At the end of last week, I was a fly on the wall of gold judging, watching the best of the year unfold and listening to the ebb and flow of debate.
The cream of advertising's creatives analysing, contextualising and exchanging views. "D&AD is wholly about creativity, original ideas brilliantly executed," they said, and so it is, but no-one breathed a word about how influential this or that ad was on the punter, as if great creativity and effective communication were somehow mutually exclusive. It felt as if no-one dared to mention it in the presence of high-powered peers; as if it were irrelevant to excellence. For me, though, the greatest achievements, whatever the field of endeavour, embody creative excellence melded with the skill and attention to detail of undisputed craft and demonstrable effectiveness ... which is why, had I a vote, I'd have lobbied for Honda's "cog" from Wieden & Kennedy UK to get a gold.
Yes, I know about the fierce debate over its provenance, but show me an ad that isn't derivative in someway of something and, as a punter, do I care anyway? Here was a compelling ad that engaged people on a different level from the (more regular) humour, drawing them in, fascinating them, causing them to think differently about Honda ... and then to spread the word.
TBWA\London's "mountain" for PlayStation 2 is an epic ad, magnificently ambitious in scope and craft, and devastatingly effective in communication, deservedly winning four silvers. "Kicking it" from The Quarry for Adidas got my attention because of the way it eschewed the normal artificial and glossy celebrity treatment, and instead normalised the exchanges between Wilkinson and Beckham, as if we were just looking in on the everyday ... while quietly suggesting that their choice of boot had something to do with their kicking prowess.
I was surprised, too, that Honda didn't even get a nomination for Integrated Communications (although maybe it didn't enter) because there seemed to me to be real strength in depth with its campaigns across different media. Still, DDB London is the first ever Pencil winner in this category for its strong campaign for The Guardian.
Music videos revealed the usual fascinating tricksy techno treatments, but for me, Blur's animated Good Song from Parlophone is a simple and compelling antidote to all that, winning two silvers.
So, no gold in advertising, but two in design! You could, I think, say that the design community is just a little too free with golds, but not in the case of Johnson Banks' fruit and veg stamps for the Royal Mail.
This will be a popular winner, because few people have invested as much time, not to mention heart and soul, into D&AD as last year's president, Michael Johnson. A gold too for Atelier Markgraph's Ship of Ideas, which transcends the normal Environmental and Architectural category by turning the Rhine into a contextual celebration of, and pointer to, its cultural infrastructure.
If any category is a little too generous with its silvers, it's Product Design. It's a young category, which has yet to really distinguish between truly ground-breaking excellence and the merely great. Still, of this year's crop, who can resist Lamborghini's Gallardo ... a visceral, on-the-road expression of everything the brand stands for, and rich in the car designer's craft of tightly controlled surfacing and formal excellence.
And finally, returning to the effectiveness of a simple idea, I go for DDB New Zealand's "superman" for Volkswagen, which wins a silver in Graphic Design (and a nomination for Advertising Posters) for its R32 poster.
At gold judging, there were muttered comments along the lines of "Haven't we seen something like this before?", which are frequently a sign of a good idea. Besides, VW has never had a car that fitted the bill and now it does.
I know ... because I own one.
Honda, Wieden & Kennedy - Deserved winner of four silvers and despite mutterings about the origin of its idea (Did ad people never build marble runs as children?), "cog" is a marvelously compelling and endlessly fascinating expression of Honda's engineering prowess and reliability. Brilliant.
Blur, Parlophone Records - Two silvers for "Good Song", a scratchy simple animation instead of a panoply of special effects, marrying a haunting song with deftly crafted imagery that informs and entertains.
Adidas, The Quarry - "Kicking it" takes us away from the usual self-congratulatory celebrity sell and instead normalises it, rather like having two mates kicking in a local park. The balls may be different, but the boots are the same ... surely this can't be the reason for their greatness?
PlayStation 2, TBWA\London - "Mountain" also garnered four silvers, most obviously for special effects. Watch it and wonder where it's going, then feel your heart go "Yes!"when you get to the end and find out.
The Guardian, DDB London - A loud cheer for the first ever silver in the Integrated Communications category. The Guardian's campaign effectively spanned different media with a consistent message.
Tourismus and Congress GMbH, Atelier - Markgraph Ship of Ideas wins gold in the Environmental Design and Architecture category.This boat cruises up and down the Rhine with huge screens reflecting the contents of each gallery and museum as it passes. An illuminating idea in every sense.
Royal Mail, Johnson Banks - They say that designing stamps is a horrendous process with a difficult and demanding client. To get into print, you have to wade through a long-winded pitching and vetting procedure, so it's a wonder these stamps ever made it. An original, simple idea that encourages the playful defacement of stamps of the realm. Whatever will Stanley Gibbons think? A deserving gold for Michael Johnson and his team.
Volkswagen, DDB New Zealand - This poster for VW's Golf R32 wins a silver for its blindingly effective expression of the car's character - all Clark Kent as a Golf, but a musclebound and potent Superman under the right foot.
Automobili Lamborghini, Lamborghini Gallardo - It looks good in photos, but see it (if you can get through the crowd) and hear it on the road and it is singularly purposeful and utterly compelling. Every inch a Lambo and a silver winner in Product Design.