Studio LR’s Dave King said it best, “How many other industries do you know that have a FESTIVAL? Not a ‘conference’. Not an ‘away day’ – a festival.”
The D&AD Festival 2017 was not a place for Hunter wellies, collapsing tents and mud, circa Kate Moss at Glastonbury in 2005. But it was a place for delight, joy, and wonder.
It was also a place to meet friends, old and new, and to be utterly bloody proud to work in this thing we call the creative industry, with all its quirks, its genius and its, well, love.
Everywhere you looked, people smiled. People talked, gesticulated and laughed. It was a day of celebration for all that is good, and bold and brave and life-changing in the creative and digital space in huge and powerful ways. It was a day to find ideas and talent in action – and in bucketloads – and it was intoxicating.
But, where to start? Out of three possible days of merriment, I was able to attend just one day and had to map my way through an array of possibilities. WhatsApp made this simpler as I met fellow Copywriter and D&AD judge, Vikki Ross on her way into the first session.
Dave King | Studio LR
Thank heavens for waterproof mascara.
Dave King‘s presentation was titled, “Ideas with legs (and arms, and lungs, and a heart) and described the work that he and his team have done for Seamab School in Scotland. The project grew from a request for help with the school’s annual report to a fully immersive 360 branding, marketing and advertising campaign that used insights, collaboration, storytelling – and knitting needles to magnificent effect.
Find out more about their award-winning Seamab School project here.
Unbeknownst to me, I’d been introduced to the work of Studio LR earlier in the year when working with Sarah Phillips, a wayfinding expert at Picto Sign here in Newcastle. Sarah has worked with Dave to implement a sensitive project creating a sign system for people who have dementia, which you can see here.
Patrick Collister | The Zoo, EMEA. Google
“Hmmm, it says here that I’ve got 106 slides… Have I been over-ambitious, I wonder?” (If you’re reading this, Patrick, please know that I wanted a wormhole to open up so that we could have stayed and listened to you all day.) If ever a man loved his work, it’s Patrick Collister.
A glance at LinkedIn reveals that Collister is, “A Creative Lead with Google’s creative think tank, The Zoo, working in collaboration with agencies to deliver major advertisers smarter, more engaging and thus more effective online campaigns. A complete BLAST!”
In this hour-long session, he took us on a rollercoaster ride through the definition of the word creative (and its synonym ‘competitive’) and the need to stay ahead and on top of developments in the digital space.
We saw the potential of the internet unravel, shape-shift and crystallise on the screen before us and I began to wonder what this means for writing in the digital age. We’re seeing a change the like of which hasn’t been witnessed since the invention of the printing press, so what are we going to do with all this opportunity? And responsibility?
Collister summed it up neatly, “It’s evident that in terms of language, a brand’s tone of voice is an essential element for business.” (I wonder if he saw Vikki and I doing fist bumps in response?)
Building on his title, ‘The Creeks Shall Inherit the Earth’ (Creeks = Creative + Geeks) he introduced us to concept after concept, idea after idea.
“You have to innovate to be relevant today.” Patrick Collister, 2017
From the eerie yet beautiful Mazurenko-Bot developed by artificial intelligence whizz Eugenia Kuyda to the Make-Up Genius app developed by L’Oréal. This was a romp through the outer edges of IT with a glimpse into what happens when tech has a torrid love affair with Michaelangelo. Project Jacquard, anyone? Or shall I just leave you with this and let you blow your own mind?
Alessandra Lariu | SheSays
You know when you get a good teacher, a really good teacher? I had one. Mr Shaw. Honley High School, English Department. He was good because he brought things to life. Complicated things. Concepts and worlds and ideas that were never otherwise spoken about in the Dark, Satanic hills of West Yorkshire, circa 1989.
Ideas like those in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (GCSE syllabus, 1988-89). Ideas that crouch in the back of your mind until you share a moment with someone and start to explore what rests in the recesses of your brain. “What if your yellow isn’t my yellow? What if when I taste orange, it’s different to what you taste when you taste orange?” That’s what Alessandra Lariu’s keynote, “Heart of Listening” evoked for me.
It was helped by the fact that my friend, fellow copywriter – and transcreator – Claudia Benetello, was in the audience, all the way from DropInka, Milan. After kissing hello (the wrong cheek first – bloody Brexit), we sat side by side as Alessandra outlined the growing popularity of audio in the form of podcasts and engaged us in reflecting on why this might be.
Our love of audio is a response to the sensation of visual overload, our desire for personal space, our longing for intimacy and our need to listen to people’s voices in a way that creates a human connection (after bingeing on Copyblogger’s first podcast series for years, I can vouch for this. I still swear that Sonia Simone IS my friend, Brian Clarke is my long-lost cousin, and Robert Bruce is a not-too-distant uncle… and I credit those podcasts as the reason for why I do what I do).
“Storytelling advances emotional intelligence.” Alessandra Lariu, 2017
Lariu explored sound as a form of healing, as a power to intensify creative expression (see the Noisli app) and as the most intense, immediate sense brands can use to create impact and effect change.
Want to hear that idea in action?
Find a Mac user and ask them to hit Restart.
Hal Watts | Unmade
For the last few years, I’ve had the pleasure of working with some of the brightest minds around – both in the staff room and in the teaching spaces at Northumbria University. Lecturing on the Fashion Communication BA has opened my eyes to how the rise of digital technology is impacting the fashion industry, from the use of platforms like Instagram to build kitchen table businesses, to the multi-million-pound opportunities identified by trend forecasters and analysts.
I’d heard of Unmade before Hal’s presentation because one of our students researched and wrote about them last year. What I didn’t know was that the Unmade team is changing the way that we consume fashion. And that the possibilities afforded by the introduction of the newest technology to the oldest manufacturing tradition are exciting, energising and revolutionary. As evidenced by the company’s recent Drapers Digital Award win for The Best Use of Innovation with a ‘slick interface’ which could ‘shift the whole industry on its axis’.
Find out what Unmade is doing here.
Visit the UMd Studio here.
Piera Luisa Gelardi | Refinery29
There’s a wonderland over the road from the Old Truman Brewery where the D and AD Festival was held. It’s called Dark Sugars. It defines itself as “A Cocoa House” and it’s where I want to take Piera Luisa Gelardi and have a Sex in the City/Girls/Beverly Hills 90210-style adventure.
We’d talk to the barista, Paul (In a place when the chocolate is that good, I feel you need to be working on a first name term basis) and then we’d drink all the hot stuff and then spend hours talking, me exchanging peach melba pearls for grains of Gelardi’s creative wisdom.
This was FUN. It was passionate, it was joyful and it was inspiring. Gelardi’s talk was titled “Courageous Creativity” and she rocked the stage in a rose print suit, chandelier earrings and an infectious enthusiasm for the fight to keep the creative spirit alive, well and thriving in the face of Trump, of dangerously enhanced and bland stock imagery and of people who don’t want to jump up and down and shake out their limbs to reach a perfectly level playing field.
Anna Higgs | Nowness
Attention spans are changing. This is one of the key challenges brands face when looking to promote their offerings to the world. Email inboxes are full, Facebook feeds are overflowing. It’s all about the list post, the linkbait headline, the likes, favourites and clicks.
Or is it?
Where is the audience in this mix? Where are their needs and their desire? Are we at risk of forgetting that the people we, as brands, are talking to are just that? People?
Anna Higgs thinks so.
But, where to begin? WHERE to begin. Well, exactly where Higgs says to begin. At the very beginning. But where is that beginning, where are creations first formed?
It’s not where you might think. And yet it makes perfect, tear-jerkingly-sensible sense.
To create work that attracts the attention of more diverse audiences, work that begets engagement, that provokes emotion – and action – one must begin with a conscious choice. A conscious choice about who to commission to bring forth that work – and to look at – and choose to employ – the wealth of bold voices emerging from “woefully underrepresented groups” in the industry.
“It’s the responsibility of Creative Directors, commissioners and financiers to seek out these bold voices.” Anna Higgs, 2017
And when we saw examples of the work that Nowness is creating today, in this time of attention deficit, in this time of the Kardashians and link bait and blah, blah, blah… this was Jane Eyre for the millennial age, it was Shakespeare and Angelou and Plath and all good things.
It’s also the reason why it’s taken me a week to process what I saw and to sit down and even begin to try and write about it. Because it was good. So, so very good.
Dick Powell | seymourpowell
Yay for networking. At the end of the row, I spied copywriter Becca Magnus, a long time internet friend finally realised in real life form. We said hello, hugged and then sat down again as Dick Powell from seymourpowell began to speak, for it isn’t an exaggeration to say that Dick Powell is a game changer. That he is a man in possession of a brain that thinks so far outside the box that it teeters on the edge of creative genius.
As Powell spoke about the redesign and reimagining of objects, I couldn’t help but wonder what he was like as a child? And what his environment must have looked like. And, moreover, how the hell does he switch off and get to sleep at night?
This was sideways, upside-down, game-changing, life-changing thinking. From the placement of filling points on irons to how to accurately define and describe what a brand is, this was unexpected and it was relevant.
“A brand is an accumulation of expectations and associations possessed of successful products, services and experiences.”
Dick Powell, 2017
There’s an episode of the Big Bang Theory where Sheldon manages to breed a glow-in-the-dark fish.
I bet Dick Powell could do that.
Noriaki Onoe | Dentsu
Old school copywriting posits that negativity can be used in the toolbox of persuasion, but that it is a risky route to choose. The same goes for humour. Both can fall wide of the mark and create campaigns that can fall far wide of their target.
Noraiaki Onoe showed us how he has used both elements to create exquisitely clever campaigns with such a light touch that it took a moment to realise the full impact of what he has achieved.
Onoe’s campaign for Nissin changed the perception of instant noodle cups in Japan – and gained him a PR Lion at Cannes, while his work for Kirin’s Green Label beer in Japan increased sales by a phenomenal amount – and gained him a D&AD Pencil Award. Clever, witty – and really flipping hard to find anywhere on social media – Onoe showed what can be achieved when analysis meets creative talent and a keen ear for detail. Delightful, powerful and lucrative thought in action.
All good things…
And so, the illuminated and tripe-like ceiling of King’s Cross and the 19:30 Edinburgh via Newcastle train beckoned and it was time to leave. I looked around the room as I gathered my bags and felt as though I should find the person in charge. The mum who had arranged all the party games.
It wasn’t that I wanted a balloon and a piece of cake wrapped in a napkin. But that I felt I’d had the most extraordinary day, among the most extraordinary people. And I wanted to say thank you.
I hope this does the trick.
The Twitter roll call
- D and AD – @dandad
- Dave King – @iamdaveking
- Vikki Ross – @vikkirosswrites
- Sarah Phillips – @sarahsnotebook
- Patrick Collister – @directnewideas
- Alessandra Lariu – @alelariu | @shesaysuk
- Claudia Benetello – @dropinka
- Copyblogger – @copyblogger
- Sonia Simone – @soniasimone
- Brian Clark – @brianclark
- Robert Bruce – @robertbruce
- Dark Sugars – @darksugars
- Refinery29 – @refinery29UK
- Becca Magnus – @beccamagnus
- Dick Powell – @seymourpowell
- Dentsu – @dentsuaegis
- Unmade – @unmadeworks
- Anna Higgs – @AnnaEHiggs
- Nowness – @NOWNESS
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