LIVE ISSUE/D&AD AWARDS NIGHT: D&AD ceremony regains lost stature after debacle of 1997 - Senior figures judged the night a qualified success, Caroline Marshall reveals

Everybody wants to be Jonathan Glazer. At least, every aspiring young director does. A congratulatory note to the committee may be in order after this year’s D&AD Awards, held last week at London’s Olympia - perhaps delivered from that sternest of taskmasters, Tim Delaney.

Everybody wants to be Jonathan Glazer. At least, every aspiring

young director does.

At 31, he already gets his pick of the best scripts. He directed two of

the biggest winners at this year’s D&AD Awards - ’parklife’ for Nike

through TBWA Simons Palmer and ’protection’ for VW through BMP DDB.

Between them the two commercials received four pencils, including a

silver for best direction.

Glazer is also gorgeous, gracious, smart and straightforward. He owns a

house in Primrose Hill where he lives with Paul Kaye (aka Dennis

Pennis); he makes videos for Radiohead and Massive Attack and he has

people queuing up to finance his latest feature film project, Sexy


His healthy self-confidence never tips into arrogance and he always

thinks his work could have been that little bit better. ’I get too

complex, I’m always looking for an underbelly and a subtext,’ he

confesses. As for ’parklife’ and ’protection’, he thinks they were

flattered at D&AD because it wasn’t a great year.

Paul Gay, who also had success at D&AD with his VW work, admires

Glazer’s style. Gay says: ’He has mastered all the techniques and is

good at crafting a film all the way down the line.’

And Guy Moore, a creative director at TBWA, confirms that on the

’parklife’ shoot, ’every step was perfectly planned and choreographed’.

Moore adds: ’Jonathan brought energy and fluency to the commercial. He

is also football crazy and plays in a Sunday League team, so he could

communicate with stars like Eric Cantona and Ian Wright.’

As if to cement Glazer’s reputation, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO trusted

him with the high-pressure job of directing the agency’s first spot for

Guinness. Not that Glazer sees it like this. He just wanted to work with

Tom Carty and Walter Campbell. ’They are good fighters who do all the

battling I normally have to do for myself. Although there was a lot to

tell in 60 seconds, I loved the characters and the script was muscular

and had a visceral taste which I love.’

The Guinness shoot was done back-to-back with another prime job - Stella

Artois for Lowe Howard-Spink - which gave him a rare opportunity to work

with dialogue, even if it was in French (which he speaks rather well,


Vince Squibb, the art director on the Stella spot, said: ’Jonathan was

unbelievably thorough on the casting and his attention to detail is

incredible. It is lovely that someone cares so much for your script and

it felt good when he said he’d do it.’

Despite his enormous commercials success, which includes WCRS’s first

spot for Caffrey’s and the Levi’s ’Kung Fu’ epic through Bartle Bogle

Hegarty, the advertising industry cannot claim Glazer as one of its


Unlike other big British names - Paul Weiland, Frank Budgen, or even

Tony Kaye - Glazer has no roots in commercials.

’I do commercials because of the craft of them,’ he says, ’but I am not

a commercials animal. I don’t like giving up time to advertising when I

could be working with writers and artists. I’m not excited by the

prospect of 20 years in commercials, although I do want to do a lot of

them - I just don’t want it to be my lifestyle.’

Glazer reserves a deeper respect for music and feature films, and he is

determined to keep his goals in sight. ’Too many directors start out

with good intentions and end up doing dogfood,’ he warns. ’I don’t just

want to make lots of money and become spoilt and horrible and lose my

friends. I am more interested in an Arsenal season ticket than a house

in Provence.’

So his next two projects, which he’ll do while the feature film gets off

the ground, will be music videos for Massive Attack and James


Glazer’s MTV awards mean more to him than his advertising gongs because,

he says: ’I instigate the music videos - I am given a blank sheet. And I

love music more than I love advertising.’

Fair enough. ’I am quite critical of the whole advertising thing. There

are lots of opportunities but so much interference. It’s all

understandable but I find it so anal. I have an aversion to being sold

something and advertising is fake. I hate fake music. We respond to

things on an emotional level which is harder with advertising because

you are fighting the association of the whole thing. But I’m not dissing

advertising, I just have a healthy disrespect for it.’

This attitude has won him a lot of awards and it hasn’t stopped him

racking up admirers. (Moore even says: ’He was a dream to work with.’)

It’s just that he won’t compromise.

’To move things forward, you need to take risks. Without risk there is

no genuine relationship with the viewer,’ Glazer says.

Glazer’s first job was in a commercial environment, so he can’t get too

puritanical and arty. He spent two years cutting together film trailers

for video rentals and writing classic lines such as: ’There is a line

between good and evil.’ He and his friend Keith English (also a

director) started a fashion for shooting interesting bumpers to run

between the trailers.

Thus, from the seedy world of home videos, Glazer’s directing career was

launched. Nick Morris, who is still his producer, saw some glossy promos

he had done for a dodgy South African TV station, and told him to go off

and shoot something for himself. So five years ago, Glazer cleaned a lot

of patios to scrape together pounds 1,000, with which he made a short

film called Mad.

Even in recession-hit 1993, Glazer had offers from most of the top

production companies, but he decided to go with Morris at Academy, which

is still his home. ’There is no need for me to go anywhere else,’ he

says happily.

Glazer’s real focus is now on making Sexy Beast. He has the script and

the finance in place but is taking a long time to choose the producer

after a bad experience on his first attempt, Gangster 1, which was

scrapped because the producers tried to impose a leading actor who he

didn’t approve of.

When he started out, Glazer deliberately put off getting behind a camera

until after he graduated.

Born in Enfield, he went to a Jewish school, did an art foundation

course at Middlesex Polytechnic and then a degree in theatre design and

direction at Trent Polytechnic.

’I knew I wanted to make films but I didn’t want to go to film school

and be in a class with 30 other people who all had the same ambition.

Instead, I spent time with texts, literature, art and sets before I hid

behind a camera. That’s how I get my close association with actors and

people. I still have an affection for the visceral aspect of theatre,

art and 3D.’

If this all sounds too calculated and grown up for an art student, you

will be pleased to learn that Glazer spent a lot of time drinking and

taking drugs like the rest of us. ’It’s just that the work wasn’t a

chore. I am still best friends with people I met there and I’m fond of

that time for a number of reasons, not just work.’

When his film does get made, Glazer is determined it will be unique.

He says: ’I am a film purist - I have to be massively moved. I want the

film to blow the roof off the world.’

In his commercials, too, he is ambitious and dedicated. ’My only agenda

is to make things that are fantastic. In commercials or movies, a

director never meets anyone else with that agenda - that’s why you have

to stay the course. It is so easy to drop the baby, but I do care about

the telecine and the voiceover at the end.

’Making really good stuff hangs on a thread - it’s all about fractions,

so you have to be sharp at every stage. Only ever trust your own

instincts because then the mistakes will be your own.’

Jonathan Glazer wannabes take note. But if you really want to follow in

his footsteps, he has just this advice: ’Don’t be like Jonathan Glazer.

Be like yourself.’

A congratulatory note to the committee may be in order after this

year’s D&AD Awards, held last week at London’s Olympia - perhaps

delivered from that sternest of taskmasters, Tim Delaney.

As D&AD president back in 1992, Delaney shook up the association when he

raised charges of lavish living and mismanagement against a former D&AD

chairman, Edward Booth-Clibborn. Six years on, as senior industry

figures line up to praise the staging of this year’s awards, the days of

Booth-Clibborn’s legendary pounds 448 lunch for two at Le Gavroche seem

like a distant memory.

’It was as near perfect an evening as is possible,’ Delaney says. ’The

MC (Mark Lamarr) was in charge of the evening rather than the other way

round, people concentrated on the awards, the venue was


Others pile in with praise for what is still the most important annual

gathering of the tribes for the UK advertising industry. Chas Bayfield

of HHCL & Partners described last year’s event as ’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’. Of this year he says: ’It was

masses better. They didn’t try too hard, they left us to our own


Young & Rubicam’s creative director, Mike Cozens, thought the 1997

event, which was split between a two-hour awards ceremony at the Odeon

Leicester Square and a dinner served over seven floors and countless

rooms of the Cafe Royal in Piccadilly was ’like having the Cup Final at

the Den’. ’It was certainly better than last year,’ he offers.

Will Awdry, a copywriter at Bartle Bogle Hegarty, says the evening

gained in stature thanks to the awards being handed out before the

audience reached their dinner tables and the accompanying liquid

refreshment. But he notes that there is a fairly vocal contingent who

still pine for the familiar. ’There’s a sad, conservative side of the

industry that can only see its way back to the Grosvenor House.’

Gerry Moira of Publicis, who recalls spending the 1997 awards night

’working the stairwell, not the room’, agrees: ’There was a tangible

sense of occasion this year.’ But he qualifies his praise: ’On balance,

I am part of the ’back to the Grosvenor House’ school. This year’s

ceremony felt like having dinner in Paddington Station.’

But with a maximum capacity of about 1,500 executive stomachs, the

Grosvenor is no longer an option. Bear in mind that 2,500 people

attended this night of legendary adland excess - D&AD reckons it could

go up to 3,000 - and you appreciate the scale of the task facing those

charged with devising the pounds 170-a-head evening.

D&AD’s director, David Kester, together with a team comprising the D&AD

president, Tim Mellors, the set designer, Peter Bingemann, and the

lighting designer, Steve Nolan, came up with a formula that kicked off

with drinks on huge balconies overlooking tables set for dinner. One end

of the huge space, enclosed by a floor-to-ceiling pink curtain weighing

a ton, was transformed into a cinema-style ’black box’ for the awards

ceremony. During dinner the room was lit by a changing palette of

colours which lent a sense of drama and theatre to a cavernous space

that is still easily recognisable as an old railway station. Too easily,


Does Kester think it worked? ’Oh yes,’ he says. ’The word is that we’ve

cracked it. We did what we set out to do, managing 2,500 people through

a drinks reception, respectful awards ceremony, dinner and dancing. We

wanted a sense of elegance and to make the most of a huge architectural

space. Next year we can be more playful, this year we didn’t want to

overcomplicate things.’

And what of Richard Seymour, the incoming D&AD president? ’Olympia seems

like a pretty good venue but I feel we need more of the environmental

benefits of the Grosvenor House,’ he offers. ’More sense of importance

and luxury. And I have personal feelings about my tummy rumbling during

the awards ceremony.’

So what is Seymour planning for next year? ’I don’t know yet. I’d give

D&AD a big tick this year for a brave and bold first hit, but I’d like

to think about other options before returning automatically to Olympia.

I’ll also be thinking about the significance of the year - 1999.’ But he

adds, dryly: ’It’s unlikely to be in the Millennium Dome.’

One thing Seymour will not entertain is splitting D&AD’s design and

advertising categories to create two separate awards nights, a move

which would certainly enable a move back to the Grosvenor House. ’When

people cite a logistical reason for moving the awards I get very

suspicious, it’s like starting with the execution before the strategy,’

he says. ’D&AD is about celebrating creativity and, as president, I’ll

be letting design see how the craft of advertising works and vice-versa.

I see enormous similarities in the processes and I’ll be confronting the

doubters during my presidency.’

A bigger issue, and one that Seymour will find even harder to address,

is what Delaney calls the ’blocking’ of awards and the yobbishness of an

audience too mean-spirited to clap the work of their peers. ’The venue

is right now,’ Delaney says. ’The big issue is the venality of the

judging; there’s still a coterie of people who get together to control

the whole process.’

He’s right. The ’system’ means that an unfashionable agency, such as

Delaney Fletcher Bozell, stands little chance of winning the award every

agency, copywriter and art director covets most. Conversely, an admired

outfit, such as BMP DDB, starts with an advantage even before its ads

are judged. This elitism, peculiar to D&AD, where some jurors appear to

have decided that their subject is fine art, not commercial art, is one

of the things about D&AD that is a lot harder to change than the staging

of its awards night.