‘It’s a Tide Ad’ Joins Fearless Girl in Winning D&AD Awards’ Top Honors for 2018

Third Black Pencil went to Host/Havas' Palau Pledge

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One of those most sought-after awards in advertising, D&AD’s Black Pencil, has gone to a Super Bowl campaign—and yep, it’s a Tide ad.

Saatchi & Saatchi New York’s “It’s a Tide Ad” campaign joined two other top winners—McCann New York’s much-lauded Fearless Girl and Host/Havas’ Palau Pledge—in taking home a Black Pencil at the D&AD Awards Ceremony in London tonight. Read more about the Palau Pledge, a bold environmental initiative, here.

D&AD is the first major industry award for the Tide campaign, which speckled the 2018 Super Bowl with multiple head-fake ads that seemed to be promoting another product until actor David Harbour appeared, telling the audience, “It’s a Tide ad.” The campaign also won three Yellow Pencils (gold) and one Graphite Pencil (silver).

While Saatchi is technically prohibited from entering awards shows during parent company Publicis’ one-year awards hiatus, the entry was submitted to D&AD by client Procter & Gamble, a Saatchi spokesperson said.

Javier Campopiano, CCO of Saatchi NY, says D&AD is one of the most challenging awards for a creative campaign to win and shows that “It’s a Tide Ad” could fare well at subsequent awards shows such as the Cannes Lions.

“There is this agreed notion across the industry that D&AD is probably the most demanding show of all,” he told Adweek. “That makes this win even bigger. And it’s not very common for a Super Bowl ad to win at these shows, with only a few exceptions, which marks an interesting intersection for a piece of work that has been so popular with audiences and juries. That says that you can always do both–it’s only a matter of having a brave client and a great idea. Certainly, after these wins, the campaign is a strong contender for the upcoming shows. Fingers crossed!”

The other U.S. campaign sharing top honors at D&AD this year is McCann New York’s Fearless Girl statue for State Street Global Advisors. For nearly a year, the campaign has been dominating industry awards shows, and D&AD was no exception. The project won a total of 13 awards: a Black Pencil, seven Yellow Pencils, two Graphite Pencils and three Wood Pencils (bronze).

The Black Pencil, equivalent to a Grand Prix at most ad awards shows, is a rare career highlight enjoyed by very few in advertising. In fact, McCann Worldgroup Global Creative Chairman Rob Reilly has never won a Black Pencil until tonight, despite working on unforgettable campaigns like Burger King’s Subservient Chicken and Whopper Freakout, plus American Express’ Small Business Saturday.

“They’re just hard shows to win—D&AD, the Black Pencil, it’s an elusive thing,” Reilly told Adweek a few hours before learning Fearless Girl had won the top prize. “I’ve been in the business 25 years and have been lucky to be a part of several iconic things that haven’t won a Black Pencil.”

Reilly said Fearless Girl was a campaign that came about at the perfect time, driven by a bold client who was willing to be part of the often politicized discussion around gender and empowerment.

“The stars aligned for an idea like this that wasn’t based in technology but was the oldest form of advertising,” he said. “The timing had to be perfect for it to become the phenomenon that it has been.”

For Saatchi’s Campopiano, the lesson of Tide’s success at D&AD is that experimentation and faith in your audience can accomplish far more than many marketers realize.

“Never underestimate an audience. Super Bowl ads sometimes are too up-front and direct, and we have proven with this idea that you can play with a more elevated or complex idea and, as long as it’s funny and well-executed, people will follow and engage,” he said. “And we can use TV as a canvas for something bigger, reaching audiences through all the social channels. It was nice to see all these channels interacting seamlessly. It proves that TV can still play a huge role to start a conversation too.”

@griner david.griner@adweek.com David Griner is creative and innovation editor at Adweek and host of Adweek's podcast, "Yeah, That's Probably an Ad."