Reflecting on Winning Best in Show at the 2017 ADDY Awards

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  • 3/15/2017
    It’s been three weeks since thunder::tech won the “Best in Show” award at the 2017 ADDY Awards. It was quite a thrill to win that night (I may have stood on my chair and waved my arms like I was in a Rocky training montage), but it’s been even more interesting to step back and reflect on what this win really signifies for thunder::tech. 

    It’s a validation of our work, of course. There was never any question in my mind that the incredibly talented people I work with on a daily basis can and do produce some of the most creative, engaging and kickass-yist work anywhere. But it’s still nice to be recognized by your peers. We work in extremely creative and competitive markets—to have a jury of fellow creatives pick one of our projects out of the hundreds of projects that were submitted to the 2017 ADDY awards as the singular best is incredibly rewarding.

    It also reinforces something I tell my team all the time, excellence is a habit. You can’t pick and choose which projects you go all out on and which you just push through the pipe. That kind of attitude leads to uneven and uninspired work. You have to treat each and every single project as a “front of the portfolio” piece.

    Which leads me to the project for which we won, The Chef’s Garden website. The Chef’s Garden brand story is inspiring, the internal team was amazing to work with, and it was a joy to bring the brand to life online. I am incredibly proud of the work.

    And I’m completely shocked that it won.

    Not that I don’t think it’s a great website, because it is. I’m shocked because when you look at award shows you find that websites, as a rule, don’t win. And B2B websites certainly don’t win.

    What typically wins are sexy poster series or emotional PSA commercials or clever social media campaigns. In fact, those sorts of executions were all recognized at this year’s ADDYs, too. But B2B tends to be the overlooked workhorse of branding. Reliable, hard-working and forgettable.

    [Photo by the American Advertising Federation Cleveland Facebook page]

    Not this year.

    So how did a B2B e-commerce website manage to win the top prize? First, the work is top-notch. Every team at thunder::tech touched this website build in some fashion and put their all into it. Everything from the navigational hierarchy to the visual design to the coding that makes it work behind the scenes was carefully considered and executed.

    But what we’re really seeing, in my way of thinking, is a sign of the new normal in marketing. “Integrated” is more than the advertising buzzword du jour, it’s the foundational aspect of how brands connect with their customers. The days of brands pushing out a couple of expensive TV commercials to raise awareness and then sitting back to rake in the sales are long past. Today’s brands require truly integrated marketing that connects with customers where they are and in the manner they want. This might be TV but it’s also social media, email, in-store, radio, online, direct mail and a dozen other touchpoints. Brand websites sit in the center of this integrated web and connect all of these disparate elements together into a seamless whole.

    The Chef’s Garden website isn’t a brochureware site where you can also order a couple Okinawa sweet potatoes (you should try them, they’re crazy-good), it is a critical component to the business. It has to look amazing and function even better not to win awards, but to assure that the company continues to thrive and grow.

    The fact that it did win is icing on the cake.

    Now that we’re the defending creative champions, we will continue to up our game and push to achieve the most creative, most impactful and most functional work that we can. Not to win additional Lucite trophies to decorate our lobby, but because our clients deserve nothing less.
    About the author:: Craig Israel is the Creative Director at thunder::tech. He steers creative strategy for the agency and leads a team of rock stars who regularly create crazy beautiful and stupid impactful work. Taller than average.
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