Although our clients have submitted our work in years past, 2014 was the first year 522 Productions officially submitted to the DC ADDY Awards (technically they’re called the American Advertising Awards—DC now), the first year the event was hosted at the 9:30 Club, and my first time attending. I tagged along with our Producer Alisa, feeling pretty green because, well, I am: I just started working at 522 as an AP about a month ago, and this is my first time working with digital video (I come from a writing background). Anyway, I’m explaining all of this to give you some context for what comes next: my thoughts on the event and the projects that won awards. These are the observations of a relative outsider.

So, the 9:30 Club—cool venue, and the perfect setting for the 2014 Awards, which were billed as “The Battle of the Brands.” DC Ad Club was hosting, and they kind of went buck wild with the theme: a hair-metal music video introducing the event (original theme song c/o Clean Cuts) and a surly, microphone-yelling emcee in leather pants. It was also cool to see so many of our ad agency friends raking in awards.

The event was faster-paced than years prior (I was informed), mainly because only a select few winning videos were played. I can’t say that my feet weren’t grateful for their abbreviated time in heels, but I would have liked to see more of the winners (like, ahem, 522!), especially given that this was my first time attending. Even so, I noticed a theme among some of the videos that resonated with me, and that I’m still thinking about now, two weeks later.

The most moving videos, at least to me, focused on the value of communication. But these campaigns weren’t just about the importance of communicating or our universal desire to communicate with others (these ideas were implicit) — they were about overcoming a challenge: giving a voice to the voiceless. Rosetta Stone, for example, won a Special Judges Award and a Gold ADDY in the Non-Traditional category for “180 Days—A Language Learning Challenge.” This short focused on a single case study, where a young man from Lisbon, Portugal (who was moving to Sweden for work) was challenged to learn Swedish in 180 days using nothing but—you guessed it—Rosetta Stone. The pivotal moment of the video occurs near the end, when the man, who roughly 100 days ago spoke not a lick of Swedish, gives a presentation in Swedish. “I’m sure I got some things wrong,” he says, “but the audience understood what I was saying. I was actually able to communicate.”

In the video “Establish a Deeper Connection with Your Dog,” created by SmithGifford for Voyce, viewers are enticed with the seemingly impossible: to finally be able to read their dogs’ minds. “Ever wonder what your dog is thinking?” the video asks, “Or feeling? Or needing? Now you can understand.” It’s a glossy, well-produced video filled with crowd-pleasing closeups of emotive doggies (I dare you to not—at least silently—emit an ‘aww’ while watching), but I suspect the main reason it earned a Gold ADDY was because of its incredible promise—to give a voice to a speechless animal.

white+partners also brought home a Gold ADDY for “Historical Figures,” a campaign they produced for Visit Fairfax. The video captures unsuspecting tourists who discover that, using their cell phones, they’re able to make historical (i.e. dead-as-a-doorknob) figures speak. (Users could walk up to posters of George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, hold their cellphones over barcodes that were covering the figures’ mouths, and watch funny jib jab videos.)

All of these videos were well-shot and cleverly edited, but it was the ideas behind them that made them memorable. So maybe it’s worth considering: if you’re struggling to come up with a concept for a video or ad campaign, is there some way you can capture the power of connection? Overcoming the challenge of alienation—successfully connecting disconnected people (or pets) (or posters)—is an irresistible, apparently ADDY-worthy story. Because, in the end, don’t we all want to connect?