(Since we’re knee-deep in award season, it seemed like a good time to ask GCD Jenny Nicholson to give us her take on judging the ADC Awards earlier this year.)

I’ve always imagined the award show jury room as this mythical place where wise sages gather and, using a rubric far beyond m understanding, determine our creative fates.

The sages must have been busy this year, because the One Club invited me to join the ADC Awards advertising jury.

And now I’m going to pay it forward by telling you everything I learned in there.

First off, yes judging was in the Dominican Republic. Yes, it was beautiful. Yes, I spent one glorious late afternoon on the beach. But for most of the time, we sat in a conference room and watched case study videos. If you’re lucky enough to judge next year, pack a bathing suit, but also a sweater. It gets cold in there. And if you know someone who judged and they tell you it was a ton of work, try not to roll your eyes and say “SURREEE it was.” (At least pick one or the other. I mean, it was hard work, but hard work in a tropical location doesn’t exactly suck.)

A word about producing case study videos: Whether you hate doing it or really hate doing it, you need to get great at it. (At least until we figure out a better way to showcase work.) In the course of prejudging, I watched hundreds of them back-to-back. My advice as you craft entries for next year: Find the video for every shortlisted entry in 2018. String them all into one big playlist. Let that run for seven straight hours. While you watch, think about how your story will stand out. Here’s a hint: Don’t tell me what the idea was. Make me feel it. Make me laugh, make me cry, make me jealous. Make me think about something other than the fact that my butt is numb. Please.

Judging gave me a new appreciation for print. And posters. And direct mail. As someone who leans digital, I was impressed by the amazing work still being done in that world. There was also something refreshingly pure about the experience of judging it. The work had to speak for itself, without the benefit of a two-minute video telling me what to think about it.

It was my first time judging and I wanted to get it right. (I like getting things right.) But I was happy to discover that the rest of the jurors took it seriously, too — even the ones who’ve done it a dozen times. It’s a bit easier to submit my creative babies now that I know people are judging them with care. (Not gonna lie, though: It still hurts when they don’t get the love I think they should. It’s okay, sweet concepts. You’ll always be pretty to mama.)

We often discussed the fact that every award we gave also made a statement about what we value. As we deliberated, people asked questions like, “Will this move the industry forward?” and “Does this inspire us to be braver?” It was deeper than I anticipated — in a good way.

Judging was an eye-opening experience. But, in the end, there was nothing magical about it. No wise sages. No inscrutable rubric. Just a ton of great work and a bunch of people in a conference room, trying our best to decide what was best.