The Glue Society founder, Jonathan Kneebone, is a jury member for the Production Design category & a member of the D&AD Global Board. He is also one of the smartest creative minds in the industry with a remarkable radar for picking up what lies ahead.
Kneebone lets you peek into judging at this year’s D&AD Awards and take a look at the opportunities forming on advertising’s horizon.
The Stable: What do you see as the biggest challenges and opportunities within your discipline (Jonathan is judging Production Design)?
Jonathan Kneebone: Production Design is undoubtedly something that can contribute so much to the audience experience and enjoyment of an idea. And in many ways, can be a make or break component. Taste, style, relevance, originality, innovation, attention to detail and exactness are on display. And done right, there’s an enriching of emotion or experience. Done wrong, an idea can feel laboured, cheap, contrived or simply irrelevant. Challenges, then, are how to make things appear effortless when money is, more often than not, an issue. And opportunities abound in the quest to create new memorable visual moments. I am hoping we may see a broadening of entries this year. So production design can include experiential, spatial and installation ideas and not just film.
TS: What do you see as the biggest challenges and opportunities within your personal discipline (ie: Experiential & Film Direction)?
JK: There is no doubt that the Australian experience of brands doing, not just saying, is starting to be mirrored in other countries, as well as the scale of opportunity that larger budgets and audiences provide as a result. The benefit of creating an endeavour, engaging people directly, filming the experience and then sharing this to build bigger noise and broader communication appears to be catching on. But this category is, at its best, so much more than brands sponsoring activities. When a brand has a sense of why it exists, what its role in the community can be, or what its social impact should be, then that is when experiential can become far more powerful than a mere commercial. Being, doing and behaving create connections beyond simple or straightforward statements or messages. And that is why the future of this category seems set for some extraordinary work. It is also bringing new people with broader skill sets into the commercial creative industry, which can only bring a more diverse, inspiring array of voices and work.
TS: What you will be looking for this year as part of judging for the D&AD awards?
JK: This year, film craft is being separated into a number of smaller juries. Of late, the film craft category as a whole has often been the largest of all, so reducing into smaller segments, with more relevant and specific judges will be an interesting development. There’s a chance that it will mean certain work wins more awards, because more juries are judging the same piece. But equally it may mean work will win in the individual fields it should win, rather than simply going to the director. Unlike the Oscars, which wanted to send cinematography into the ad break, D&AD is bringing the individuals responsible for all components of an idea into the foreground. It’s good to see.
TS: What are you excited to see and what will you be looking for in standout, Pencil worthy work?
JK: I think Production Design could well be a very competitive and successful category. There are some great pieces – Libresse and Apple spring to mind – where the film-making has been enhanced by the determination to make every detail matter. I also hope projects like the CALM statues and perhaps even our own IKEA work for Mother and Hiscox for AMV BBDO – get some attention. Unconventional as these may be, the role of the production designer plays even more of a hand in making a real experience engaging, credible and rewarding.
TS: What are the rewards of awards (professionally and personally)?
JK: In some ways, an award can change your life. It can give you confidence that you know what you are doing, or that your personal version of creativity has value and merit. And beyond that, it can get you the attention that most of us secretly seek every time we pick up a pen or receive a new brief. The reward can be financial of course. But above all, I would say the most exciting thing about winning an award is being recognised or associated with something. It can act as shorthand for, and give others confidence in, new ideas you bring to the table. Rather than having to explain that you are worth listening to, awards do tend to give a bit more weight to the things you say, support or present.
TS: What do you feel is the best work you’ve ever done and why? That The Glue Society has ever done and why?
JK: I would say the best project I’ve been involved in is Watch With Mother – our sketch horror TV series. But commercially, the job that gives me the most pleasure is the campaign for UV sunscreen. It never won an award, because it was never allowed to be entered. And perhaps the fact that it achieved notoriety without getting awarded actually gives me a perverse satisfaction. For The Glue Society, probably the Jason Donovan campaign for Virgin Mobile feels like an obvious highlight – as this was something we wrote and directed. In terms of directing a job for others, then I think 1882 Ansiosos y Capuchon would be a personal high.
TS: The Glue Society is 21 this year (the traditional age of adulthood). How has it changed since its beginning? What is it looking to achieve next?
JK: While the industry has undoubtedly changed, the core skills of original thinking, problem solving and audience engagement remain. In some respects, those skills are in more demand than ever because the requirement to stand out and make an impact with each piece of communication is continuing to heighten. When we began, we thought we would only really write and direct work for ourselves – but that changed when other creative teams started asking if we’d direct projects for them. What we have done is evolve to mirror our personal interests and skills. This has seen our focus move on from purely TVCs to include experiential, installation, art, innovation and design as part of our directing repertoire. Creativity once said we were “experts at things which have never been done before”. And in many ways, we do find ourselves being asked to help make things happen that have no precedent. And now our appetite for the new is stronger than ever, because we have the weight of experience. I think we are, to some extent, just getting started. Our new production partners in Biscuit in both the US and UK, I think will open us up to projects which have more global impact. And our intent is to bring something of an Australian attitude to them. I feel brands engaging audiences in events, experiences and valuable endeavours is a discipline which will only become more sophisticated and surprising. The industry will move on from hidden cameras to truly creative, artistic and emotionally uplifting and inspiring experiences. And we’re ready, willing and able to play our part in turning wishful thinking into a wonderful reality.