With Many Jurors Barred From Travel, The One Show Cancels 2020 In-Person Judging

One Club's Creative Week in May remains scheduled for now

People at the One Show reviewing materials in 2019
Members of The One Show's Design Jury review entries at last year's event in the Dominican Republic. One Club via Facebook
Headshot of David Griner

In yet another example of how quickly the concern and containment efforts around the global coronavirus outbreak have escalated in recent days, The One Show today announced it has canceled in-person judging in Puerto Rico—a decision that wasn’t even being discussed a week ago.

The decision was somewhat forced on the awards program’s organizers, as ad agency holding companies around the world clamp down on nonessential travel to avoid exposure to coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19. Those policies precluded many jurors from being able to attend the judging in San Juan, which is scheduled to take place over two weeks in March.

“Agency networks have been putting a kibosh on international travel in a number of countries,” said Kevin Swanepoel, CEO of the awards show’s parent organization, The One Club. “People were committed to going until their agencies or their countries had prevented them from traveling.”

The One Show juries will instead meet virtually via real-time conferencing to debate submissions and select winners.

A photo of Kevin Swanepoel
Kevin Swanepoel

“I don’t think this will affect the integrity of the judging process or the show, but unfortunately this year the jurors won’t be able to convene in person to discuss the work,” Swanepoel said. “The only thing lost is the real connections the judges make.”

The One Club’s Creative Week event in New York City remains scheduled for May 11-15, and Swanepoel said his team will be keeping a close eye on the virus’ spread in case it becomes necessary to cancel the event, where One Show and ADC Awards are announced.

When The One Club’s board met last Tuesday, the only plans discussed specific to coronavirus response involved canceling an international board meeting planned for Creative Week. However, within days it had become clear that concerns around COVID-19 were accelerating rapidly, and The One Club would need to respond.

“This wasn’t a conversation on Tuesday,” Swanepoel said. “By Thursday and Friday, it was a very real conversation.”

In addition to The One Show, the nonprofit One Club is also the parent organization of the ADC Awards, whose judging will largely continue as planned at The One Club’s gallery space in New York City, since many of the judges are already based in the city.

Although some of the work reviewed by One Show judges is usually available on site for the Design Jury to examine up close, One Club content and marketing vp Yash Egami said he doubts missing out on that opportunity will dramatically affect the judges’ decisions.

“The tactile nature of design will be missing, but through photography, digital images and case study films, the jury will get a clear enough understanding of the work,” Egami said. “All of the work was created digitally to begin with anyways.”

An overhead shot of the One Show gala
The One Show awards gala is not a primary source of revenue for the organization.
Photo: Margarita Corporan, courtesy of One Club

While Creative Week is one of New York’s larger events focused on the agency world, Egami said One Club is better positioned to make schedule changes than a global festival like Cannes Lions might be. While events like Cannes and SXSW generate much of their revenue through on-site sponsorships and activations, One Club is a nonprofit whose revenue is largely driven by entry fees rather than being dependent on turnout at its One Show awards gala.

“Our business does not hinge on a single night,” Egami said. “Of course it’s important, but the event itself is not everything.”

Egami said he also expects the impact of COVID-19 to cause discussions within the creative industry about the value of in-person events and how much could be accomplished digitally in the future.

“People are going to seriously question the value of some of these gatherings,” Egami said. “When you get down to it, about people’s health and safety and well-being, some of these gatherings just may not be worth it. Maybe it’s a chance for the industry to take a look at it and ask if this is the best way to do things.”

@griner david.griner@adweek.com David Griner is creative and innovation editor at Adweek and host of Adweek's podcast, "Yeah, That's Probably an Ad."