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