CLOSE-UP: LIVE ISSUE/D&AD - Design and advertising brave an uneasy alliance/But last week’s D&AD night helped to bridge the gap. Caroline Marshall reports

There are some things we have a right to expect from D&AD awards ceremonies. We expect a bit of air-punching triumphalism from the first-time pencil winners. We expect the veterans to make their long walks to the podium with stony, seen-it-all-before faces. But above all we expect a sense of bitchy edginess to be simmering between the advertising and design communities, with sterile designers and promiscuous advertising people positively revelling in their lack of common ground. We like watching the awards host bravely trying to introduce one medium to the other, plying everyone with irony and hoping for the best.

There are some things we have a right to expect from D&AD awards

ceremonies. We expect a bit of air-punching triumphalism from the

first-time pencil winners. We expect the veterans to make their long

walks to the podium with stony, seen-it-all-before faces. But above all

we expect a sense of bitchy edginess to be simmering between the

advertising and design communities, with sterile designers and

promiscuous advertising people positively revelling in their lack of

common ground. We like watching the awards host bravely trying to

introduce one medium to the other, plying everyone with irony and hoping

for the best.



If the 1999 D&AD awards, hosted by Jack Dee and held last week at

London’s Olympia, failed to provide this kind of entertainment, it may

have been something to do with the efforts of the current D&AD

president.



Richard Seymour, a founding partner of the product design company,

Seymour Powell, stormed into D&AD last January on a mission to break

down the membrane between the two camps: ’Packaging design is

advertising just as surely as art direction is design,’ he

protested.



In fact, last week’s awards showed that Seymour had succeeded in making

D&AD more prestigious within the design community.



Design entries were up from 3,222 in 1998 to 3,899 this year. And for

the first time, a piece of automotive design - Audi’s TT coupe - won a

silver pencil for product design. ’That award will serve notice to the

car business,’ Seymour promises.



But, most of all, he wanted to make design look sexy on the night. Where

design nominations used to be shown as what Seymour calls ’dopey static

slides’, this year there were moving pictures and short films of a juror

explaining why a piece of design had won. ’You need context to

appreciate design,’ Ben Carey, a copywriter at Young & Rubicam, says

’and the films really helped.’



Nonetheless, as designers from Johnson Banks picked up their silver

pencils for the Yellow Pages Directory typeface design, there was still

some tittering from the audience - and, come to think of it, from Dee.

It was ignited by the film of a juror delivering, deadpan, her

contextual spiel about ’chiselled typeface junctions that allow minimal

ink infill’.



However, it must have been extraordinarily satisfying for Seymour to

hear barely a titter as designers from Queensberry Hunt Levien picked up

their pencils for Ideal Standard’s, ahem, Space Toilet. Imagine the

foolishness that could have ensued as the juror spoke of ’the toilet to

some extent being a ridiculous product’ but, nonetheless, here was a

design that allowed for ’moving the bowl around until the user achieved

maximum access.’



So Seymour went to enormous trouble to ensure that nothing would

discomfort the design community. Did they notice? ’On the whole, design

was better represented,’ Mark Wickens, creative partner at design group

Wickens Tutt Southgate, says. But he adds: ’The reaction as some awards

were handed out still belied a bias towards advertising. It was hard to

celebrate the Yellow Pages typeface in the same way as the Guinness film

when there was an overall lack of celebration in Dee’s delivery.’



And there are still some people who want the two camps to have separate

ceremonies. According to one leading creative director: ’Designers and

their awards bore ad people to death. The size and scale of the D&AD

awards now reflects the organisers’ egos rather than any thought for the

industry.’



Peter Souter, the creative director of Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, says:

’I’m a massive supporter of everything D&AD does apart from holding the

awards ceremony in a train station. I’d prefer separate ceremonies on

two different nights.’



Greg Delaney, the creative director of Delaney Fletcher Bozell, says:

’The two communities don’t blend at all. The designers stick with their

own and so do we - and, anyway, Olympia is too huge for an intimate

night.’



Another Delaney - Tim this time, executive creative director at Leagas

Delaney - begs to differ. ’The venue is staggering,’ he says. ’Last

year, people were a bit tentative but this year it was warmer, less

cavernous. To think it was there for years and no-one saw the

opportunity.’



This was the second year for the D&AD awards at Olympia. Tim Mellors was

the first president to try the place out and Seymour honed the formula

with a warmer theme: fire and ice. The fire was suggested by red chairs,

tables, carpets and curtains and the ice theme was evident in the design

of the bar. If you looked very, very carefully it resembled a sort of

giant British Steel-sponsored ice cube in the middle of the room.



And everyone liked Dee, who obviously believes his John Smith’s

commercials are one of the wonders of the modern advertising world. The

audience loved it when he came to the stage with a spiky riff or two

about ’the days when John Smith advertising used to win awards’ and

bated: ’Anyone here from GGT?’ with a ’You haven’t won anything.’



Overall, and despite the rather cavernous and impersonal nature of

Olympia’s Grand Hall - not for nothing have some die-hard Grosvenor

House fans been muttering about ’advertising’s Nuremberg rally’ - D&AD

has arrived at an awards formula that herds 2,500 people at pounds

170-a-head through various drinks receptions, a respectful 90-minute

awards ceremony, dinner and dancing.



It will be up to Larry Barker, BMP DDB’s creative director and next

year’s D&AD president to decide whether the design and advertising

communities should be forced to keep up the love-in. ’If not carefully

nurtured,’ Seymour warns, ’it will just flip back again.’ Thing is, some

in adland can’t wait for that to happen.



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