Why It’s Aces High for London International Awards’ Sin City Event
“What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” I lean over to DDB Latina’s Juan Carlos Ortiz with a conspiratorial cliché. “Ah,” he rejoins, “but what happens on Instagram stays on Google… for ever!” Yes, it’s that time of year when the world’s top creatives get together in Sin City to judge the London International Awards (LIA). Loose lips sink ships and, no, I won’t be adding any more goss than you can glean from the social media over-sharers. (Who, you might wonder, has been dubbed the ‘new Jeremy Craigen?’ I ain’t saying nothing.)
But for an advertising event held amidst the pumping music, searing lights, mind-boggling luxury of Las Vegas, LIA judging week and its concurrent Creative Liaisons conference is a surprisingly – and refreshingly – intimate and civilised affair.
The judges, carefully selected from agencies, production companies, music houses and brands, forge unbreakable bonds as they weather the surrealism of the city together. Awkward handshakes on day one quickly make way for warmth and openness. From the juries currently underway, the impression is that this year’s work has been of an impressive and consistently high quality, overall.
As I write, judging is in full flow but the Creative LIAisons event, in which over 80 young creatives from all over the world fly in to hear industry leaders speak and to observe the judging in action, is yet to kick off. The Creative LIAisons is a unique project that gives the next generation of advertising super stars an opportunity to get up close and personal with the best in the business and find out what really happens in a jury room. After all, who wouldn’t up their creative game after witnessing the ruthless rigours of the judging process, watching the forensic analysis that separates the fine from the fantastic?
Having managed to talk my way into a couple of the judging sessions, I can vouch for the unparalleled educational value (of which, more to follow). I’ve also been taking advantage of the situation to brush up on the various international markets I’ve got my eye on right now. Cheil’s Kate Hyewon Oh gives me the lowdown on South Korea’s chaebol-owned agencies and how they’re trying to change. Various German attendees talk me through the surprising changes in fortune for the country’s most creative agencies. And I get a fascinating multi-national breakdown of the VW emissions scandal from China, Japan, France and – of course – Germany (which largely amounts to a feeling of wry anticipation from Japanese car brands and their agencies and a head-in-hands ‘mein gott!’ from VW’s homeland).
These days, the trend for advertising industry get-togethers and conferences is one of ever-increasing scale, so the personal approach and scale of the LIAs week shows, I think, quite a bit of gumption and conviction. What’s more, with the Creative LIAisons, which sees the awards body fund the world’s most exciting young creatives to attend the event and get involved, the whole week feels exclusive without being exclusionary. It’s a tough balance to strike.
So while, yes, the Vegas setting does allow for plenty of silliness and hijinks (come on guys, this is advertising), there’s so much learning going on that I do hope that not *everything* that happens in Vegas stays here.