Yet again, the quality of the nominations for the D&AD Awards this year has been outstanding, and I think you'll see that reflected at the ceremony.
We've had a significant increase in nominations since last year, particularly from overseas. It's no surprise to see the quality of work from the emerging economies getting stronger, and the pace of improvement should be a wake-up call for the UK industry.
Fresh ideas, new perspectives and upcoming talent are the key. For the first time this year, the D&AD student awards take place alongside the professional ceremony.
New talent is the lifeblood of the industry, but it's tougher than ever for grads to get a gig. At D&AD, all the cash from the awards goes back into training and development for our members and the university network. By combining the student and professional ceremony, we're highlighting the importance of investment in learning and giving the most talented grads the opportunity to showcase their work to the industry.
Listed here are some of my favourite pieces of work from this year's nominations, including my favourite student entry.
The Old Spice integrated campaign by Wieden & Kennedy Portland probably has to be the first one up. After creating one of the most well-received spots for a long time, the "response" campaign was a "digital" extension that was, in my eyes, pretty much perfect. It is an example of utilising social content in a way that amplified different interests in the brand in appropriate ways.
The campaign was brave, experimental and, yet, oddly traditional in the way it merged great (if not groundbreaking) writing, perfect casting and the final spot's format. Part of its charm is that there are definitely times when Isaiah is about to burst into laughter and lose it - real "realness", for once.
The last one they put out was a self-referential, Seinfeld-esque quip at the whole process, referencing the aforementioned bravery, and the care taken in how they talked to different people.
Now for Bing's integrated "decode Jay-Z with Bing" outdoor and online work by Droga5. A treasure hunt on steroids, or an appropriate interactive narrative? In this case, I'd punt for the latter. Transmedia has always seemed a tad geeky for the masses, or at least quite complex. The genius of this is the actual simplicity - content put into context, backed up by the benefits of a tech platform.
Here, actions, not marketing fluff, got us to start using - and thus liking - Bing a lot more, and got Microsoft's Silverlight on to a lot more machines, I'm sure.
The music industry has always been the perfect platform on which to challenge formats. Recently, there have been a few great examples - such as the Pet Shop Boys' Integral, which amplified engagement and personalised the fans' experience of the music. The interactive pop promo "Sour mirror" for the Japanese band Sour by Masashi+Qanta+Saqoosha+Hiroki is charming, surprising and strangely lo-fi. It's more of a dialogue than a broadcast, and, yes, maybe a bit of a geek-out, but also a celebration. Without projects like this the future would be too predictable.
While walking around the judging at Olympia London, there were a lot of nooks and crannies with people rigorously deliberating the work, so sometimes you have no real idea what's going to surface from the entries.
One thing I love is seeing an idea from across the room that keeps getting better as you get closer, as with the FedEx "posters" work by DDB Brasil. No language barrier. In fact, not even any copy - just a perfectly delivered idea. And it shows that creative solutions in more traditional areas are sometimes more powerful in our tech-obsessed world.
Next up is French Connection. Reinventing the reinvented is no small task, especially when the initial idea transformed a brand with one "fcuking" typographic sleight of hand.
After what I can only imagine were fairly tough client meetings, Fallon has aligned the brand to something close to art and poetry - which is no mean feat for a high-street brand. Not only do we love the girl and her whimsy, but men actually like the guy too. It is an amazing piece of casting and art direction, paired with writing of a tone that unfortunately is seldom seen in high-street comms nowadays. Again, the brave approach wins out.
Some of the best designers and thinkers have always said that observing is the best way to find inspiration or solutions. Naoto Fukasawa, the Muji board director, is perhaps the master of this. He seems to constantly ask the question: "Why create something new when it already exists, especially when it's part of our social structure?"
Enter "pay with a Tweet", a payment system devised by Innovative Thunder and R/GA New York. The genius behind "pay with a Tweet" is that it makes use of how your trusted friends make honest recommendations, and generally send things to you that you like. Add on the technology and, voila, that's earned media.
The world and the web is full to the brim of self-initiated nonsense. Our drive to create the things that we don't get a chance to do in our daily lives can sometimes seem worrying, but Chris Doyle's self-promotional publication, This Year I Will Try Not To, is different in a way that is hard to pinpoint, which may be the sign of greatness.
After the success of his Identity Guidelines for himself in 2008, his follow-up is a witty, tongue-in-cheek look at what he thinks we shouldn't be doing to promote ourselves - while promoting himself. The charm and knowing irony of this publication makes it a keeper, and having met the man himself, it's a refreshingly real extension of who he is and the talent he possesses.
How do you get people interested in gaming who don't play games? Agencytwofifteen seems to have a lot of the answers with its "Bright Falls" digital campaign for Microsoft Xbox.
Cleverly, and to allow some creative freedom, Agencytwofifteen has imagined a back-story to the game. The narrative revolves around a reporter, Jake Fischer, who visits the town that the game is set in. By referencing some of the odd, and somewhat disturbing, experiences he faces while there, you are left to figure things out.
While alluding to the gameplay and introducing some key characters with Hollywood-style craftsmanship, this makes the game real to everyone, not just gamers. The campaign was delivered via the web and on Xbox Live, providing evidence that the web and other platforms are no longer second-class citizens when it comes to storytelling and craft.
Taking Alan Fletcher's work and attempting to remain true to it, while extending its value, is not a task every designer would relish - an impossible brief, perhaps?
Thankfully, the V&A commissioned Troika for a permanent installation, and they have managed to take a cultural icon - the V&A logo - and re-appropriate it into a new form that Alan would have been proud of.
The work takes its cues from traditional crafts and clockwork mechanics, and combines them with a modern finish. It's a captivating, poetic piece of work that amplifies the beauty of what Alan did all those years ago. Wonderful.
Out of the great response to the brief for this year's Oxfam Student Award, one stood out for me. It's by Virginia Feito, Manu Manceda, Christian El Asmar and Andrea Ayala. It had everything that I'd like to bring to a project: intelligence, technology, great observation, insight and a true human benefit.
Simon Sankarayya is the president of D&AD