What makes the Pencil so Pure?

03 Apr,2014


By Shephali Bhatt


If ‘popular’ is the operative word for a Cannes Lion, ‘pure’ would perhaps be the most apt for a D&AD pencil. Among the most revered awards in advertising, the London-based show has a rigorous judging process that sets it apart. The winning categories are In Book (entries that find a place in the D&AD Annual, and an equivalent of Bronze), Nomination (Silver), Yellow Pencil (Gold) and finally Black Pencil (an equivalent of the coveted Grand Prix.)


The judging for D&AD 2014 was held at Kensington Olympia in London over a period of one week starting 24 March. With the award entries spread out in the Olympia’s grand hall, it certainly makes a case for the most beautiful judging room, rivalling even the Palais at Cannes with its views of the Mediterranean.


Unlike other shows where agencies enter a lot of work across categories to raise the odds of winning, here they only send what they think is exceptional. Part of it can be attributed to the high participation fees, says Sue Daun, executive creative director at Interbrand London and one of the jury members in the Branding category this year. But more importantly, it’s because everyone views the work basis its excellence.


What’s encouraging is how the jurors don’t run a good piece of work down just because it wasn’t entered correctly. If they feel it’s deserving of some recognition, they go to the extent of asking if it’s also been submitted to the right category and if not, they ask if it can be. “There’s no agenda except to bring out the best work,” says Tista Sen, JWT India’s NCD and a D&AD 2014 jury member for Outdoor. Nobody tries to find which agency has created a particular piece or make an agenda of running down advertising from rival shops or networks. That whatever wins will be a reflection of the judges’ calibre is what drives them. “We should be able to defend the work we vote for,” is the mindset the judges have here which is unheard of at many other shows around the world which operate on a ‘more the merrier’ philosophy when it comes to trophies.


At the same time, the criteria for choosing the best work are extremely stringent. So, phrases like ‘I like it’ or ‘I just don’t like it’ don’t cut ice with ‘Craft for Advertising’ jury foreman Louise Sloper who is also the head of design at BETC London. You will have to be able to answer ‘what bits did you like in particular’. The judges are tough but evidently fair. So John Mescall, Mc-Cann Melbourne’s ECD (Yes, of the Dumb Ways To Die fame) can solemnly ask to “kill the sound” of an entry for trailbytimeline.org.nz because the jury needs to experience what it is like to visit the actual website which doesn’t have a supporting voice-over.


Alcohol brands are in for a hard time with the jury across categories since most innovations are suspected to have been “done before.” So is the case with any PSAs that come their way. Rob Reilly, jury foreman of Integrated and Earned Media and the global creative chairman of McCann Worldgroup, opines it’s easy to create a great idea for an NGO and convince them to buy it. It’s a challenge to do that for great brands and he for one has more respect for the latter while judging.


Some judges did complain of too many entries trying too hard and becoming complicated in the process. The judges unanimously believe that to make something simple is a lot harder. What dominates the entire judging process is an aura of positivism where judges are immersed in bringing out the best work ahead and everyone is allowed to have their say, senior or rookie (which many complain is absent from other award shows). If implemented well, some of these ideas can raise the standards of the gong fests back home. Something that we are in dire need of.


Source:The Economic Times

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