Scott Rose on The Bowery Awards and its Emphasis on Independent Work

Earlier this month New York Festivals launched The Bowery Awards, a new competition casting a spotlight on creatives working independently in the areas of Design, Audio, Motion Video, and Short Film. All proceeds from the competition will be donated to charity.

We recently caught up with Scott Rose, Executive Director of New York Festivals to talk about launching the inspiration behind launching The Bowery Awards amid a pandemic, the jury selection, how it got its name, and the emphasis on independent work.

“Any Creative who has done work independently to promote a company, product, project, event, or service is eligible to enter,” Rose told us. “If you work in the agency world, that is acceptable, but the work entered into The Bowery Awards must have been for a client that is yours.”


Why launch The Bowery Awards in the middle of a pandemic?

As Neil Gaiman said in that famous commencement speech, “when things get tough, this is what you should do. Make good art.”

Our “art” is facilitating a great competition that puts the work of talented Creatives in front of a jury of their peers. In these tough times, as a small independent company, we didn’t want to sit back.

The competition wasn’t in the pipeline before COVID and it wasn’t a question of if we should launch during the pandemic. With all proceeds being donated to charity, The Bowery Awards was born out of the pandemic and our desire to help Creatives and NYC.

What was the inspiration for the Bowery Awards?

Lauren Murray, the Associate Director of Advertising, having come from the world of freelance artisans, brought up how that community was not only struggling but would be growing with all of the unfortunate layoffs and furloughs that were happening. She thought we should set up a competition for freelance work where it wasn’t competing in the same lanes as work done with the incredible budgets of huge companies and brands.

We brainstormed on Lauren’s idea and decided we could help by utilizing our relationships. We have the ability to put freelancer’s work in front of those huge companies and brands we deal with for our various Advertising, Radio, and TV & Film competitions.

We are an international business, but we are New Yorkers and we pride ourselves on that fact. Ellen Smyth, our CEO, decided that we would not only tap our network and facilitate the competition, but we would donate all proceeds to Feed the Front Lines NYC.

Regarding the jury selection, talk about the multi-disciplinary roster and how you were able to recruit such a prominent Executive Jury and Grand Jury?

We needed a name and “voice” for the competition that would encapsulate the bootstrapping, DIY aesthetic of Freelancers. We racked our brains for that almost sigil-like name that would immediately tell you what you needed to know about the competition.

The Bowery is NYC’s oldest street and has been home to decades of innovative, multi-disciplinary artists. Once we settled on aligning the competition with this iconic area, things started “popping” almost instantly.

I started by reaching out to some of our awesome NYC based Advertising Executive Jury members like Lindsay Brillson from Red Antler and Fede Garcia from HUGE. They truly got what we were trying to do and the jury dominos started to fall into place from there. The enthusiasm for the competition has been great and we’ve received many distinguished recommendations from Judges for other Judges.

With top professionals from Google, Verizon, Goldman Sachs, Cardinal Health, and Jason Sosnoff, producer of multiple Robert De Niro and Al Pacino movies, among many, many more, I think we achieved our goal of putting together a world-class, multi-disciplinary jury. We have even had top CCOs reaching out asking to participate.

I would be remiss not to give a ton of credit to David Sable. He has been an incredible “godfather” to the competition in many ways. However, opening up his Contact List and inviting his legendary friends and colleagues like Carol H. Williams, Keith Reinhard, Helayne Spivak, Daisy Esposito, Martin Puris and Marvin Waldman has been an incredible honor.

I also have to mention our Grand Jury. As we’ve looked through their work and CVs, sometimes you just have to shake your head in amazement at the sheer amount of wild, innovative, talent that the group has.

Who specifically and from what disciplines is the Bowery Awards hoping to honor?

The Bowery Awards is for those Creatives working in Audio, Motion Video, and Design. Any Creative who has done work independently to promote a company, product, project, event, or service is eligible to enter. If you work in the agency world, that is acceptable, but the work entered into The Bowery Awards must have been for a client that is yours.

For Podcasts and Short films (doc + scripted), we have slightly different rules since those are entertainment and not done to promote.

For Short film – If you’ve made a documentary or scripted short film under 45 minutes, you are eligible to enter as long as you have filled at least THREE of these roles – producer, director, editor, screenwriter, cinematographer, actor.

FOR PODCASTS – If your podcast or streaming work is unbranded and for entertainment, it is eligible as long as no more than five people worked on it.

Honoring creativity is what The Bowery Awards are about.

How did you come up with the categories?

We looked at the work that is being promoted online and tried to create fair and competitive lanes for it. We have groups of categories that judge purely the craft behind the work and groups that judge the totality of the piece. We also have some new categories that I’m excited about.

Honoring the novel times and the necessary fights for justice, unity, and safety, we created “TOGETHER FOR BETTER – Work that fosters unity, diversity and inclusion”. This category is in each medium’s categories.

EJ member Marvin Waldman had a great idea that we’re excited to be able to include. The “Unrequited Love – Your favorite pitch that the client passed on” category (also in each medium). Knowing that freelancers often go to their client with three or four versions of a logo, jingle, etc. and what they choose to “publish” is not always what the creator would’ve chose, this category gives the entrant a chance to give work sitting in a drawer another spin.

We also have a Category Group specifically for Covid related work or was made under the restriction of lockdown. I’m anticipating a lot of signage about masks, mask designs, and different zoom and social media-based entries. We’ve already seen some remotely made band music videos and even a Facebook Group, 8 O’Clock Shot, which was mentioned on Jimmy Fallon.

What are the benefits of entering the Bowery Awards?

You’re putting your work in front of a group of top-notch peers and legends who are going to score it against the criteria of the category. The judging is all points-based so there won’t be just one Gold, Silver and Bronze in each category. There could be many of each or potentially none if nothing in that category scores high enough. What this ultimately does is allow the judges to curate an incredible Winners’ Showcase where creative directors and other managers can find the Creative who fulfills their needs. The Winners Showcase will have the entrant contact information displayed.

This was published in collaboration with our content partner, Branding in Asia Magazine

Bobby McGill
Bobby is the founder and CEO of Think Content Asia.

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