Claire Beale: Clients must help spur a creative renaissance
A view from Claire Beale

Claire Beale: Clients must help spur a creative renaissance

Tuesday evening in Battersea Park was an emotional experience. Fifty years of the best of advertising and design, a roll call of industry legends and a chance to luxuriate in the sort of spectacular work that we don't see enough of.

D&AD’s celebration of five decades of creative excellence drew together the greatest names in the history of the business – Alan Parker, David Puttnam, David Abbott, John Hegarty, Tony Kaye… It is prob­ably the last time so many of British adland’s founding fathers will be gathered together under one roof. And the night was pretty special for that reason alone.

Yet it was the work that really poked the gut and misted the eye: tantalising glimpses of Kaye’s Dunlop commercial, Frank Budgen’s Sony PlayStation "mountain", Collett Dickenson Pearce’s Benson & Hedges, Hamlet and Hovis work, John Webster’s Smash Martians and Honey Monster, Neil Godfrey and Tony Brignull’s Albany Life and Parker pens ads… All blissful. If only there had been time to show them all properly.

The biggest applause was saved for Apple, though – the most-awarded brand and design studio in D&AD’s history. For all the glorious wallowing in advertising’s past, it was the mighty now and next of Apple that brought the room to its feet. The Apple design team, led by Jonathan Ive, has made history and advertising’s achievements withered a little with the comparison.

Then, when it was all over, and the Hamlet films, the B&H posters, the Dunlop and Sony ads and the rest were packed up and sent back to the annals, it all got a bit depressing. I suppose that’s what happens when you distil the best moments from five decades and ignore the vaults full of dross. "We’re just not that good any more," one mournful executive creative director said. "It’s because our clients aren’t that good any more," another added.

It was a pretty crude riposte, but he had a point. There were hardly any clients at the D&AD celebrations; they should have been there to see what the ad industry is really capable of when given the chance to be daring. It’s the clients who will determine whether advertising (how­ever it comes to be defined) has a glorious future as well as past.

If D&AD is to have any hope of mounting a similar razzmatazz in decades to come, its new Foundation must train and educate marketers, not just creatives.The Foundation represents a long-overdue separation of D&AD’s commercial activities from its educational role and must embrace training young marketers in how to demand, recognise and have the confidence to buy brilliant work.

This is every bit as vital to the future of creativity as training the creatives themselves.

To read about The Greatest: D&AD's all-time award-winners, click here.