Letdown At D&AD

As expected, London’s Design & Art Direction organization threw a great party last week to toast the best of 2003’s international advertising and design. Some 1,730 of the U.K.’s creative talent turned out for the event at the old Billingsgate fish market overlooking the Thames. But for all the good food and drink, there was something disappointing about the evening.

Blame it on the recent bad economy or, as Leagas Delaney’s Tim Delaney proposed, the absorption of smaller shops by conglomerates. “There’s no doubt agencies have done better work in the past,” said Delaney, a judge in the Writing for Advertising category. The work, he said, was “less audacious, less focused” and “fairly repetitive.”

In terms of the writing, Delaney added, “A lot of the craft has gone away. Print’s gone to a whole visual thing—headlines are virtually nonexistent.”

But while last year, the D&AD jury—known for its exacting standards—awarded no gold awards (the highest accolade), this time, two were handed out. Neither, however, went to traditional ads. In the category of graphic design, U.K. firm Johnson Banks picked up a coveted black Pencil, representing a gold award, for its “Fruit and Veg” stamps for Royal Mail. Atleier Markgraph won for environmental design and architecture with “Ship of Ideas,” a floating platform that projected lights and images on several large screens for Germany’s Tourismus and Congress.

Still, many judges agreed this year was not a high point. Paul Silburn, deputy creative director at TBWA/London and chair of the Television & Cinema Advertising jury, said this year’s awards book will contain half the amount of work as in past years. “It wasn’t a particularly good year,” he noted. “The economy hasn’t been helping things.” Submissions from the U.S. and the U.K. were the most creative, he said.

D&AD gave eight of 53 yellow Pencils, representing silver awards, to Wieden + Kennedy in London for its Honda U.K. work. “Cog,” Britain’s most recognized commercial this awards season, took home honors for best TV commercial over 60 seconds; the campaign, encompassing three spots (“Everyday” and “Sense” are the other two) won for TV commercials and TV campaigns.

“Cog” was bypassed for a Grand Prix at Cannes last year because of its similarity to a 1987 film made by Swiss artists, but at least one D&AD judge felt that criticism was too harsh. “You’re allowed to borrow from other sources,” said Paul Brazier, deputy creative director at AMV BBDO. “It’s a great spot and fresh for car advertising.”

The host of the evening, however, was not impressed. Matt Lucas, star of British TV show Little Britain, presented the awards while dressed in drag. After “Cog” played, he snipped, “I’m sure that meant something.”

Adman Dave Trott, co-founder of U.K. agency Walsh Trott Chick Smith, was honored with the President’s Award, previously awarded to creative notables including Bartle Bogle Hegarty co-founder John Hegarty and David Abbott, founding partner of Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO. “I guess I’m officially an old fart now,” Trott said as he accepted the prize.

Other silver awards went to Del Campo Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi in Argentina for Best Non-English TV Campaign for ads for Parque de la Costa. In the category of TV and Cinema Advertising Crafts, silver awards were given to TBWA/London for direction, cinematography, use of music and special effects for its “Mountain” spot for PlayStation2; Wieden for direction and sound design (for “Cog”), editing (for Honda’s “Everyday” spot) and cinematography (Honda’s “Sense” spot). The Quarry, U.K., won a silver for editing for the Adidas spot “Kicking It.”

DDB in London won a silver for integrated advertising for a Guardian campaign and a Best Press Campaign silver for its Harvey Nichols work. Saatchi & Saatchi in Thailand was lauded in the Best Non-English Language Press category for magazine ads for Indosport

Silver award winners in radio went to Wieden for a series of spots for Honda and Columbus, Ohio, shop Method Integrated Marketing for its “Gay Son” commercial for Stonewall-Columbus.

Among the five other U.S. winners were MTV Networks for its in-house promos “Gay-Straight,” Musical Instrument,” “Three- second Rule” and “Shower” in the TV and Cinema Crafts category and AKQA in San Francisco, whose Nike site Nikepresto.tv won in the digital crafts category.

While the D&AD received 14,000 entries from 58 countries, the U.K. dominated the winner’s circle with one black and 38 yellow pencils.