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Judges 'Separate the Good From the Great'

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LOS ANGELES Advertising professionals from across the country passed judgment on a record number of Southern California entries at the 38th annual Belding Awards.

"I was impressed to see great work that didn't follow the same template," said Forrest Healy, vice president and associate creative director at Interpublic Group's Sedgwick Rd., Seattle. "I love goofy humor as much as anybody, but it's nice to see that you don't always have to go for the gag." Healy said that the show contained "a lot of nice work overall." He added "if the show book seems thin, it's because the competition was very stiff."

Andrew Keller, vice president and creative director at MDC Partners' Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Miami, was struck by the "national and international presence of the work coming out of the region." He added, "It's great quality. It feels bigger than work out of other regions. It feels honest and grand, very branded and upfront. It's also very shiny." Keller cited new media innovation beginning to appear and noted a "continued evolution toward big international campaigns that are visual, simple and emotional."

"I thought the best work in L.A. was as good as anything anywhere in the country," said Vinny Warren, creative director at Omnicom's DDB Chicago, "and probably better overall than, say, Chicago, where I work." Though Warren was "disappointed" to not see more new uses of media, he lauded the comedic approaches.

"I saw very few 'I'm trying to win an award' fake ads," said Healy. "The best work, the work that won, tried to solve real problems for real clients."

Other judges included Paul Asao, co-founder and principal of independent Thinktopia, Minneapolis; Kevin Dailor, senior art director at Havas' Arnold Worldwide, Boston; and Andy Hirsch, partner and executive creative director, Omnicom's Merkley + Partners, New York. David Hopson, chief creative officer at Publicis' Sanchez & Levitan, Dallas, and Max Lefeld, creative director at Ornelas and Associates, Dallas, judged the Hispanic categories.

Belding Awards chairman Rob Schwartz, executive creative director at Omnicom's TBWA\Chiat\Day, Playa del Rey, Calif., commended the judges in "separating the good from the great. That's been a hallmark of the show."

Schwartz said he meant to elevate the visibility of the show this year. "Our ambitions were lofty, to elevate the show itself and elevate the bowl," he said. "There's no shortage of award shows in our business, but what's important for me is that it is a California show. The motivation to do the show was to remind people that California is an epicenter of creativity and, oh, by the way, we've got major clients in this town."