The Unjaded: Noel Cottrell

Industry veterans who have “seen it all” speak on what impresses them in the jury room

In a world where every blockbuster movie is a sequel, and memes grind a 15 minutes of fame moment into a fine powder, it’s difficult to be truly new and unique. And when you work in advertising and design, the challenge to not have a ‘me too!’ concept that still resonates with audiences is a taxing struggle.This makes hitting that ever-elusive home run and earning top honors that much sweeter.

As the judging for the 2017 One Show and the ADC 96th Annual Awards unfolds in Bermuda these next several days, we will be catching up with esteemed jury members to find out what excites them after all these years, both in their careers and in the jury room.

1944_noel-cottrellNoel Cottrell
CCO, Fitzgerald & Co. Atlanta
2017 One Show Cross Platform Jury
Years in the industry: 20


How did you get your start all those years ago?

It’s funny. I didn’t even know that advertising careers even really existed. I had an English degree, and was working in London, when somebody asked me ‘have you ever thought of copywriting?’ I had no idea what that even was, so he invited me to come check out Saatchi & Saatchi. I was instantly hooked, with people walking around in Chuck Taylors and playing pinball. I thought ‘you mean people actually get paid to do this?! I’m in!’

Do you remember you first award, the first time you were recognized for your work?

Oh yes! Back in South Africa, there was something called the Ad of the Month. The ad was basically a full page print ad in the Sunday Times of my own middle finger, and the copy read something like “are road signs like these killing drivers over the holidays?’ I consider that Ad of the Month award to be my gateway drug, moving onto the Loeries, and then globally with The One Show, Cannes, ADC, D&AD and the like.

Having been in the game for such a long time, what impresses you? How do you avoid the “everything has been done before” malaise?

Well I think one of the truest maxims about working in advertising is that you never have the same day twice. There is always something new that you see, or that someone shows you, and it’s completely crazy, but it spawns something that could last a year. And with all the new technology that is constantly coming out, our industry is really accelerating from the fanciful to the possible.

If I was still doing only radio and print, like I was at the beginning of my career, I think I would’ve burned out a long time ago. The speed at which pop culture and technology are evolving keeps me forever engaged.

The flip side to the technology evolving so quickly is that it becomes harder to be truly innovative. Simple VR, where they send you a box to put your smartphone in and they show you a 360 video — that’s no longer innovative, especially up against something like McCann’s ‘Field Trip To Mars’. The bar is always being raised, so innovation is based on beating the last great thing.

It’s a blessing and a curse that the internet has allowed amazing work to go viral throughout the industry long before you see it in a jury room. Was there anything during your judging that really impressed you even though you were laying your eyes on it for the very first time?

You’re right. It’s very, very hard to be truly surprised when judging. I think I see the most truly surprising work in entries from other countries where English isn’t the dominant language. You’ll see some mind blowing case study videos for campaigns and projects out of China, or Japan, or India, and because they were created and presented in their native language, you never really saw it in your social media feeds months earlier. This is where the most pleasant surprises come from.

The 2017 One Show and ADC 96th Annual Awards will be presented during Creative Week, May 8–12, 2017.