CLOSE-UP: LIVE ISSUE/D&AD AWARDS; Will Fink’s split-venue D&AD idea work?

Reactions to the changed ceremony are good so far, Caroline Marshall reports

Reactions to the changed ceremony are good so far, Caroline Marshall


Officially, the D&AD awards night is a ceremony where the ad industry

gathers to celebrate talent and promote originality in advertising and

design. It is also, of course, the industry’s alibi for a boozy night

out. A chance to buy a posh frock or - if you are John Hegarty and this

year’s awards night is anything to go by - a chance to put on your

finest pair of blue suede shoes.

The Grosvenor House Hotel, bedevilled by its predictable image, has

played host to the D&AD awards for years. Next year, on 21 May, D&AD

will abandon the Park Lane venue and split the event into two parts.

The first part of the evening, the awards ceremony, will take place at

the Odeon cinema in Leicester Square. Around 300 ceremony-only tickets,

available at tiered prices from roughly pounds 10 upwards, will be

available from January next year. The other 1,700-odd tickets will go to

those paying to attend the dinner and to ‘guests of D&AD’. Like a star-

studded film premiere, the cinema will be sporting huge bouncers, an

orchestra-pit full of musicians, a celebrity host and a band, as yet


Then 1,400 people will head for the Cafe Royal in nearby Regent Street.

Four rooms with different themes will serve as the dinner venue, with a

disco and band in an upstairs ballroom and jazz and stand-up comics on

the lower floor.

Wow, sounds great - well worth shelling out pounds 130 plus VAT a head.

But the crucial thing about the D&AD awards night is that it is seen by

creatives as theirs. So what do they think?

Tom Hudson, the creative director at BST-BDDP, says: ‘This is a

thoroughly good idea. D&AD is the industry’s premier awards ceremony and

it should be as inventive as they can make it.’

However, Patrick Collister, the executive creative director at Ogilvy

and Mather, believes that criticism is inevitable. While professing to

have ‘nothing but praise’ for D&AD’s president, Graham Fink, Collister

adds: ‘What he’s done with the awards is guaranteed to come in for a lot

of stick because the most reactionary people in advertising are


One of the chief objectives of the changes is to open up the ceremony to

younger creatives and designers. Tickets have always been notoriously

difficult to come by. So difficult, in fact, that Keith Courtney, the

creative director at K Advertising, recalls forging D&AD awards tickets

when he was at GGT - just to see the work, you understand, not to lig at

the expense of legitimate table-hosting agencies.

‘Hopefully, the cinema thing will make D&AD more accessible next year,’

Courtney says, before adding: ‘You’ll never please all the people all

the time.’

Graham Watson, one of the creative directors at Bartle Bogle Hegarty,

recalls an earlier attempt to move the venue for the D&AD awards to the

South Bank complex when Tim Delaney was president. Then, it didn’t work

out - there wasn’t enough space - but Watson applauds the fact that next

year’s cinema-only tickets will start at affordable prices, with some

going gratis to star students. ‘The principle of getting students

involved is great,’ he says.

Even the commercials director, Richard Phillips - dubbed by Campaign

‘the scourge of D&AD’ for his forthright views on the tone of its

judging - finds himself liking the sound of the next D&AD awards night.

‘I’m sick to death of the Grosvenor House,’ he says, echoing the

sentiments of many in the industry.

Apart from the celebrity judges (following last year’s no-shows - Bob

Mortimer and Griff Rhys Jones excepted - celebs won’t be invited unless

they promise to turn up), two potential problems seem to be exercising


First, that there may be some fall-out between the cinema and the Cafe

Royal. But would you really skip the dinner and a chance to argue with

your mates about the winners if you’d secured a ticket for such a hugely

over-subscribed beano?

Second, that it will take much more than the allotted hour-and-a-half to

present the awards in a cinema, what with some of the winners inevitably

having to traipse out of middle-row seats in the gods if a genuine

element of surprise is to be maintained.

Fink recognises that moving the awards venue is a risk and he is still

considering the seating plan for the cinema. But he stands firm: ‘I

always think that work should be shown at the highest possible standard

and the Odeon [with its full-sized screen, cinema projection and Dolby

sound system] offers us that chance. We know we’ll have to face the

usual criticism of being up our own arse. We know it works at the

Grosvenor House, and if it doesn’t work the new way, we’ll move back.’

No D&AD awards will ever avoid the inescapable recriminations and

rumours that there’s been a fix because the judges were in the pocket of

particular creatives. Or that too few golds were awarded. Or that celebs

can’t judge ads. But if there was a prize for seeking to create a

meaningful event and an improvement on previous years, then Fink and the

D&AD director, David Kester, would have the competition well and truly

licked, slurped and sucked dry. Start forging those tickets now.


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