Kathleen Gordon gives an insider’s look at what the Bernbach Awards mean to DDB Worldwide


Judging our work by a higher standard

The Bill Bernbach Award has long been our network’s highest honor. It is given to the most creative idea of the year, the idea that best exemplifies the creative philosophy and principles on which our company was founded. Right after the big network merger and creation of Omnicom in 1986, Keith Reinhard began our creative awards as a way to review work from around the world and to remind us that creativity will always be the heart of DDB.

In the early years of the agency, there was only one opinion of the work that truly mattered – Bill Bernbach’s. No industry award could compare. Teams worked tirelessly, hoping to come up with an idea that would make Bill smile. If he liked it, they knew they had a winner. Our internal creative awards have continued to evolve over the years as we took Bill’s vision forward, but his ideals remain central to how we judge our work.

This year we were honored to have Bob Scarpelli, our former Chairman and Chief Creative Officer, as jury President. Bob formed the first jury for the awards during his tenure; and that jury process continues to inspire and instill the teamwork needed to live up our creative legacy. During the judging there is always a lot of discussion and debate. It is a scene much like any family that gets together during the holidays. We are certainly our toughest critics.

As in recent years, all winners from the top regional and global shows of the year are judged along with wildcard submissions from around the network. The goal for the jury is to view them through Bill’s eyes. We’ve formulated the criteria as the following: the power of the idea, the execution, relevance to the product and to people’s lives, and finally, its positive influence on society.

From over 300 pieces of work, 79 nominations were chosen across 14 media categories. The top winners in each category were selected and then, from among that group, the Grand Prix was awarded. This year’s best of show may come off as no surprise, but it was not a total given. The Harvey Nichols “Sorry I Spent It On Myself” campaign from adam&eveDDB has pulled in a long list of awards this year from every major show, and it measured up to Bernbach’s standards.

The Bernbach Awards is for us a constant reminder of what it means to be DDB. They show us how far we’ve come, where we need to go and on what we will focus in the year ahead.