BITE Focus

It is possible to raise the bar: Gerety Awards 2020

With women’s careers disproportionately affected by the ongoing crisis, a panel of Gerety Awards judges highlight the importance of creating space for different voices to thrive.

Izzy Ashton

Deputy Editor, BITE Creativebrief


In a world as polarised and unsettled as the one we live in today, examining the lens through which creativity is viewed has never been more important. Long since solely occupied by middle-aged white men, the gaze is shifting, moving to accommodate the world as we know it, filled with difference, of opinion, ethnicity, ability and gender.

It is this last point that is the focus of the Gerety Awards, named for the copywriter Frances Gerety who in 1948 coined the term, “a diamond is forever.” The awards are designed to reframe the way we both see and reward creative excellence, operating with a 100% female jury panel of 150 judges from 10 different countries.

While it has been shown that 80% of all purchasing decisions globally are made by women, for too long award juries have been dominated by the advertising stereotype rather than the market reality. The Gerety Awards aims to redefine the standard to which advertising has traditionally been held.

As Jo Wallace so said, this is “particularly poignant right now as women’s careers are disproportionately affected by the current crisis.” Wallace, who is Creative Director of WundermanThompson and one of this year’s Gerety jury ambassadors, was speaking to Nicola Kemp as part of an event run in collaboration with Creativebrief. Joining her on the panel were Shelina Janmohamed, Vice-President of Islamic Marketing at Ogilvy, Loriley Sessions, Creative at New Commercial Arts and Polina Zabrodskaya, Creative Director at AMV BBDO.

Women supporting women is our survival mode.

Polina Zabrodskaya

The female gaze

Wallace is quick to point out that, “a good idea is still a good idea,” when it comes to judging work. But, she adds, “there is an element of nuance to what appeals to different headsets.” When viewed through a gaze that differs from the stereotype, different takeaways will emerge, and new priorities will be drawn out. This leads to pieces of work being recognised and awarded that might not otherwise be seen.

“Diverse opinions are so important because that’s who are audience are,” said Loriley Sessions as she spoke of how privileged she felt to be part of the judging panel. She believes that Gerety are demonstrating through pulling together a 100% female jury that it can’t be that hard to create one that is 50/50.

For Polina Zabrodskaya, she sees the opportunity to judge as a huge career boost, one many women are not often afforded. As she says of the Gerety jury set up, “women supporting women is our survival mode.” Kemp agrees, pointing out the power of saying yes to judging enables a collective to be built up; a supportive network within which you can thrive.

For Shelina Janmohamed, the judging experience was a “chance to see how different people see the world.” She shared her feelings of optimism around the power of creativity to help shift the dial when it comes to representation. But this representation, she feels, needs to extend beyond being depicted in the ad campaigns into the opinions shared across the industry. “Opinion-shapers are just as important as people creating ideas,” she explains.

The power of the work

For Wallace, when judging it still comes back to that “visceral feeling. Ultimately it’s about the power of the work and the impact of it.” She spoke of the importance of the healthy discussion that judging encourages because it is through that that everyone can learn and understand differing experiences and mindsets.

Zabrodskaya agrees and points out that she was surprised by the sheer cultural spread of the work, something Sessions echoed when she said that “different countries have different cultures and insights and problems to solve.” Many entries were pieces that members of the jury had never seen before, work that perhaps would not have been entered into the larger award shows due to the high fees involved in applying. “I felt puzzled sometimes which is a good thing when you’re judging,” she smiles.

Janmohamed reveals that some of the entries, “completely blew me away and left me thinking about them for a long time.” It was the simple ideas executed brilliantly that she felt were the ones worth awarding, the ones that “reimagined the world but [were] executed perfectly.”

It’s refreshing when you judge work because it opens up your world again.

Jo Wallace

Always say yes

Every judge was adamant in their advice: if asked to judge, always at least attempt to say yes. See it as a privilege to do so. As Wallace said, “it’s refreshing when you judge work because it opens up your world again.” Sessions agrees and says she’s used her first judging experience as a moment to have her voice heard, to step up and share her opinion in the knowledge that “there is no right or wrong.”

Zabrodskaya believes that the process of judging makes a better creative and a better teammate. “It teaches you to be more humble in your own opinions,” she adds, pointing out that it enables you, even when you don’t necessarily like an idea, to appreciate the craft behind it. As Kemp added, judging is a “workout for your creative mind, an exercise in creative self-awareness.”

Janmohamed says it was an overwhelming feeling to be asked to judge, a role she took on, she says, because she saw herself as “playing a part in the advancing of diverse opinion.” She spoke of the importance of suppressing imposter syndrome because judging, she feels, is an “important experience for your own self development.” There is, she believes, a selfish element of judging that everyone asked should embrace, that it “helps you to have a point of view on the world.”

Have an opinion

Sessions emphasises that balance when it comes to juries is essential; “Gerety just shows there are great women out there,” she adds. No longer is it acceptable for event organises to bemoan that they asked all the women, and no one was free. Wallace sighs as she reveals that, after 20 years in the industry, she is “sick and tired of hearing talk about [representation of women] and no action.”

“It suits people to talk about it but it’s a different need to action it,” she adds. Janmohamed says that while the challenge stems from actually making change happen, it also appears in the next step when people ask, “what does it look like when you’re more inclusive?”

For Sessions, when it comes to judging as in life, her advice is to “speak with confidence and the rest will follow.” Zabrodskaya echoes that offering, as she says, with a Russian take: “Don’t take any shit, and be direct about what you want and what matters.” For Janmohamed, it’s vital to have an opinion because “that puts a stake in the ground,” and is a reminder that your voice matters.

Because that is why Gerety exists; to remind the industry that there are voices out there that are not being heard. There is a wealth of diverse opinion that the industry is missing out on purely because it is still paying homage to a decidedly outdated stereotype. As Kemp concluded, Gerety proves that “it is possible to raise the bar.”


Tune it to the dedicated Creativebrief page to watch the full event