Close-Up: Live issue - Was it alright on the night at the D&AD Awards?

Elusive food, insufficient bar staff and some 'wonderful' work. Four creatives give Noel Bussey their view of the evening.

So another D&AD has been and gone. British television did well, with a host of agencies, including Bartle Bogle Hegarty, Mother and WCRS, picking up yellow Pencils, and Fallon scooping one of the evening's six black Pencils for its "gorilla" ad.

However, as we all know, the work is only half of the story and the event is just as important, and it's fair to say that the organisers have struggled in recent years to find a suitable home, or set up, for the gargantuan ceremony.

This year it moved to the banks of the Thames and took on a Cannes-style ceremony at the Royal Festival Hall.

Overall, it was a move that got mixed reviews from party-goers (non-existent food and bar staff were the main gripes), but one that will have had the owners of the Las Iguanas pub opposite rubbing their hands in glee as the tills rang to the sound of the agency pound and the bar rang to the sounds of admen moaning as people fled there from the ceremony.

To get an overview of the night, Campaign sent four hardy creatives out with their own pencils and pads to set down their thoughts of the evening.

NICK BELL - Global Creative Director, DDB

The old phrase "you can't please all of the people all of the time" might have been written for D&AD.

And I'm sure I won't please all of the people by saying I thought D&AD did a good job this year.

In my year as President, the move from the impersonal, aircraft hangar-like Earl's Court to Billingsgate was seen as a big improvement. But the proliferation of categories triggered by new media and the inept and charmless hosting of the evening by Matt Lucas meant the prize-giving ran for far too long and standing on stage to present the President's Award in front of 1,700 restless and alcohol-fuelled revellers at 11pm was not the easiest situation I've had to handle.

In contrast, this year's event was slick and professional. The format was Cannes-like. We sat in an auditorium where the winning work was viewed on a huge and high-quality screen. The host, Simon Amstell, had done his homework and won over a notoriously difficult audience. This year's President, Simon Waterfall, spoke well, too.

It was also a good move to make the President's Award the first of the evening, though in view of the distance Sir John and Nancy Sorrell had to walk, I hope they were sponsored.

There have, of course, been the inevitable moans: "I couldn't get to the bar." "I couldn't find the food." But this was the first time at the Royal Festival Hall, and if D&AD sticks with it, they will take this learning into next year.

The most important thing is that this was the best presentation of the work for years. And that, in my view, is what we were there for.

DAMON COLLINS - executive creative director, Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R

The D&AD Pencil is quite a special award. It seems only fitting that it be doled out at a suitably special awards ceremony. So after 45 years perfecting the event, how special was last Thursday night?

Everyone agreed that it started well - Champagne on the balcony of the Royal Festival Hall, with one of the best views in London. Then came the awards. We sat in Cannes-style rows in the Queen Elizabeth Hall. Some of the work was special. The screen it was shown on was enormous. The two Simons up on stage were fantastic: Amstell's statutory piss-taking was hilarious, as was Waterfall's statutory social suicide suit. And the tribute to Paul Arden was a very special thing to have done.

Once the 100 Pencils were dished out, there was a stampede for the bar. Twelve staff serving 2,000 hardened advertising and design professionals? Oops. People were scouring the building trying, to no avail, to find somewhere else to quench their two-hour thirsts. Two of our party gave up and left before they managed to get a drink.

And while plenty of Pencils may have been dished out, the same can't be said for the food. Apparently, they were circulating trays of peppered feather-blade steaks with Lyonnaise potatoes and little carrots, and maroc-spiced lamb tagine with green olive couscous and chermoula.

Some of us, however, had to wait until midnight to be fed burgers wrapped in paper. Fortunately, they were special burgers. And, bearing in mind the ticket price, possibly the most expensive burgers in the world.

Reactions on the night ranged from "it's a bit messy" to "it's a total shambles".

When I first went to D&AD, they split design and advertising over two nights. Divisive, yes, but you could fit everyone in and there was less disrespectful chattering while waiting for a category you're actually interested in. Those days are long gone, but we're left with an evening that may never be quite as special as it deserves to be.

PAUL BRAZIER - executive creative director, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO

D&AD used to have a mission statement that it printed in the Annuals: "D&AD exists to stimulate, not congratulate."

I always liked that. For me, D&AD has always been about pushing the boundaries. Not settling for the comfortable, the conservative and the familiar. It's certainly been true of the work over the years. Why shouldn't it be true of the awards do itself?

The new venue was the revamped Royal Festival Hall, and the evening was full of brand new ideas. There were sideshows, friezes and a photo booth where somebody drew your caricature.

For the first time that I can remember, we had a presenter under the age of 40. The juries put aside factionalism and pettiness and voted six coveted black Pencils to everything from the iPhone to a milk website. We got to see all kinds of work across all kinds of disciplines from all over the world.

It wasn't a perfect evening. Some people didn't get fed. The Champagne ran out. The bar staff could have done with about 50 more credit card machines. But catering has been a perennial problem at D&AD. If you charge an all-in price for a sit-down meal, people say it's too expensive and don't turn up. If the ticket price only covers the cost of admission and canapes, that means pay bars.

Perhaps the best solution is to find sponsors who'll provide the food and drink. Anybody out there know someone who can help? I'll start by calling Sainsbury's and Guinness.

Overall, though, I think D&AD produced a stimulating evening. So just this once, a little congratulation is due.

JON BURLEY - group executive creative director, Leo Burnett Group

It is a strange and sacred beast, the D&AD ceremony. To criticise it seems akin to poking the baby Jesus in the eye with a blunt yellow Pencil.

So, out of fear for my immortal advertising soul, I'll cross myself and pass over the bits that pleased me less. I won't mention the unseemly post-ceremony scrabble for individual fish pies that turned the Royal Festival Hall into a blackly comic pastiche of a refugee camp. And I'll pretend that there wasn't some buffoonish advertising tit sat somewhere behind me bellowing a painfully unfunny running commentary over any award that had the audacity to be for any category other than TV.

Because, as was repeated so very often throughout the night, it was all about the work, right? And to be fair the work was, as ever, rather wonderful.

The Barnardo's print campaign is terribly moving and a worthy winner, even if the compelling sincerity of the "fuck off" execution was undermined somewhat by that crazy announcer bloke behind the stage heralding the win with the unforgettable words: "He told his social workers to 'fuck off' 27 times, but at least this tragic little chap's story has earned itself a PENCIIIIIIIIIIL!"

I loved the freshness of the Uniqlo digital work, the wit of the writing for the Orange "gold spot", the imagination and ambition of the HBO "voyeur" installation. Cadbury's "gorilla", Apple's iPhone, Richard Orick's editing. All wonderful and well deserved, however shambolic the catering.


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