Mark Denton: what’s so special about the Kinsale Sharks?


I’m really looking forward to my year as President of the 2019 Sharks festival (September 18-21)..

It’s funny to think that just over a year ago, my relationship with advertising awards was so very different, I’d genuinely fallen out of love with them.

It all seemed a bit too political and definitely too bloody expensive. I’d even been to some recent award shows where they hadn’t read the creative’s names out when the prizes were presented.

On the last craft jury I sat on, when it came to judging typography, one of the jurors announced that she was a copywriter and didn’t really understand type (yeah! I’m not kidding and it was a well known awards show too).

That was it, all the evidence I needed to decide to save my money and spend it on making creative stuff rather than wasting it on a lottery where even if I won, the chances were that I wouldn’t get a credit on the night.

And then last year I got a call from Kinsale or rather The Shark Awards.

Would I be up for doing a talk at their festival? And while I was at it would I like to be on the TV jury?

I do like talking and I’d heard that ‘Kinsale’ was great for networking, and I’d never been before so I thought ‘why not?’

I asked them if I could swap the TV jury for the Outdoor and Press jury because they’re generally less gruelling and I’m not quite as patient as I used to be.

They said it was OK and I was signed up. Stupidly I hadn’t enquired what days the juries were on and whether they happened at the same time as the talks.

It turned out that I would have to spend the whole four days of the festival in Kinsale.

I thought “Oh well, in for a penny” and I packed a few more pairs of pants and socks and headed for the airport.

It was a revelation.

I could never have guessed how much I would enjoy my whole experience there.

The networking was every bit as great as everyone had said, but not in a cynical business-y sort of way, it felt warm and friendly and genuine.

On my jury I was surrounded by people who had strong opinions and weren’t afraid to voice them. They knew what they were talking about even if I didn’t agree with them. It was argumentative, passionate and a right laugh too.

When I finally got round to doing the talk I’d had the time to get to meet a lot of the audience so it was like delivering it to a bunch of friends.

It was standing room only, nobody left to go to the pub, Nils Leonard even brought his kids along (which made it even better).

It’s probably the most fun I’d ever had delivering a lecture, and fortunately the audience seemed to like it as well.

That was it, I was definitely going to return the next year and maybe I’d even enter some work into a few categories. I just wanted to join in and be part of it.

So I was well pleased when out of the blue I was asked if I was interested in being Jury President in 2019 (thank you Zoe Brooks).

I think I said yes before the end of the question.

I don’t know if they knew what they were letting themselves in for at the time but we’re all on the same page now.
I explained that I want to make the focus of the 2019 Shark Awards all about CRAFT.

Craft in Copywriting, Art Direction, Design, Typography, Illustration, Photography, Direction, Editing, Sound, etc, etc, etc.

Fortunately I found I was pushing against an open door and between us we’ve put together some terrific juries and speakers.

Despite the fact that I’m a commercials director I’m delighted to report that I’ve spotted some great craft driven posters posted around town over the last year from great agencies like Droga 5, Uncommon and Atomic to name but a few.

Could we be witnessing a revival in press and print?

With that in mind I’m particularly chuffed that I’ve managed to persuade my good friend Dave Dye (still one of the worlds most accomplished art directors) not only to be boss of the Print and OOH jury but also to deliver a talk.

And there’s a special emphasis on design too with the fabulous Ben Casey of The Chase heading up that jury.

In fact all of the categories from Digital to Short Films have got world-class juries so of course I’m hoping they’ll have the best creative work in the world to sink their teeth into.

It’s only a few weeks now ‘til the Sharks festival begins, so selfishly I’d advise anyone out there who’s created a piece of advertising or design that they’re proud of to enter.

I’m definitely going to.

Mark Denton Esq.

FIN (I thought that was appropriate given it’s the Shark Awards).

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