Moving Ad Awards Shows Online During COVID-19, How’s it Going? – AME Awards

Moving Ad Awards Shows Online During COVID-19, How’s it Going? – AME Awards

An ongoing series that talks to ad awards shows that opted to move everything online rather than canceling during COVID-19.

By Bobby McGill - Jun 5, 2020

While a lot of the annual advertising awards show have decided to cancel this year amid the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, many have opted to instead move the entire operation online.

As part of an ongoing series, we thought it would be interesting to ask them to share with our readers the experience of running everything online for the first time.

First up we talk with Gayle Seminara Mandel, Executive Director of the New York Festivals AME Awards.


How did AME conduct its awards this year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic?

AME and the other New York Festivals were still receiving entries and prepping to begin judging by the time the COVID-19 pandemic began moving rapidly throughout the world. 

The updates that AME made were primarily based on providing agency teams who were now working from home extra time to prepare their case videos and once judging started allowing judges additional days within rounds. 

Tell us about the decision to continue with the awards in the era of social-distancing policies?

As the pandemic was migrating all of us at NYF’s AME Awards were focused on the mission at hand, recognizing great work and honoring the innovative women & men who create it. New York Festivals had an obligation that we were happy to fulfill.  We continued with the cycle of the competition by extending the entry period and then rolled out the judging sessions.


As the virus was in full swing in China and Asia, we were in contact with colleagues/judges within that region continually monitoring the situation. All of us at NYF and AME were very concerned about the severity of the Covid-19 and its rapid movement throughout Asia.  Our CEO was monitoring global markets as NYF’s Advertising Awards brings in global CCO’s to judge live in NYC, so that was of course a concern when we began to hear that judges from APAC were not being allowed to travel. 

“Judging took slightly longer this year as jury panels required more time to judge due to increased workflow, supervising teams remotely and brand messaging pivoting as the virus expanded.”

When the virus began spreading into Europe, AME was beginning to wrap up the already extended entry period and preparing to begin the first round of judging. The concern was would the jury have the time in their schedules to carry on with their judging duties as many regions and countries were experiencing different degrees of sheltering at home.

By the time the pandemic exploded within Europe and then the US, we knew we would continue the competition, great work was entered, and the Grand Jury was still on board to judge.  NYF’s CEO Ellen Smyth and all of us at NYF were determined, there was never a doubt that we would continue and honor the work. 

How did entries compare with the previous year?

AME was up 21% this year and there was excellent work submitted. 

There were a few factors that contributed to the uptick. First AME’s international jury are very respected within their regions and globally. We were thrilled that they were committed to the competition, Second, AME received impressive results-driven work from both agencies and brands, and Third, the timing of the competition entry period for the most part fell between the virus engulfing the world. 

Gayle Seminara Mandel

We were fortunate that AME opened later in 2019. well before the pandemic was in full swing. Entrants from APAC were still entering AME in December and surprisingly also continued to enter in January 2020. Europe and US entrants had submitted work before those regions were strongly affected. 

What was the reaction of the jury members to participating remotely?

AME Grand Jury judges online, however, Covid-19 affected the amount of time that judges had available.  Even though the jury was getting up to speed working from home, juggling meetings on video conferencing platforms and working with clients, despite limited free time, they gave judging their all. AME’s 5 regional juries were dedicated to the judging process and came through, they meticulously reviewed briefs, viewed case videos, and examined creative assets to determine which entries would move on to the medal round and earn trophies. 

Judging took slightly longer this year as jury panels required more time to judge due to increased workflow, supervising teams remotely and brand messaging pivoting as the virus expanded.  

What were some of the biggest pros and cons of conducting an award show?

Pros: Honoring brilliant strategic work and hearing from the jury how they enjoyed the process.  It is gratifying to hear from the entrants how happy they are about the news that their creativity has advanced onto the next round.  

Cons: With so many people in the world tragically affected by this virus both health-wise and with furloughs, layoffs and reduced work flow, it is heartbreaking how this virus has unbiasedly cut a destructive swath throughout the industry and world on so many levels. 

What was something that you particularly liked about doing it this way?

I was impressed (and super grateful) with the commitment of AME’s Grand Jury, who continued to participate whole-heartedly. AME global entrants submitted impressive work and we wanted to carry and honor those entrants; the jury made this possible even in the face of a global pandemic. 

Do you think this could be a trend for future awards shows?

Great question. Competitions with live executive juries would most likely prefer to meet, to discuss the work via lively discussion about the work with their peers. As in the case of NYF’s Advertising Awards, the value-added is the connection with leaders who like themselves run multiple offices, allowing time for connection and conversation. 

The trend would not affect the AME Awards as AME’s 5 regional juries vote online within their region for 2 rounds allowing entries to be judged with global knowledge, perspective from the industry and attention to cultural relevance. For the third and final round, the 5 regional juries vote together online to choose Regional Platinum Awards and the Best of Show from the top-scoring Golds.


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