Every president wants to leave their mark, to make a difference in the world, for their work to be remembered for something.
I would love to have landed some firsts with my D&AD presidency. Over its 52 years, I’m the third female president, the second-youngest (you got me there, Graham Fink; I’m on a par with my old boss Simon Waterfall) and one of only a handful of non-UK nationals.
I’m the first female president from Canberra under the age of 40. In an industry in which, as a creative director, any one of those things is shockingly rare, I feel I’ve been elected for one reason: to do things differently.
Over the years, D&AD has stood for great creative in the UK, then across the world; for having the hardest award to win; for black-tie glamour; for New Blood and its commitment to education. Yet, last year, when Wieden & Kennedy asked that industry what we stood for, there was no clear answer.
So my guiding question has been: why? And what can I do about it? What can I apply from my experience of co-founding SheSays and Cannt Festival, building thriving communities around a common purpose? What can I add through my professional life creating experiences and behaviours for brands?
D&AD is a charity I believe in passionately and have dedicated a lot of time and energy to. A magnificent organisation with an incredible history, but also an incredible purpose. It represents the pinnacle of creative excellence across advertising and design, but it also fuels the discovery and support of the next generation of creative talent.
With our foundation, we are tackling the thorny issues of diversity and exclusion within our industries head-on. It’s a virtuous circle, and D&AD lives it 365 days a year.
But the same change in relationships between audiences and brands, brought on by technology and which has upturned everything we do with our clients, means D&AD too needs to evolve.
My role is to look forward, to create value, to apply some of the principles that I would apply to my own work at Mr President. To bring some "digital spirit" to D&AD. So what does that mean?
My initial focus is to make D&AD more curious, collaborative, open and accessible. To create an experimental "always in beta" approach to how we work and what we do.
Creative Social (of which I’m a founding member) taught me that you can be fierce rivals and still work together and share knowledge; so we are looking at more partnerships with creative organisations that share our values (such as Kyoorius in India and the IPA) and changing the way we do things,
including the president’s lectures and the awards ceremony.
My first president’s lecture, "Horror Stories", was at Shoreditch Town Hall on Halloween. We featured four award-winning talents talking about their projects that really fucked up. To be a great creative, you need to be fearless.
To show our younger audience that you can create magic out of disaster is much more powerful than watching an award-winning man waffle on about his award-winning work that we’ve already seen because it has won awards. It took audacity from the presenters too – and I’ve chosen Mark Denton (pictured, right) for the next one (on 22 January) to speak about exactly that at "Publicity Shy".
The events will be focused on interesting topics and venues, with a colloquial and conversational atmosphere and a broader view of creativity. We need momentum – more things, more frequently, for a broader group of people.
The series will culminate in a festival to coincide with New Blood, with tech workshops and illustrators, young creatives and more-established faces talking with music, food and much more of a chance to connect with each other.
Next, we need to embrace multiple voices – so many people have asked me how they can get involved with D&AD, and there will be more opportunities to do just that. From the content we create to our training programmes, there is a host of different ways to get involved.
The D&AD trustees will post on our social media channels, so our voice will change as new trustees are elected. We’ll hopefully get some interesting, entertaining stories and opinions from all over the world.
We’re also creating ways that our members can connect with each other – watch this space as we launch a digital property over the coming months.
My role is to look forward, to create value, to apply some of the principles that I would apply to my own work
Finally, our purpose – our virtuous circle – has to be represented in everything that we do, big and small. It’s something that I’m proud of at D&AD. I want our organisation to have the same impact on others that it has had on me for the past 12 years.
I care passionately about making things that matter. That’s why I joined Mr President and why I am so proud of D&AD’s work. But D&AD had been too timid to talk about the positive work it does and the fun it can bring. I hope I finish my year having left a legacy not just for D&AD but for the industry. Leaving creatives with a smile on their faces, feeling more confident, more supported and inspired to be the change they want to see in our world.
Laura Jordan Bambach is the incoming president at D&AD and a creative partner at Mr President