D&AD limbers up for annual awards tussle with Cannes

Which is the best awards show in the world? “Search me guv,” is the only realistic answer but the UK’s venerable D&AD (Designers and Art Directors as was) is putting in a challenge to the likes of Cannes and The One Show under the energetic direction of former agency boss Tim Lindsay. It’s an international event these days, of course.

How to define the best awards show is another interesting question. If it’s taking the most money and going on for longest it’s clearly Cannes. D&AD, an educational charity, is rather more purist.

dad-logoD&AD was founded way back in 1962 by photographers David Bailey and Terence Donovan and designers Alan Fletcher and Colin Forbes of Pentagram. Forbes designed the striking logo. The admen came later and the two groups have been arguing likes cats in a sack for much of the intervening period.

D&AD’s stated purpose in life, coined all those years ago and it shows, is: “Benchmarking and rewarding great ideas that are well executed and appropriate.” How archaic is that? But it’s absolutely spot on. It’s what awards shows should be about; craft and effectiveness if you like. But isn’t ‘appropriate’ a much more gentlemanly way of expressing the latter?

So D&AD continued – with its highs and lows. The top award is a black pencil (harking back to its designer roots) followed by yellows. In 2000 it awarded a double black to AMV BBDO for its celebrated Guinness ‘Surfer.’ directed by Jonathan Glazer (if you want a big award get a Glazer) and repeated the double award in 2005 for Wieden+Kennedy London’s ‘Grrr’ for Honda (animation by Nexus, both below).

Double pencils were a touch controversial at the time, it does rather devalue the currency although it’s hard to imagine two better ads.

The now defunct Collett Dickenson Pearce is the most awarded agency in the history of D&AD, appropriately ennough. CDP was as much a child of the so-called ‘Swinging Sixties’ as Bailey and Donovan. Both worked on campaigns for the agency.

Its output was distinguished at least as much by ground-breaking art direction as brilliant writing and it first made its name, long before the likes of Heineken came along, by producing ads for the then new Sunday Times magazine, Britain’s first newspaper ‘colour supplement.’

No idea if this was one of them (although it was by CDP and almost certainly by Bailey):

And, not that many years later, that led to this and many others like it:

Did it win a pencil? Don’t know that either but it should have done. But that was the heyday of D&AD.

Tempus fugit of course and it looks as though D&AD is on the way back. After a week of judging it’s awarded the rather dizzying total of 848 pencils with the UK in the lead (hardly surprisingly) and the UK’s AMV BBDO as lead agency. The colour of these will be revealed on May 21.

Here are three of this year’s film pencil winners.
And some of the hard-working jurors.

In the recent past D&AD has been rather overshadowed by Cannes, which follows shortly after.

Maybe this year it might redress some of that balance.

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