LIA Awards – Verbal Identity Debuts!

By Laurel Sutton

October 14, 2016

LIA Awards 2016Although the LIA has been rewarding excellence in advertising for 20 years, 2016 was the first year that Verbal Identity was added to the judging categories. I was honored to be selected as one of six jurors, along with Ben Zimmer (WSJ columnist), Rachel Bernard (CBX), Steve Martin (Eat Creative), Sean Doyle (Panic), and Chris West (Verbal Identity Ltd.), our fearless leader. This exceptionally intelligent, insightful, charming, and funny group (present company excepted) was tasked with choosing the best work in the following categories: Tagline/Endline, Naming, Tone of Voice, and Use of Copywriting.

We had two days to evaluate the work, which was submitted by agencies from countries around the world. Because it was the first year for Verbal Identity, we received fewer entries than some of the other juries did, but we expect that to change in future. But we got plenty of great work!

We had a lovely meeting room all to ourselves at the fabulous Wynn Encore in Las Vegas, and were well-supplied with coffee as well as lunches on the patio. Maria Corpuz, Ben’s wife (who came with him to celebrate their wedding anniversary, and who helped make our dinners delightful) generously did donut runs for us on Monday and Tuesday to the Donut Bar (see photo). Variety of DonutsSo what did we do with all that sugar and caffeine? We worked!

On Monday we individually reviewed all the work submitted in each category and assigned a number (1-10 scale) to each piece. This was just to get a reading on our impressions and give us a rough ranking for the Tuesday discussion. We looked at videos, jpgs, PDFs, printouts, websites, and in some cases, actual products. Personally, I found the Tone of Voice and Use of Copywriting categories the hardest; I had pretty definite instincts on the names and taglines, but I had to approach the copywriting categories more as a consumer than as an expert. And I think the copywriters in our group felt the same about the names. Still, we finished our task for the day and went out for dinner at the Beauty & Essex – which you need to enter through a “secret door” (note: not actually secret), like a speakeasy. The onion rings were outstanding.

Tuesday was the actual decision-making day, along with our panel to the young creatives from many global agencies. The panel, titled “Only Words: Is language there to fill the gaps between the pictures or a branding superhero power?” covered many topics, including name creation, luxury brand marketing, how to get yourself creatively motivated, Donald Trump, and why words are more important than ever. We got a lot of great questions from the audience – the current generation of creatives is something to be reckoned with!

Our panel spent some time defining the criteria for success in each category, which was difficult, but helped us a lot in our evaluations. What IS Tone of Voice, anyway? We decided that it’s like a character speaking: it has to be consistent, believable, and convey something about the brand essence, whether in a few words or in several pages of copy. It had to speak to us. It had to work across multiple media executions. And it had to work for the target audience.

Together, these criteria created quite a high bar – deliberately so. We wanted the inaugural year of Verbal Identity Awards to set the standard, recognizing truly excellent work; no “awards for the sake of giving out awards”. It took us hours to work our way through the entries and agree on the level of recognition; fortunately, we were allowed to award multiple Golds, Silvers, and Bronzes in each category, as well as simply recognizing some entries as Finalists. Gold, Silver and Bronze LIA AwardsWe were also given the option of awarding a Grand LIA (the black award in the photo) to any entry that we felt was “Best of the Best”.

I can’t tell you what won, but I will say that we all felt good about the final list. It will be announced on the LIA website on November 2nd.

Although the LIA has been rewarding excellence in advertising for 20 years, 2016 was the first year that Verbal Identity was added to the judging categories. I was honored to be selected as one of six jurors, along with Ben Zimmer (WSJ columnist), Rachel Bernard (CBX), Steve Martin (Eat Creative), Sean Doyle (Panic), and Chris West (Verbal Identity Ltd.), our fearless leader…

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