Reactions to the changed ceremony are good so far, Caroline Marshall
Officially, the D&AD awards night is a ceremony where the ad industry
gathers to celebrate talent and promote originality in advertising and
design. It is also, of course, the industry’s alibi for a boozy night
out. A chance to buy a posh frock or - if you are John Hegarty and this
year’s awards night is anything to go by - a chance to put on your
finest pair of blue suede shoes.
The Grosvenor House Hotel, bedevilled by its predictable image, has
played host to the D&AD awards for years. Next year, on 21 May, D&AD
will abandon the Park Lane venue and split the event into two parts.
The first part of the evening, the awards ceremony, will take place at
the Odeon cinema in Leicester Square. Around 300 ceremony-only tickets,
available at tiered prices from roughly pounds 10 upwards, will be
available from January next year. The other 1,700-odd tickets will go to
those paying to attend the dinner and to ‘guests of D&AD’. Like a star-
studded film premiere, the cinema will be sporting huge bouncers, an
orchestra-pit full of musicians, a celebrity host and a band, as yet
Then 1,400 people will head for the Cafe Royal in nearby Regent Street.
Four rooms with different themes will serve as the dinner venue, with a
disco and band in an upstairs ballroom and jazz and stand-up comics on
the lower floor.
Wow, sounds great - well worth shelling out pounds 130 plus VAT a head.
But the crucial thing about the D&AD awards night is that it is seen by
creatives as theirs. So what do they think?
Tom Hudson, the creative director at BST-BDDP, says: ‘This is a
thoroughly good idea. D&AD is the industry’s premier awards ceremony and
it should be as inventive as they can make it.’
However, Patrick Collister, the executive creative director at Ogilvy
and Mather, believes that criticism is inevitable. While professing to
have ‘nothing but praise’ for D&AD’s president, Graham Fink, Collister
adds: ‘What he’s done with the awards is guaranteed to come in for a lot
of stick because the most reactionary people in advertising are
One of the chief objectives of the changes is to open up the ceremony to
younger creatives and designers. Tickets have always been notoriously
difficult to come by. So difficult, in fact, that Keith Courtney, the
creative director at K Advertising, recalls forging D&AD awards tickets
when he was at GGT - just to see the work, you understand, not to lig at
the expense of legitimate table-hosting agencies.
‘Hopefully, the cinema thing will make D&AD more accessible next year,’
Courtney says, before adding: ‘You’ll never please all the people all
Graham Watson, one of the creative directors at Bartle Bogle Hegarty,
recalls an earlier attempt to move the venue for the D&AD awards to the
South Bank complex when Tim Delaney was president. Then, it didn’t work
out - there wasn’t enough space - but Watson applauds the fact that next
year’s cinema-only tickets will start at affordable prices, with some
going gratis to star students. ‘The principle of getting students
involved is great,’ he says.
Even the commercials director, Richard Phillips - dubbed by Campaign
‘the scourge of D&AD’ for his forthright views on the tone of its
judging - finds himself liking the sound of the next D&AD awards night.
‘I’m sick to death of the Grosvenor House,’ he says, echoing the
sentiments of many in the industry.
Apart from the celebrity judges (following last year’s no-shows - Bob
Mortimer and Griff Rhys Jones excepted - celebs won’t be invited unless
they promise to turn up), two potential problems seem to be exercising
First, that there may be some fall-out between the cinema and the Cafe
Royal. But would you really skip the dinner and a chance to argue with
your mates about the winners if you’d secured a ticket for such a hugely
Second, that it will take much more than the allotted hour-and-a-half to
present the awards in a cinema, what with some of the winners inevitably
having to traipse out of middle-row seats in the gods if a genuine
element of surprise is to be maintained.
Fink recognises that moving the awards venue is a risk and he is still
considering the seating plan for the cinema. But he stands firm: ‘I
always think that work should be shown at the highest possible standard
and the Odeon [with its full-sized screen, cinema projection and Dolby
sound system] offers us that chance. We know we’ll have to face the
usual criticism of being up our own arse. We know it works at the
Grosvenor House, and if it doesn’t work the new way, we’ll move back.’
No D&AD awards will ever avoid the inescapable recriminations and
rumours that there’s been a fix because the judges were in the pocket of
particular creatives. Or that too few golds were awarded. Or that celebs
can’t judge ads. But if there was a prize for seeking to create a
meaningful event and an improvement on previous years, then Fink and the
D&AD director, David Kester, would have the competition well and truly
licked, slurped and sucked dry. Start forging those tickets now.