RIDING THE WAVE OF CONTENTION: D&AD has managed to deflect all the brickbats over its decision on print advertising for this year’s awards to announce four Gold winners

As I write this I cannot help but notice that it is exactly a year to the day since I had a similar piece published within these hallowed pages. ’D&AD - Proud to be cool,’ it said, with the subhead: ’D&AD consistently receives industry flak for its choice of creative award winners.’

As I write this I cannot help but notice that it is exactly a year

to the day since I had a similar piece published within these hallowed

pages. ’D&AD - Proud to be cool,’ it said, with the subhead: ’D&AD

consistently receives industry flak for its choice of creative award


Consistent is right. And once again the brickbats are flying. But,

frankly, I can’t be arsed to say it all again. Just look up your back

issues. I still stand by every word.

What I want to do is talk about the sheer brilliance of this year’s


A year where there were four Gold awards, three of them given by

advertising juries. I’m sorry if this shatters your comfy world view of

adland creatives as a bunch of tight-arsed killjoys who wouldn’t give

their own grandmother an award, but there you are. Creative departments

weren’t put on this planet to make your lives easy.

And by heaping praise on Guinness ’surfer’, just before it was voted the

nation’s favourite ad, I think we rather neatly put paid to the ’out of

touch’ label that’s often pinned on the organisation. Annoying, eh?

It’s also the year that Apple won. Again. So much for the pendulum swing

or flavour of the month theories that we hear so much about.

Or perhaps this is an example of the ’same old faces winning year after

year’ syndrome that apparently haunts the organisation.

Much like quantum physics, the more you try to pin us down the fuzzier

the picture becomes. The answer is, of course, that there are no trends,

no movements towards a new style, no patterns to observe.

Advertising does not lead, it follows.

(I wish someone would tell that to the journalists who endlessly ask

so-called ’industry figures’, myself included, to spot the next trend.

It’s boring and pointless. Please stop.)

While adland is forced by its very nature to follow (albeit very

closely) the craft skills employed in our industry are very often on the

cutting edge.

The ’surfer’ film and the Bjork spot are both stunning pieces of


With the kind of dollar per second price ratio that is beyond most


So is this a trend? Are we back to form over function?

I don’t think so. On first viewing it is the sheer beauty and power of

the film-making in both these spots that strikes you. The image

manipulation is 100 per cent relevant and invisible. Only after several

screenings do you start to think ’how did they do that?’.

In other words these are just beautiful stories, beautifully told. The

creators of both pieces are very aware of the fact that you have to work

hard to be noticed these days.

And that demands innovative thinking as well as innovative technique,

both of which equally apply to the Design Gold, the Apple Cinema


From across a crowded judging room this screamed Black Pencil. Not only

do you want to own it. You want to eat it.

Now, I’m no designer (you don’t say, Larry) so I couldn’t even begin to

tell you why it’s so brilliant. Just take a look at one. And start

saving up. But what of writing, I hear you gloat? So much for your

crusade to bring back the written word.

OK, so it’s a little disappointing that the pen didn’t prove mightier

than the pencil this year. But there was a Silver nomination - which in

a lean year for press (more of this particular old chestnut later) is

not to be sniffed at.

But the process of reassimilating writing is going to take longer than

one year. I’m reassured, however, by the fact that Dave Stuart, the

president-elect, is a believer - so I don’t see this issue going on the


On an even more positive note, I have just come back from the judging of

the Student Writing Prize. Last year we got eight entries in this

category. This year we got 99.

Why? Because we spread the net to all colleges and universities. In

other words we talked to people outside the world of advertising.

Outside a world where the C-word dare not speak its name. And, as I

predicted, in the real world writing is dead cool.

I can’t tell you the results but I can say that most of the winners were

outside the adland college circuit and most of them were women. How


I wonder if we were to look outside the established breeding grounds for

creatives whether that might change the texture and palette of creative

departments. Would we find more women, for instance? Or, perhaps more

people who are proud to be called writers? I don’t know.

What I do know is that creative departments are in danger of becoming

monochromatic and anything we can do to change that has to be a good


We made the front pages by not giving any press awards this year and I

went into print saying that the problem may well be with print itself

rather than with the organisation. I do believe print is having a hard

time at the moment.

Now, there are plenty of skilled practitioners out there, and I can well

understand them feeling slighted by the juries’ decisions. But you only

have to see the countless changes and iterations that every single press

ad goes through at the behest of a client who does it simply because he

or she can, and you’d begin to understand why the kind of purity and

excellence we look for at D&AD is so thin on the ground.

TV is different - it’s a medium in which a lot of people feel out of

their depth. ’Leave it to the experts,’ they say. And if you leave it to

the experts you get good results.

Far too often, however, print is subjected to somewhat clumsy alteration

by people working from a rule book that is hopelessly out of date. The

result is unwieldy corporate identities, poorly designed logos (or

worse, several poorly designed logos), woolly thinking culminating in

confused, overstuffed ads and a general belief that ’it’s only a press

ad’ all add up to an insurmountable pressure to compromise. And, of

course, that means you don’t get your award.

Because D&AD is not about compromise. There are some very good pieces of

print in the book. But there was nothing that made the jurors reach for

their pencils.

What other news? There’s a fair smattering of work from the US, but not

quite of the ’transatlantic takeover’ proportions we saw last year.


There goes another trend. And obviously it’s Guinness’s year.


So, overall, a good year or a bad year?

I think good, with a question-mark over print. There’s no question that

this year’s annual will still have plenty to intrigue and excite the

reader for years to come, so I’m very happy.

I even got something in the book. And it still makes me as proud as it

did the first time all those years ago.

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