Upon entering the music venue, heavy bass and a mesmerizing light show signaled this would not be your typical awards show. Unlike your formal awards show setup, which confines guests to circular tables, members of the Boston ad industry mingled freely, drinks-in-hand, catching up with former co-workers, swapping war stories and meeting faces new to the scene.
Boring speeches were traded in for a cutting-edge video revealing the Silver and Gold winners in 36 categories, eventually announcing Arnold Worldwide as the recipient of ‘Best of Show’ for their work with Jack Daniels.
After Arnold accepted the night’s top prize, any semblance of an awards show disappeared as guests took the dance floor, breaking out their best moves to Top 40 hits, popular throwbacks and an interesting violin accompaniment to Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.”
The unconventional, dynamic, festive and inspiring evening free of pretentious pomp was the perfect reflection of Boston’s distinctive ad scene. The larger-than-life Hatch Awards where celebration trumps competition and camaraderie triumphs over rivalry speaks to the intimate community of brilliant minds creating the most innovative work in the country, perhaps the world.
“The thing about the Boston ad community is we’re incredibly close,” Nancy Harhut, chief creative officer at The Wilde Agency, said. “It’s that six degrees of separation. We’ve either worked with each other or worked with someone who knows the other person”
While some would suspect this mutual admiration would temper the drive to achieve, quite the opposite is true. This respect only fosters creative risk-taking that often results in excellence.
“The truth is we can hold our own on the national stage, international stage, and yet we have no attitude, no airs. We’re just really really nice people,” Harhut said.
This welcoming industry atmosphere is what gives underdog talent the chance to shine alongside the giants. Agencies large and small, established and up-and-coming, thrive here in Boston.
The Hatch Awards are a case in point.
Sure, Arnold Worldwide has a history of dominating Hatch, but they have been dethroned more than a few times by nimble boutique shops. No one is a shoe-in at the Hatch Awards and that’s what makes the event, and the Boston ad community, one-of-a-kind.
“In Boston, David can hang out with Goliath,” Luke Garro, EVP and social & experiential director at GY&K Antler, said. “Last time we won a Hatch Award two years ago, we were in a category with Mullen, and we were in another category with Digitas and that didn’t matter. It didn’t matter the size of our company, which was less than 10 people at the time versus these giant companies. It was really about the work at that point.”
Boston’s unique ecosystem where advertising agencies work alongside world-class universities and a booming tech scene also gives the local industry an unmatched edge. Innovation is around every corner, as are budding talents poised to advance the industry.
“I think what differentiates Boston’s advertising community is the incredible technology shops, developers, and UXI people that Boston has,” Gary Koepke, vice president and chief creative officer for North America at SapientNitro, said. “With the world converging on less about push marketing, more about creating experiences, and brands doing a service for their consumers, I think Boston is a great place to have that happen because of the people that live and come to school here. “
Whether it be the nearby world-class educational institutions, tight-knit community or strong spirit of innovation, something about Boston makes the ad scene here stand out from others around the globe.
One thing is for sure after last night’s bumping House of Blues bash: Boston’s ad people love what they do. It might be a small crew in relative terms, but they pack tremendous passion and talent.