My advice to anyone feeling at all jaded with the day-to-day of the creative business is to blag a ticket to the D&AD Student Awards.
Sure there are the obvious attractions - the Champagne, good food and a bright new exhibition of the work of the next bright young things - but the best part is when they win. Those of you hardened to the disenchanted demeanour demonstrated by most winners at the "grown-up" awards will be amazed. There's an outbreak of cheers and whistles from the crowd. The winners smile, and laugh. They even punch the air. I kid you not.
Why's that? Well, winning a D&AD Student Award now offers a springboard to a career in advertising and design, and they know it.
With student intake still on the up (and teaching ratios increasingly cut), upwards of 15,000 graduates are coming out of creative courses, competing for far fewer jobs. D&AD's role in supporting tutors and courses, identifying new talent and building connections between industry and education has never been more crucial.
Yet according to recent market research, this fundamental part of D&AD is still unknown to many. The whole concept of D&AD being "not for profit" seems to have passed most of the industry by.
Most industry figures, and even members, seem to have no idea that D&AD has been involved in education for 30 years, and the programme has become huge. The Student Awards, a brainchild of John Hegarty, were conceived ten years after D&AD was founded. The scheme was fully fledged by 1978 and 25 years on, more than 15,000 students work to briefs each year. Students from all over the world compete for combined cash, Pencils and placement prizes totalling almost £70,000.
It's probably true to say that 30 years ago adland would never have foreseen that D&AD's education agenda would develop so dramatically. These days D&AD ploughs 1.5 million of those not-for-profit pounds back into supporting the next generation of creatives each year and it has gone far beyond the Student Awards. The programme spans bursaries, college exhibitions, network opportunities, lectures, summer schools for course tutors, workshops, an online recruitment and matchmaking service, a continual professional development programme as well as numerous tailored award schemes ... and so the list goes on.
Those in industry who do know of D&AD Education can see the point and are getting involved, and it is this connection with industry that makes the programme unique, exciting and important. It's the sort of partnership that the current government is trying to push for, but a gap that we have been filling independently, with support from our own Education Council of leading creative agencies.
Up-and-coming creatives can get their first taste of industry, be it through Portfolio Surgeries at New Blood, working on real-life briefs set by famous brands, such as MTV, for the Student Awards or having their work critiqued by industry luminaries in one of D&AD's Advertising Workshops. The workshops really are sought after; they're held all over the UK with more than 200 applications for every 20 places.
"Doing a D&AD Workshop" has almost become a pre-requisite for entry into London's ad scene.
Placements have also become key to getting a foot in the door, so last year we introduced the WPP bursaries where the winners receive £5,000 spending money and a three-month paid work placement.
There's also a focused recruitment drive through www.dandad.org/bloodbank, an online recruitment and matchmaking service with more than 25,000 registered users. New Blood, supported by Adobe, is held each year. It is D&AD's exhibition of 60 colleges and attracts more than 3,000 industry visitors looking to recruit and to be inspired.
These showcases also play a key part in spotting talent and promoting it to industry. The Student Awards, Student Annual, New Directors, D&AD Cannes Young Creatives, Best New Blood or The John Gillard Award shine a spotlight on talented creatives and winning any one of these accolades can open many a door.
At the core are schemes such as Xchange and The Clinic, which introduce educators to industry figures, agencies, thinkers and the next generation of clients. Educators learn what is needed to equip undergraduates for work and how courses can be honed to meet industry needs.
In this way, D&AD Education also services real industry issues by tackling them from the root. For example, while many grumble about the downgrading of copywriting, D&AD Education is busy doing something about it. Partnered with The Guardian, it is promoting writing for advertising and attracting new copywriters from diverse backgrounds, such as philosophy or creative writing courses. The same could be said of the traditional gripe that the best of the new talent is not reaching below-the-line agencies. Following a big push by D&AD with Royal Mail, direct mail became one of this year's most popular Student Award briefs.
Fundamental issues are also tackled such as the work-life balance and the ratio of female to male creatives in ad teams. Together with the former president, Peter Souter, D&AD is helping assert female role models through careers aids and worked with the IPA on an exhibition - Women's Work - to celebrate the work of these role models.
Anyway, back to our opening scene, you've won your D&AD Student Pencil; you've been on placement and settled into a great career? D&AD Education game over? We don't think so. As far as D&AD is concerned, you have the right to stay inspired, to keep stimulated and full of ideas.
Together with the IPA, we have made it our duty to ensure creative professional development is as available to creatives as it is to suits. So you can flex your creative muscles with D&AD Workout or attend a President's Lecture and maybe get involved in D&AD Education yourself. I can't guarantee you'll start punching the air and laughing more, but you never know.