The Bowery Awards first round of grand jury judging is underway. Launching a new advertising award program in the middle of a pandemic is a challenge. Why do it?
NYF caught up with David Sable, WPP senior advisor; Advertising Hall of Famer, Carol H. Williams of Carol H. Williams Advertising; and The Bowery Awards executive director, Scott Rose, to put The Bowery awards in their (well-deserved) place.
NYF: Why launch The Bowery Awards in the middle of a pandemic?
Scott Rose: As Neil Gaiman said in that famous commencement speech, “when things get tough, this is what you should do. Make good art.” Our “art” is facilitating a great competition that puts the work of talented creatives in front of a jury of their peers. In these tough times, as a small independent company, we didn’t want to sit back. With all proceeds being donated to charity, The Bowery Awards was born out of the pandemic and our desire to help creatives.
NYF: What was the inspiration for The Bowery Awards?
Scott Rose: Lauren Murray, the associate director of advertising at NYF, having come from the world of freelance artisans, brought up how that community was not only struggling but would be growing with all of the unfortunate layoffs and furloughs that were happening. She thought we should set up a competition for freelance work where it wasn’t competing in the same lanes as work done with the incredible budgets of huge companies and brands.
We are an international business, but we are New Yorkers, and we pride ourselves on that fact. Ellen Smyth, our CEO, decided that we would not only tap our network and facilitate the competition, but we would donate all proceeds to Feed The Front Lines NYC.
NYF: Why are The Bowery Awards an important way to give freelance creatives a seat at the table?
Carol H. Williams: As a creative and a leader, I have seen through the years the contribution freelance creatives bring to the table. Often, they are not recognised for their truly authentic work. Freelancers are some of the most innovative creative people. To have them at the table and acknowledge their work that often goes unnoticed is a wonderful empowering feeling.
NYF: Why are independent creatives important within the agency mix?
David Sable: Independent creatives have always been a mainstay of our business. I doubt there is an agency large or small who hasn’t or doesn’t work with freelancers. Some of the larger agencies even have an infrastructure to manage a full roster of them, specialists in specific verticals: pharma; auto; B2B; CPG; banks; service: retail…whatever. They make us powerful by giving us variable staffing power. Yet often they remain anonymous behind the scenes contributing to the wins, often the key idea but not always central to the client or industry. It’s time for us to celebrate this critical mainstay of our industry. The Creatives who don’t always see the glory but help make it shine.
NYF: How you were able to recruit such prominent jurors?
Scott Rose: We needed a name and “voice” for the competition that would encapsulate the bootstrapping, DIY aesthetic of freelancers. We racked our brains for that almost sigil-like name that would immediately tell you what you needed to know about the competition. The Bowery is NYC’s oldest street and has been home to decades of innovative, multi-disciplinary artists. Once we settled on aligning the competition with this iconic area, things started “popping” almost instantly. With top professionals from Google, Verizon, Goldman Sachs, Cardinal Health, and Jason Sosnoff, producer of multiple Robert De Niro and Al Pacino movies, among many, many more, I think we achieved our goal of putting together a world-class, multi-disciplinary jury. We have even had top CCOs reaching out asking to participate.
I would be remiss not to give a ton of credit to David Sable who has been instrumental in assembling our two world-class juries. He graciously opened his contact list and invited his legendary friends and colleagues including Carol H. Williams, Keith Reinhard, Helayne Spivak, Daisy Esposito, Martin Puris and Marvin Waldman. We’re thrilled David at the helm of the Bowery Awards executive jury.
NYF: Carol, what inspired you to lend your name to the Together for Better categories that honours campaigns that promote unity and diversity?
Carol H. Williams: Bowery is infamous for being a hotbed of creativity and culture. A place where mavericks and free thinkers met, collaborated, and developed work that would eventually escape the city streets and influence the world. Honouring that spirit, The Bowery Awards is a competition for today’s creatives working independently in the commercial landscape. Together for Better describes my journey in life.
Many organisations are good at hiring for diversity, but they have not yet figured out how to make the environment inclusive that is, create an atmosphere in which all people feel valued and respected and have access to the same opportunities. At our best, our work is a social force, we desperately need new narratives that will provide alternatives to the older, more confining narratives. These new narratives must embrace the fragmentation and change that gives us and our communities more agency, acceptance, esteem, choice, and options while helping to orient us and calling us to more fully realise the potential that we all have.
NYF: What specific criteria will you be looking for when selecting an award-winning campaign within the Together for Better categories?
Carol H. Williams:
* Empathy- fuels connection, it’s the ability to understand another perspective so well that you are “feeling with people” rather than simply feeling for them, which is sympathy, and that drives them apart.
* How are they looking at things? Is there a change to seek to understand the other person?
* Creative abilities.