Chicago Ad Federation Announces 2016 Judges Panel Featuring 11 White Guys

By Patrick Coffee 

Today the Chicago Advertising Federation announced the details of its Chicago Advertising Awards, which will happen on March 16th in the Windy City.

The event will be an excuse to drink and network while watching some of the best recent work from agencies in the greater Chicago area and beyond, with silver and gold winners becoming “eligible for the District Competition.”

One aspect of the announcement concerned the awards show’s judges’ panel. This year, the panel consists of 11 people…all of whom happen to be white men.

They come from companies as far afield as Amazon, Mashable and BBDO China, and we have little doubt that they are each qualified to judge other peoples’ ads. We won’t list them all here because we feel sure that they did not, in fact, collectively choose themselves to represent the Chicago-area ad industry in its entirety. But you can just click on the event page for the full list.

Also: in what cannot possibly be an ironic twist, the creative sponsor of this year’s awards is Burrell Communications, one of the industry’s largest multicultural agencies.

A spokesperson for the Chicago Advertising Federation says:

“We are huge advocates for diversity, particularly within our own market. We invite our judges based on their creative qualifications in the marketplace. Last year we had a very diverse board.

It just so happened that, of all the people we extended invitations to, the ones that came back and were able to make the time commitment happened to be what we ended up with. We are very proud of our event and in the future we hope that it continues to be blue ribbon, like it is now.”

This is not the first time that the Chicago organization has taken some heat for its demographics and related jokes. One year ago, the org faced some criticism for a promo campaign with the tagline “Who Measured Up?” The ads featured a bunch of people standing in front of urinals with a faux measuring stick below. More than one of them was a women, but again…they were standing in front of urinals and fist-bumping one another over the size of their (real or imagined) penises.

addysAt the time, executive director Patrick Farrey defended the work to AdFreak, writing: “Great advertising is almost always risk-taking, if not occasionally irreverent. … Our intent was not to offend anyone, but rather to inspire the Chicago ad community to submit their best work into our long-standing, highly respected competition.”

This time, we hear that some Chicago-area women who work in advertising plan to make their feelings clear by boycotting the event.

[The featured image does not include any of the people involved because it’s a stock photo tagged “group of men.” We are kind of surprised we had to clear that up.]