Why D&AD's first Black Pencil for Radio in 32 years is significant

Last week's Black Pencil was important because it is a rare example of what can be done with radio, a medium not often taken seriously creatively.

D&AD: awards Black Pencil to Colenso BBDO for Mars Pedigree
D&AD: awards Black Pencil to Colenso BBDO for Mars Pedigree

D&AD has awarded the first Black Pencil for radio in 32 years to "K9FM" by Colenso BBDO for Mars Pedigree.

This was only the third for radio in the organisation’s 53-year history. There is a perception that radio is a hard creative nut to crack. In a media landscape that is increasingly visually driven, Colenso BBDO’s achievement is even more admirable.

"K9FM" targets dog-owners by providing a talk radio station for their housebound hounds. The station covers surreal subject matter such as "where is the ball?" and "things you shouldn’t chew" delivered in a straight-faced tone of voice that is as funny as anything from a Radio 4 comedy sketch.

Although innovation within a pretty conservative category is great to see, it’s the craft that makes it more than just an innovative use of media. It is cleverly written and well cast with wry dialogue, which is brilliantly delivered.

Last week’s Black Pencil was important because it is a rare example of what can be done with radio. We know that it is often not taken seriously creatively. It’s often an afterthought, briefed last-minute, assigned to disinterested teams and over-used for tactical messaging rather than brand building.

IPA studies show a positive correlation between awards and effectiveness, but radio often remains creatively un-ambitious.

And, let’s face it; it can be hard to do radio well. You can’t hide a half-baked idea in a brilliant treatment. You sometimes have intrusive legals to wrangle with and uninspired talent to coax a performance from.

If you’re in the UK, you’ll be lucky if you have 30 seconds to do it. Incidentally, almost all of the outstanding work at D&AD and Cannes is over 30 second.

In TV, it’s pretty much a given that brand ads will get a director’s cut of 60 or even 90 seconds, but no-one is rushing to do this in radio, which is partly why we struggle with awards.

At the RAB, we are committed to supporting teams who are motivated to make brilliant, daring and well-crafted radio. We sponsor D&AD’s radio categories and hold regular seminars on audio creativity. We run training to support agencies and clients.

There is nothing we’d like to see more than a UK agency creating an answer to K9FM.

Colenso BBDO is to be congratulated for creating a truly well crafted, innovative and entertaining piece of radio.

I hope it motivates and inspires teams and brands in the UK to raise their ambitions, allowing the advance planning and creative development time needed to create something to match it. Advertisers, agencies and audiences deserve it.

Clare Bowen is the head of creative development at the Radio Advertising Bureau