CLOSE-UP: CREATIVE ISSUE/PRESS ADVERTISING - Press slips down creative league in dotcom era. D&AD was unimpressed by its press entries. Are they that bad, Emma Hall asks

Magazines and newspapers seem to be launching and relaunching at almost the same rate as dotcom companies are floating. In just the past few weeks we’ve had Nova, Line, Heat and Observer Sport Monthly.

Magazines and newspapers seem to be launching and relaunching at

almost the same rate as dotcom companies are floating. In just the past

few weeks we’ve had Nova, Line, Heat and Observer Sport Monthly.



But this publishing boom has not inspired a corresponding creative boom

in press advertising. Not a single press campaign or execution has even

been nominated for an award at this year’s D&AD ceremony, which takes

place on 24 May.



The new publications are bursting with advertising but there is nothing

in there that has set the D&AD jury alight. The Lowe Lintas & Partners

’chair’ ad for Stella Artois, which won a Gold at the Campaign press

awards, has received no more than an entry in the D&AD 2000 Annual. And

the winner of the 1999 Cannes Grand Prix, TBWA GGT Simon Palmer’s

’nipples’ ad for Sony PlayStation, has faired no better.



Of course, this state of affairs begs the eternal question: is D&AD up

its own arse? But if we accept, as most of the UK advertising industry

does, that D&AD is the benchmark of excellence for the creative

industries, it is more pertinent to ask why have standards slipped in

press advertising?



David Kester, the director of D&AD, blames new media.



’Dotcoms have provided a huge number of new clients,’ he says. ’And

there is a necessary emphasis on the use of broadcast media as a means

of creating hard-hitting and fast-working campaigns. This may creatively

have an impact on press ads.’



Robert Campbell, the joint creative director of Rainey Kelly Campbell

Rolfe/Y&R, provides a similar explanation. He says: ’All eyes are on

electronic media.’



’Rubbish,’ counters Steve Dunn, the creative director of Ogilvy &

Mather.



He believes D&AD results are more about the chemical mix of a particular

jury. ’I’ve seen work on the brink of being thrown out that goes on to

win a pencil. It just takes someone to be vocal and passionate about an

ad.’



Even Dunn, however, admits that 1999/2000 wasn’t a great year. And in

the short term, at least, the trend is downwards.



Charles Inge, the creative director of Lowe Lintas & Partners, takes a

more diplomatic stance. ’If on 24 May we look at the winners and think

’that work is really great’ then the D&AD jury has done its job,’ he

says.



Dotcom frenzy has done more than just turn creative heads toward

broadcast media. It has created a culture of speed and instant

gratification that puts the more considered medium of press at a

disadvantage.



’Nice press advertising takes a long time,’ Campbell claims. ’Press

involves huge clarity of thinking and conceptual purity. You can fudge

things on television but you can’t get away with doing that in press. TV

is easy and everyone is entranced by it.’



Press advertising is beginning to sound like a quaint old-fashioned

medium, but Campbell thinks that the lull in press creativity offers

’enormous opportunities’ for those with the patience and discipline

necessary to raise standards once again.



The fastest way for a young team to make a name for itself is to create

an award-winning TV spot.



Instead of relying on the traditional ’book’, fresh-faced newcomers are

more often seen touting reels of their work around town in order to

attract the attention of creative directors.



’Press just doesn’t feel like an important medium,’ Campbell adds. And

there is no doubt that it is currently spurned as a brand-building

opportunity by almost everyone except Harvey Nichols.



Kester is not concerned about the absence of press nominations at D&AD

2000. ’D&AD is in touch with the industry and the cultural

zeitgeist.



There are inevitable shifts in media,’ he says. ’And skills are pulled

towards different media at different times.’



He is quick to point out that in 1996 the copy category was overlooked

entirely with no entries making it into the book. ’Nothing so dramatic

has happened with press this year,’ Kester notes.



The copy fiasco inspired the D&AD to launch a host of education

initiatives based around the art of writing for advertising but Kester

insists that it is too early to say whether similar measures will be

taken this year to raise the standards of press advertising.



This year’s jury, under the presidency of Larry Barker, the creative

director of BMP DDB, will be asked to write a commentary on the judging

process and any issues raised will be debated before D&AD comes to any

conclusions.



Whether or not this year’s lack of awards in the press category deters

young talent from pursuing the creative possibilities of the medium

remains to be seen.



For many, an appearance in the D&AD annual is encouragement enough and a

reasonable number of press campaigns have made it into the book this

year, including Abbot Mead Vickers BBDO’s anti-smoking and Guinness

Extra Cold campaigns. By D&AD’s almost prohibitively high standards,

inclusion in the annual defines a piece of work as providing ’an

historical record of excellence in creativity for that year’.



But it will take an enormous turnaround in perceptions before press

advertising is viewed by most creative departments as being anywhere

near as glamourous and emotive as television work. As Dunn wryly

observes (referring to a show on Channel 4 last week): ’ Nobody is ever

going to make a TV show about the 100 greatest press ads of all

time.’



Letters, p32.



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