Wieden + Kennedy’s Bizarre, Mysterious Call for Entries Kicks Off the 2016 Andy Awards

New spot highlights absurdity of advertising accolades

BBDO global chief creative officer David Lubars recently told Adweek the agency world has an "an unhealthy obsession" with awards. But even the most cursory glance around the industry will tell you awards shows are here to stay. If anything, they're more prominent than ever—many agencies have at least one full-time employee whose primary job is to manage the year-round application process.

Agency creatives and executives accept these events as a crucial part of the business landscape—as long as organizers deliver their kudos with a knowing smirk. This is advertising, after all.

For more than five decades, the Advertising Club of New York's International Andy Awards have recognized "the brave process of creativity" by gathering a jury of influencers to weigh in on the year's best work. The 2016 event will be chaired by Wieden + Kennedy partner and global co-executive creative director Colleen DeCourcy, and it continues the tongue-in-cheek traditions of years past with a call for entries video purporting to showcase "The Best Commercial of the Year So Far."

Who is the protagonist in this strange "commercial" whose identity is obscured by grime and the limitations of language? What literal or metaphorical role might he play in the ad industry, and how does his presence relate to the Andy Awards? W+K would rather not say.

"We're just poking fun at the clichés, the classic tricks that are worn out," DeCourcy told Adweek. "The message is: Do something new. Stop caring about the wrong things. Have some fun."

Advertising has long been an industry prone to self mockery, and this year's Andy Awards continue that tradition, even though it's not quite like other such elbow-rubbing affairs. "The Advertising Club of New York has become a kind of second home for a lot of creatives in this business," said DeCourcy. "We pick our juries, we run our process, we we meet up and work together on events for young and diverse creatives, and we give a lot of our time throughout the year thinking of ways to make this business better for us all."

DeCourcy added, "The Andys is an incredible act of collaboration. It's run by and for creative people." On that note, W+K has also created a microsite for the event that functions as an ongoing curatorial effort by agency creatives eager to show their best faces to the jury, which this year includes top creatives from such shops as BBDO, FCB, Deutsch, McCann, Anomaly, Walton Isaacson and Barton F. Graf 9000.

Best.andyawards.com promises to deliver "the perfect interactive experience," which means visitors can leave their own fingerprints on the site by embedding videos, images, GIFs or audio tracks. "This site is a pure interaction," reads the copy on the site. "It is an amorphous, intelligent being."

Gina Grillo, president and CEO of the International Andy Awards, said, "This year, we wanted to include creatives, inventors and innovators in the Andys CFE launch, sharing an entirely new platform from which people could be brave."

Beyond the Wieden + Kennedy work, this year's awards includes several firsts. The 2016 winners list will include separate categories for Typography, Art Direction and Corporate Social Responsibility, the practice in which clients turn to agencies to remind the world that the marketing game isn't just an endless search for revenue. This year, the Andys also partnered with corporate sponsor Amazon to make sure every hard-working person involved in a winning campaign could receive a 3-D printed statue.

As DeCourcy put it, "The Andy Awards isn't Advertising's Got Talent. This show is run to celebrate what we do and lovingly push each other further."

So what makes an Andy winner?

"The best litmus test is did a group of people put their skills, their reputation and their brand on the line to get to a great idea and get it made?" DeCourcy said. "That's what gets an Andy."

May the best ideas win.