As I write this I cannot help but notice that it is exactly a year
to the day since I had a similar piece published within these hallowed
pages. ’D&AD - Proud to be cool,’ it said, with the subhead: ’D&AD
consistently receives industry flak for its choice of creative award
Consistent is right. And once again the brickbats are flying. But,
frankly, I can’t be arsed to say it all again. Just look up your back
issues. I still stand by every word.
What I want to do is talk about the sheer brilliance of this year’s
A year where there were four Gold awards, three of them given by
advertising juries. I’m sorry if this shatters your comfy world view of
adland creatives as a bunch of tight-arsed killjoys who wouldn’t give
their own grandmother an award, but there you are. Creative departments
weren’t put on this planet to make your lives easy.
And by heaping praise on Guinness ’surfer’, just before it was voted the
nation’s favourite ad, I think we rather neatly put paid to the ’out of
touch’ label that’s often pinned on the organisation. Annoying, eh?
It’s also the year that Apple won. Again. So much for the pendulum swing
or flavour of the month theories that we hear so much about.
Or perhaps this is an example of the ’same old faces winning year after
year’ syndrome that apparently haunts the organisation.
Much like quantum physics, the more you try to pin us down the fuzzier
the picture becomes. The answer is, of course, that there are no trends,
no movements towards a new style, no patterns to observe.
Advertising does not lead, it follows.
(I wish someone would tell that to the journalists who endlessly ask
so-called ’industry figures’, myself included, to spot the next trend.
It’s boring and pointless. Please stop.)
While adland is forced by its very nature to follow (albeit very
closely) the craft skills employed in our industry are very often on the
The ’surfer’ film and the Bjork spot are both stunning pieces of
With the kind of dollar per second price ratio that is beyond most
So is this a trend? Are we back to form over function?
I don’t think so. On first viewing it is the sheer beauty and power of
the film-making in both these spots that strikes you. The image
manipulation is 100 per cent relevant and invisible. Only after several
screenings do you start to think ’how did they do that?’.
In other words these are just beautiful stories, beautifully told. The
creators of both pieces are very aware of the fact that you have to work
hard to be noticed these days.
And that demands innovative thinking as well as innovative technique,
both of which equally apply to the Design Gold, the Apple Cinema
From across a crowded judging room this screamed Black Pencil. Not only
do you want to own it. You want to eat it.
Now, I’m no designer (you don’t say, Larry) so I couldn’t even begin to
tell you why it’s so brilliant. Just take a look at one. And start
saving up. But what of writing, I hear you gloat? So much for your
crusade to bring back the written word.
OK, so it’s a little disappointing that the pen didn’t prove mightier
than the pencil this year. But there was a Silver nomination - which in
a lean year for press (more of this particular old chestnut later) is
not to be sniffed at.
But the process of reassimilating writing is going to take longer than
one year. I’m reassured, however, by the fact that Dave Stuart, the
president-elect, is a believer - so I don’t see this issue going on the
On an even more positive note, I have just come back from the judging of
the Student Writing Prize. Last year we got eight entries in this
category. This year we got 99.
Why? Because we spread the net to all colleges and universities. In
other words we talked to people outside the world of advertising.
Outside a world where the C-word dare not speak its name. And, as I
predicted, in the real world writing is dead cool.
I can’t tell you the results but I can say that most of the winners were
outside the adland college circuit and most of them were women. How
I wonder if we were to look outside the established breeding grounds for
creatives whether that might change the texture and palette of creative
departments. Would we find more women, for instance? Or, perhaps more
people who are proud to be called writers? I don’t know.
What I do know is that creative departments are in danger of becoming
monochromatic and anything we can do to change that has to be a good
We made the front pages by not giving any press awards this year and I
went into print saying that the problem may well be with print itself
rather than with the organisation. I do believe print is having a hard
time at the moment.
Now, there are plenty of skilled practitioners out there, and I can well
understand them feeling slighted by the juries’ decisions. But you only
have to see the countless changes and iterations that every single press
ad goes through at the behest of a client who does it simply because he
or she can, and you’d begin to understand why the kind of purity and
excellence we look for at D&AD is so thin on the ground.
TV is different - it’s a medium in which a lot of people feel out of
their depth. ’Leave it to the experts,’ they say. And if you leave it to
the experts you get good results.
Far too often, however, print is subjected to somewhat clumsy alteration
by people working from a rule book that is hopelessly out of date. The
result is unwieldy corporate identities, poorly designed logos (or
worse, several poorly designed logos), woolly thinking culminating in
confused, overstuffed ads and a general belief that ’it’s only a press
ad’ all add up to an insurmountable pressure to compromise. And, of
course, that means you don’t get your award.
Because D&AD is not about compromise. There are some very good pieces of
print in the book. But there was nothing that made the jurors reach for
What other news? There’s a fair smattering of work from the US, but not
quite of the ’transatlantic takeover’ proportions we saw last year.
There goes another trend. And obviously it’s Guinness’s year.
So, overall, a good year or a bad year?
I think good, with a question-mark over print. There’s no question that
this year’s annual will still have plenty to intrigue and excite the
reader for years to come, so I’m very happy.
I even got something in the book. And it still makes me as proud as it
did the first time all those years ago.