Feature

Pick of the pencils 2007

D&AD's next president, Simon Waterfall, selects the cream of this year's awards winners, while James Hamilton gauges the mood at last week's event.

The decision by this year's D&AD president, Tony Davidson, to move the ceremony to Thursday night saw off the awards' fiercest competition - the Uefa Champions League final.

Yet, it still had trouble engaging what is effectively two rooms. Showcasing the winners while appeasing a crowd out to enjoy itself is a tricky balancing act at any awards show. D&AD's legendary length, coupled with a room full of booze-fuelled designers and advertisers, makes this a near impossibility.

The mildly apologetic "only a few more to sit through" attitude does a disservice to the work. And the work is really the only thing that distinguishes D&AD from any other global awards scheme now.

D&AD has massively increased the scope of its coverage - both by sector and territory. Its problem lies in highlighting the winners in a meaningful way. While the charity should be applauded for its tight embrace of digital creativity, its inability to explain why one piece of work won over another left the audience blank-faced and ultimately caused it to tune out.

And there was a lot of tuning out this year. It speaks volumes about your awards ceremony when the hottest topic of conversation in the room is not the winners, but the contents of the bento box dinner. Not even the bells and whistles of a black Pencil announcement could achieve cut-through.

To its credit, though, D&AD still manages to pull off some surprises in an awards landscape which is becoming increasingly uniform.

The decision this year to hand the President's Award to Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the world wide web, was a stroke of genius undimmed by the fact that the man himself was too shy to pick up his award in person.

The calibre of commentators willing to lend a quote in support of Berners-Lee's award - John Hegarty, Alan Yentob - underlined that this wasn't the creative equivalent of distinguished service award; this was genuine recognition of a man whose creation has changed the world.

And, contrary to expectation, the awards' global expansion really worked. No, D&AD is never going to rival Cannes as an event, but it is doing a great job of casting London as the umbilicus of creativity. The fact that the majority of the international awards were picked up by their winners, and not some UK-based flunky, demonstrated the pull the Pencil still has.

And that's true of the UK, too. Yes, there are critics, some of them jurors this year, who slam the international juries for their failure to green-light great British work. The UK won roughly half the awards last week. But does its failure to snare more say more about the dwindling pool of genuinely good creative work than it does about Eurovision-style vote-rigging?

The awards remain the gold standard of creativity. As one creative director put it: "A Pencil is still a badge of honour. It denotes membership of an elite club, and you really haven't made it until you've won one." D&AD understands the "treat 'em mean, keep 'em keen" dynamic better than any other awards ceremony, and the industry will be back in force next year, despite its protestations.

SIMON WATERFALL, deputy president, D&AD; creative director, Poke

My Pencil case this year is rammed full; it's been a fantastic year for graphics and digital, the juries from websites and viral had to be doubled, or the pre-judging would have taken a month to get through. The resulting trends from all categories show that even more campaigns this year are starting to really join up. Not in a superficial, let's pitch together then never talk way, but in a truly brilliant Rich Idea way.

The first Pencil is for a digital advertising campaign - Yell.com's (4) "results for real life" by AKQA. This was fantastic; the first time I saw it in the flesh was on the side of a bus. As it went past, a digital screen told me about my local cinema. I was knocked over, not by the bus, but by the placement, invention and creativity of the campaign. Whoever says digital advertising is all banners, please join me under the bus.

In Environmental Design, Virgin Atlantic's (1) Upper Class Clubhouse at London Heathrow is one of the main reasons why transatlantic customers will now happily turn up early on the day of their flight. It is breathtaking; the judges who have been inside confirmed that the attention to detail and architectural storytelling is magnificent and shows that the whole team at Virgin are pushing the brand forward.

On the Product Design table were three photos of what looked like the ugliest tent made for hobbits on holiday. Take the time to read the description, and I urge you all to check out the video (tinyurl.com/2jsbww). This fantastic, life-changing system is actually a Concrete Canvas shelter (5) for use in disaster areas. Providing an innovative, hardened, sterile shelter in 24 hours that could last ten years. Check it out now; I can't write how good it is. Buildings in a bag!

In Ambient, this was a case of: "I wish I had designed that, and wish I had one of those." The experimental Playboy beach mat (10) from Grey Argentina. It really must be seen on the beaches there to be fully impactful - the shingle down Brighton seafront won't really do it justice.

This ad was a favourite of mine last year - Honda (8) "choir" in TV & Cinema Crafts: Sound Design. It really sold me the playfulness and invention that Honda has instilled in its team, and now its audience. The sound is the ad, and it's done to a level that still makes me smile.

I sat next to a guy from Sony recently and heard him extol the virtues of his competitors, the Nintendo Wii (7). The console has introduced a whole new audience to gaming, and anyone who has picked up a controller and boxed, bowled or played tennis, will tell you it's really good physical fun. Gaming has left the settee and become the new karaoke.

And in the Handheld Games category, I will only say four words: "LocoRoco, what the... ?" This was a game on the Sony PSP (2) I forced the geeks in the studio to play. It is beautiful and charming; it's like it's from another world and you can't believe designers have had enough energy to create it.

Having watched The Simpsons from the beginning, to see the "come home to The Simpsons" viral film for Sky One (9) being re-shot in real life was brilliant. Something so familiar made new and ready to be sprayed around the web by an army of fans. Brilliant.

Having trained, competed and lost for the North team, Nike Run London (3) wins hands down in the Integrated category for me. From training days and websites to Niketown and the event, it was a fantastic, seamless experience - there was only one thing on race day that made it even better for me. And that was awarded only the second black Pencil for a Nike+ (6) website. This was entered into New Uses of Websites, but would have won in all categories, from product innovation and integrated technologies to advertising and marketing. It will be in all our presentations about great brands, doing great things. Come challenge me online at nikeplus.nike.com/nikeplus.

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