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

While a lot of the annual advertising awards show 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.

This time we talk with Scott Rose, Executive Director of New York Festivals Advertising Awards.


How did you conduct your awards this year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic?

The Government Lockdown happened while we were in the last few days of our entry period and just beginning our online Grand Jury judging session. The only change we had to make was how to facilitate the Executive Jury round.

Traditionally, our Executive Jury Members fly into NYC from around the globe and stay in a hotel for a very intense, but fun five days. They sit together and view all of the shortlisted work and then discuss and score it on a proprietary app that we have been honing and iterating for the last nine years. It’s an incredibly close, collaborative experience where they’re socializing and bonding over their discussion of “the work”.

Scott Rose


Obviously, we wouldn’t have been able to hold this event once the lockdown started, but in early-March, with the hotel, the flights, the vendors, and the extra-curricular activities booked, both NYF and the EJ’s were looking forward to a real shin-dig. Luckily, our CEO, Ellen Smyth, had her finger on the pulse of what was going on, even when the news and the government were sending mixed messages. She made the right call, at exactly the right time, to pivot.

We canceled the live EJ and engaged with our developers to quickly rebuild our entry system to allow for our EJ to score remotely while having their discussions over Slack and Zoom (How many times a day do you say those words?!).

​Although it lacked some of the camaraderie and incredible energy that comes with a room full of International top Creatives, the Executive Jury made the absolute best of it and honored their commitment to the craft and the advertising community, by giving their full attention and expertise in an incredibly disorienting, stressful time.

Tell us about the decision to continue with the awards despite social-distancing policies?

Once we realized it was possible to hold our Executive Jury session remotely while keeping the integrity of the judging, we knew it was the right thing to do. Companies and Creatives had worked incredibly hard to create great work, our Grand Jury had started casting their votes and our Executive Jury believed it was the right to honor the work, so we knew we had to see it through.

​”Although it lacked some of the camaraderie and incredible energy that comes with a room full of International top Creatives, the Executive Jury made the absolute best of it and honored their commitment to the craft.”

How did entries compare with the previous year?

We had a great year. The work was strong, and the scoring was tight, but just like any year, there are those true fog cutters which bring it all home.

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

I​​t was so early into the lockdown when everyone was trying to wrap their heads around working from home, let alone dealing with the complex mix of fear and anxiety we’re all swimming in, that I think it was difficult for them, but also a welcome relief and distraction. We only got positive feedback on the experience. In these times, honoring someone else’s hard work and dedication seemed to have just that much more meaning to it.

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

Pros: Seeing how the advertising community came together to honor the creativity of others.

Cons: After the heartache of seeing so many fall ill or worse, I think it’s pretty much the same as the biggest Con to this pandemic. ​Not being able to be together. As a company, as the facilitators to new friendships at the EJ, to seeing the smiling faces up on the stage during the award show.

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

I hope this is not a trend for NYFA. I think the size and scope of it, the incredible amount of countries that enter, those things warrant representatives from the international community coming together. There’s an energy to someone advocating for work they truly believe in that just can’t be translated through a computer screen. A live EJ is for talking shop, making friends, and forcing you to see things through a different lens, which in the end can only be beneficial for the community.

That being said, I think we’re incredibly blessed to have this technology. Our EJ adapted to the situation and had great back-and-forth and we’re proud of the results. So, for some of our more specialized competitions, where it might not be feasible for someone to take five days away from their client work to come New York, I think we’ve built a structure and playbook that allows us to always honor “the work”, which if you haven’t picked up on by how many times I’ve mentioned it, is what we at NYF are truly about, honoring “the work”.