As awards director of D&AD, Donal Keenan has the taxing job of making sure that the awards keep up with industry changes and keep all of you happy so that you keep sending entries, which allows D&AD to keep funding its educational programmes. D&AD is a non-profit. It exists to develop the next generation of creative talent and stimulate the creative industry to work towards a fairer and more sustainable future.
So here is Keenan’s overview of why the D&AD Awards are a bit different this year and what’s likely to change in the future.
Triumph over a tough year
It has definitely been a tough twelve months for awards, however we’ve done really well. We are 6% up overall in entries, although it didn’t seem like that when we opened for entries. There has also been a positive response from the industry to the awards this year but we can never forget that there is still a lot of turbulence and we’re dealing with that. We are looking at how we can engage with the wider landscape. That’s obviously the consultancies and also the growing design thinking movement. D&AD is very much a design organisation as much as an advertising organisation. It was a group of designers who first came up with the concept of the organisation and then the art directors jumped in on it. So working out how to engage the wider design community is definitely one of our focuses.
The future isn’t really limited to our core graphics design, we’re expanding further across the entire design industry and into the technology side. We’ve got some great pieces of technology winning in design this year. D&AD is also very, very strong in print graphics, graphic design and branding. And we’re expanding out into the other areas like design transformation and design thinking.
Craft’s time to shine
The decision to enhance the weight of craft is one of my passions, that I’ve been working for. One of the main drivers of that is the need and want to award production companies properly and improve the judging process for craft. Not only have the categories changes but judging process has changed. In the past, we had film advertising juries made up of animators, editors, cinematographers, directors all in one group. Certainly, over the last three or four years, it has been increasingly difficult when an editor is saying, “I don’t know what the best animation is,” for example. So we’re bringing in far more specialists and letting them focus on what the best is in their realm. That increased our judges a lot and has worked really well. There has been an amazing amount of positive feedback and support from the industry. Not one person has said to me that this is going in the wrong direction. We’ve always awarded the best of craft but now we’re giving it a lot more attention.
The cost question
Price is definitely something gets raised. And it’s something I have to work on every year. I change prices every year. We’ve brought down the price of newspaper and magazine design for the last two years. It may, however, not be enough for independent magazines, but we are aware of that. What is a major challenge right now is the price for press categories. The next step is to make sure that everything is accessible from a price point.
So many ad awards
Are there too many awards out there? Yes.
I hear from the industry that there are too many and only a few that matter. If, in twelve months’ time, we were in a position where there were really good solid local ones, the occasional regional one and a few of the global ones that mattered it would be a much better landscape. The advertising industry seems to be award crazy and probably needs to come to some kind of conclusion. I would love it if the industry turned around and said we’re not supporting award shows that don’t support our industry – what a nice turn of events that would be. The WARC rankings, though, are helping to give clarity about some with the transparency they have now presented.
Who’s competing for a Pencil?
In terms of spread, we had entries from 73 countries this year. Huge increases from the US. Up 27%. And Brazil. India is hugely up. Mexico, Thailand and China gave us massive increases this year and I think that will continue. Every Latam country is up, but less significantly. There are definitely some eastern Europe countries and Russia that could come on board a bit more. Australia was flat, very similar numbers to last year. Australia has been certainly packing a punch in terms of winning Pencils in the last few years.