Meet Our Effie Judges: Melissa Cabral and Todd Lombardo

Blake Marquis | May. 21 2021

Since 1968, the US regional Effie Awards has honored and celebrated the best marketing ideas that contribute to a brand’s success to come out of the country. Every year, the Effie United States taps the industry’s very best to be jurors and participate in judging the entries for that respective year.
For the 2021 Effie US Awards, we’re excited that The Many’s Melissa Cabral, Head of Strategy, and Todd Lombardo, Managing Director, Excellence, were selected as jurors. And what makes this news even more amazing, is that it’s an opportunity to share with you the dynamic and incredibly interesting backgrounds of these two people.
While the two have been busy handling their duties at The Many and judging Effie entries, we were able to sneak in some time to chat about advertising, life and some things in between…

Q: Let’s start with the obvious question—in one sentence, tell us how you found your way to advertising?
“The seeds were planted with all the TV and magazines I consumed as a kid, but I weaseled my way into advertising through the VCU Brandcenter.” – Cabral
“By way of everyone telling me a kid from Jersey at school in Virginia could never get a job at an agency in New York. So I didn’t stop until I did. Dream smaller was terrible career advice, and I’m glad I ignored it.” – Todd
Q: Where do you currently live? Describe your location as if it was the setting of a commercial script!
My partner and I moved outside of Palm Springs, our gay, palm tree-lined oasis where we can wear our wacky shirts and nobody bats an eye.” – Cabral
California dreamin’ in the hot dry hills north of Los Angeles.” – Todd 
Q: What are your three words to describe how you feel about being an Effie judge? 
Proud, immersed, dang” – Cabral
“Say what now?” – Todd
Q: What kind of work leads to you giving it a perfect score; do you have a recent favorite? (Without giving away any Effie intel)
You can tell when an entry was written to fill in submission boxes and when an entry was really thoughtfully crafted because the latter reads like a story. Some entries are so damn dry it feels like I’m reading meeting notes.
But I read an entry last night that was just dynamite. It was about a new product launch for a relatively niche QSR brand. You could tell they took the time to lock the narrative before sitting down to craft the actual entry because it was so engaging. I actually couldn’t wait to click into the next section to see how the rest of the case study unfolded. It was a legitimately entertaining and educational read. Only when you’ve worked out your key beats (situation, challenge, insight, bringing the idea to life, etc) can you get to a place where the drama can get turned up a notch and taken to 11. And the best part and most important thing, the results wildly exceeded every key metric. It was a very inspiring submission. I’m getting stoked just thinking about it now! ” – Cabral
I’ve never given a perfect score. However, one in particular this season stands out in my memory: a beloved brand with both heart and magic. An insurmountable business challenge (aren’t they all), until you crack it. A solution that wasn’t an advertising solution, but a killer idea that worked from shelf to packaging to TV to GIPHY to culture. And the submission read like a tight novel with specific results tied to the effort. It sold itself, I just scored it.” – Todd
Q: What part of yourself do you feel most influences the work that you do everyday? 
“At the root of strategy, we’re trying to decode and understand the world around us and then translate those insights and observations to different audiences. We constantly ask why? Why do we have certain perceptions? Why do we behave in certain ways?  When I think about being a child of immigrants, being the youngest of three daughters (with a sizable age gap between my two older sisters and me), being raised Catholic but also knowing I was gay, all of that contributed to my questioning, interpreting, and translating cultural codes and norms from a very young age. 
It wasn’t until I was a lot older that I realized my personal story gave me opportunities to hone the powers of observation, distillation and translation that influence the work I do every day.” – Cabral
“Growing up LGBTQ+ in the pre-Internet 1980s-1990s, I was taught I was an abomination. And marriage for me was illegal. That’ll do a number on a thirteen-year-old in suburbia. Coming out of that, and coming out, I learned to question everything, because all the “rules” didn’t fit me anyway. Today that translates to pushing against conventional wisdom. For example, this has manifested itself in how we are aiming to reinvent work culture in a post-pandemic world. We want to define a new road ahead.” – Todd
Q: Is there any other question you’d like to be asked?
What came first, treadmills or hamster wheels?” – Cabral
Yes.” – Todd