LIVE ISSUE/D&AD AWARDS EVENING: Has the D&AD ceremony changed for the better? - Caroline Marshall braved the queues to investigate this year’s new-look event

It is no easy task for a girl to write a balanced piece about the D&AD awards evening which took place last week. For a start, it is now the day after and there is the 4am bed and crushing hangover to consider.

It is no easy task for a girl to write a balanced piece about the

D&AD awards evening which took place last week. For a start, it is now

the day after and there is the 4am bed and crushing hangover to


And, most worrying of all, it proves impossible to find someone to

support what was hailed as a welcome revolution in the staging of the

industry Oscars but has turned into an unwelcome hiatus in their 35-year


The first part of the evening, the two-hour awards ceremony, took place

at the Odeon cinema in Leicester Square. About 2,000 tickets were sold

to agency and design company staff and their clients. For the first

time, a number of cheaper tickets went to students of advertising and


Then 1,450 of the 2,000 people fought their way through the massed ranks

of Leicester Square cinema-goers to the Cafe Royal in Piccadilly where

seven floors and countless rooms served as the pounds 170-a-head dinner

venue for the night of legendary adland excess.

Except that, looking round, it never quite seemed to happen. ’I spent

the night working the stairwell, not the room,’ says Gerry Moira of


’It felt like your dad had decorated your bedroom, it never kicked off,’

says Larry Barker of WCRS. ’We were shown into a small room for dinner

and suddenly it wasn’t a big event any more,’ says another creative


’It was a funny old night. We were all highly disturbed about not being

in one big room,’ says a fourth. ’It was like having the Cup Final at

the Den,’ says Y&R’s Mike Cozens. ’Like being on a cross-Channel ferry

when you don’t know which deck you’re on and you can’t find where you

should be sleeping,’ offers Chas Bayfield of HHCL and Partners, adding,

’I knew there were loads of my friends there but I couldn’t find


And then there was the queuing outside the venue. Thanks to an

unexpected Cleo Laine/Johnny Dankworth soiree elsewhere in the Cafe

Royal, only one of the three sets of front doors was opened to let the

revellers in.

Bossy men with megaphones dressed in white ’nuclear meltdown’ suits

thronged through acres of ad industry chaps dressed to kill. The party

theme of ’disaster movie’ wasn’t exactly encouraged by a bad taste

teaser delivered by the awards compere, Jonathan Ross, warning of ’an

incident’ at the Cafe Royal.

As the minutes of queuing ticked by, some of the girls began to wish

they’d left room for a nice warm vest under their micro-negligee evening

dresses. Some of the boys disappeared off into the night for a swift

restorative before dinner. An air of school outing rather than adland

bacchanalia began to pervade the proceedings.

So what on earth possessed Mike Dempsey, the D&AD president and the man

responsible for moving this year’s event from the Grosvenor House?

’The Grosvenor House is not the ideal venue to view the work in and the

heart of the night is undoubtedly the work,’ he says. ’Last year was the

last straw for me. The fact is, this was a dramatic change, a sort of

trailblazing experiment to see if it could work at two venues.’

So did it? ’We’ll have a post mortem to decide that and we’re seeking

members’ opinions. I’ve had conflicting views, but I’d feel sad if it

slipped conveniently back to the Grosvenor House.’

D&AD’s director, David Kester, is also determinedly upbeat. ’My feeling

is that we should get full marks for what we did at the Odeon - the

presentation of the awards on a big screen, in a more reverential

atmosphere and the opening up of the awards to students. On the latter

part of the evening, we know there’s a huge amount to learn. We

recognise that D&AD is the big night for the industry and we want it to

be joyous and fun. It would be a retrograde step if the industry feels

that, because we didn’t get it 100 per cent perfect, we should head

straight back to the Grosvenor.’

This is a sentiment which many applaud. James Lowther of M&C Saatchi

talks of the ’melangrovnia’ arising from the sheer predictability of the

Park Lane venue, while adding that any awards bash has to be better if

it’s all in one place. ’D&AD is firstly an awards night, but it’s also a

gathering of the tribes,’ he points out.

There is genuine praise for some memorable aspects of the night - the

student tickets at affordable prices; the McCann-Erickson team who

picked up their pencil with ’for’ and ’hire’ emblazoned cheekily on

their T-shirts; a quirky film about advertising 35 years ago featuring

people called ’visualizers’ and admen smoking pipes; the edible food;

Boy George as DJ, resplendent in a purple Philip Treacy hat - it’s just

that as a whole it didn’t work.

’They thought about everything except the people who were there,’ says

Barker, laughing that the evening demonstrated the classic designer bias

of form over function.

If Tim Mellors, the incoming D&AD president, bows to industry opinion

and returns the event to the Grosvenor House next year, it will almost

certainly be at the cost of a half-cut audience paying scant attention

to the work and barely clapping the winners as they weave their way

through the tables to collect the salary-enhancing yellow pencil.

Thing is, that’s exactly the kind of predictable chaos that the target

audience wants. Raise your glasses to another night of unadulterated


Backbite, page 55.