to help tell stories that truly move hearts and minds.

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