Chris Cancilla judges the 2016 Effies

Recognizing effectiveness in marketing communications, the Effie Worldwide competition is one of the most closely-watched award shows in the advertising industry. Our very own Chris Cancilla, Associate Partner, Executive Creative Director, is judging the 2016 North American Effie Awards, so we decided to ask him what it’s like to be behind the scenes, judging some of the industry’s best creative work.

Q: You have been an Effie judge in the past. Set the scene for us—What is it like to be in the judging room?

I find judging the Effies to be a unique combination of intensity and inspiration. The intensity comes from the fact that the award submissions themselves are incredibly detailed–strategy, insight, KPIs, results and the breakthrough idea. All of these details as you’re evaluating make you feel obligated to stay focused and really understand the challenges each campaign set out to solve. At the end of the day, I always leave inspired. I feel like I’ve just gotten a Master’s Class in how some of the best work in our industry is made. And, I’ve benefited from hearing how other smart, insightful, creative people analyze the work.

Q. Effies are about campaigns that are effective. What will make an entry standout? What types of entries are forgettable?

It’s interesting. By the time you get to the final round of Effie judging, all the work in the room is proven effective. (It wouldn’t have made it past the early rounds if it wasn’t.) So what ends defining the winners is breakthrough thinking and really smart strategy—the ability to re-define a category, remarkable, inspiring creativity. These are the types of entries that really stand apart. For me, the most forgettable work is great strategy and results without an idea behind it.

Q: As a person in the creative field, you’ve been honored with an Effie in the past. Tell us about what that recognition means to you and your team. 

Industry recognition always feels great. Not just because of the award, but because it only happens when really passionate people dedicate themselves to solving a problem in a way no one ever has before.

The Effie awards are special in a few ways. To win, a program has to be breakthrough on so many levels — strategic, creative and business changing. What’s also interesting about the Effies is just how much pride clients take in winning. It really becomes a special, shared moment that strengthens the agency/client relationships. 

Q: From all of the past Effie winners, what qualities or attributes always stay consistent?

The easy answer would be “effectiveness,” but what I’ve noticed is that there is a new creative standard for work that wins. In recent years, you’ve seen incredible creative agencies, as well as huge companies like P&G, Unilever and Kimberly-Clark, all making a real push to be recognized for both their ideas and effectiveness. It’s dramatically re-framed the awards.


Chris Cancilla is Associate Partner, Executive Creative Director at VSA Partners. With more than 20 years of industry expereince in the B2B and B2C space, Chris architects award-winning, business-building, multi-channel brand experiences. Chris is most inspired by today’s challenge of defining a brand’s unique purpose, then acting on that purpose to create fluid, meaningful interactions across complex touch-points. Prior to VSA, Chris held the positions of Chief Creative Officer at Trisect and SVP, Group Creative Director at Arc Worldwide and Young & Rubicam. He has been recognized with nearly every industry award, including Cannes, Clios, and Effies for work on brands such as Visa, Symantec, Samsung and Capital One.