This year, the creative industries were invited to vote in a special edition of the D&AD Awards, the D&AD Black Pencil of the Decade. Four winners were chosen. Host/Havas’ Palau Pledge “stood on the podium” beside Rivers of Light by MullenLowe SSP3 and Viva La Vulva by AMV BBDO.
Palau Pledge won in Design. Host/Havas head of design, Nicholas Adamovich, took The Stable behind-the-scenes of the making of Palau Pledge and what it means to be a Black Pencil winner – twice.
The Stable: When did Host/Havas realise that it had a winning idea for Palau Legacy?
Nicholas Adamovich: From a design point of view, we honestly never set out with the intention of winning awards. Our aim was simply to make the best work we could. All you can do is put your heart and soul into a project and hope for the best, but the work should always have a purpose; it has to create real change, make a meaningful difference. We realised how important it was to get it right when we learnt about the ecological damage that was being caused by tourists. Palau is such a unique place and we wanted to make sure that came through in the work. Every single element was crafted with care to reflect the pristine beauty of Palau and the future generations we were protecting and preserving it for. Countless hours and a lot of love and dedication were poured into the project by an amazingly talented and passionate team, alongside a client who fought extremely hard for the work. I don’t think it could have become what it is without that.
I’m extremely proud of the attention Palau Pledge has received, it is truly humbling to have been recognised alongside all the other brilliant work out there.
The Stable: What were the challenges and triumphs involved?
Nicholas Adamovich: Well, there were a few, and I guess that’s what makes a successful project all the more rewarding.
At a practical/ logistical level some that come to mind:
The project didn’t just happen overnight; it took two years to get to where we ended up. Having time to create something is a luxury, but keeping the momentum going takes effort.
One of our first challenges was that we needed to gain an understanding of Palauan culture, and ensure the local Palauan government and community groups were on board. This was hugely important.
Dealing with government officials from a different country was never going to be straightforward but changing immigration laws and policies took things to a whole other level. Thankfully, these were battles our client was prepared to take on and not just stick in the “too hard basket”. Working with multiple stakeholders in different countries and time zones is, of course, always tricky, and our main client being based in a remote Micronesian island nation at the time meant that unpredictable internet connection was one of our constant challenges.
The stamp itself had to be simple – easy to print, easy to read, and tick all the immigration functionality boxes too which, of course, had its limitations. The stamp also had to work equally well in 5 different languages. We had to ensure that absolutely everything we did married back to the idea of sustainability. We learned a lot about crafting stamps using sustainable wood, recycled plastic and vegetable inks.
Some that I can think of at a campaign level:
The challenge was to find a balance between encouraging tourism without compromising the environment. As a small and developing nation, Palau lacked the infrastructure or funds required to police both tourists and the tourism industry. Our aim was to make tourists, visitors, and Palauan’s accountable for their actions to avoid significant environmental damage and cultural disruption.
There has been a shift in the type of visitors to Palau and around people changing their behaviour on their trip after signing the pledge. On entry, 96% of tourists said signing the Pledge would make them consider their environmental impact on Palau. On exit, 65% said they used the Pledge to challenge other tourists on their behaviour – such as stepping on coral.
Palau is the first country to incorporate environmental practices into its immigration laws and is now being used as a best practice example of sustainable tourism around the world. While Palau is a small nation, its efforts to mitigate mass tourism’s effects can be seen on a global scale. That’s the biggest win you could hope for.
The Stable: What do you think makes a campaign worthy of a Black Pencil?
Nicholas Adamovich: In my opinion, it’s the coming together of every single element. Making work that is relevant, effective, has purpose, stays true to the idea, and is beautifully executed through craft and design. It’s the attention to detail and sensitivity to those that view the work, but more importantly those represented by it that sets it apart. Palau Pledge is a perfect example of how, no matter how small your budget is, you can create impact and make a real difference if you have a team fuelled by passion and determination. For me, it’s a simple idea that feels unique but also addresses key issues relevant to the times we live in…It will be interesting to see what makes it through in 2021 and how Covid influences the work being produced.
The Stable: Australia came 9that D&AD this year? Have we stopped punching above our weight?
Nicholas Adamovich: I hope not! That’s what’s going to keep us in the game. If you don’t always strive for better, what’s the point?
The Stable: What do you think were Australia’s standout campaigns this year? Advertising’s standout campaigns?
Nicholas Adamovich: There was so much incredible work at D&AD this year, but two Australian design standouts for me are:
- ForthePeople’s Sydney Film Festival identity – such an energetic, bold and striking graphic solution, you can tell they had a lot of fun creating it. Definitely something I wish I had done.
- I also loved The Play Edition that Garbett Design did for Who Gives a Crap – bold, graphic illustrations that have a sense of fun to them. It’s the type of design I’d love on my wall, even if it is toilet paper!
Then outside of Australia, again there were so many standouts for me but a couple in particular:
- FCB Chicago’s Gun Violence History Book was an incredibly well-crafted piece of book design, they won a well-deserved Black Pencil this year. I had the opportunity to see the book in person; it was obvious the care and attention to detail that went into it, and the story behind it is so relevant and extremely powerful. The execution of it took it to a whole other level and made it stand out.
- Droga5’s New York Times’ Life Needs Truth film – an extension to its beautifully crafted The Truth Is Worth It (D&AD 2019) and The Truth is Essential campaigns. I love the unique delivery of the idea and the seamless way sound design and visuals are brought together. (This wasn’t entered into D&AD this year)
The Stable: What has coloured Host/Havas’ 2020?
Nicholas Adamovich: Our biggest challenge has of course been the same one that industries all over the world are facing with Covid. Despite this, we’ve managed to keep putting out work of a high standard and have just been focusing on helping our clients through this unsettling time and keeping agency morale up as much as possible.
We also turned our strengths and capabilities into tools to help others out via an initiative we created called the Havas Hustle. Our industry has been gutted by Covid. Jobs advertised across Australia’s marketing and communications industry fell by nearly 61% between April and May. Like other agencies, we wanted to help with meaningful action, so we looked to another surprising statistic in our industry – an estimated 65% of Australian advertising and marketing professionals have a side hustle. And for many who had been impacted, making those side hustles viable was now more important than ever.
Havas Hustle brought together 36 specialists across the Havas Village, offering assistance and advice to help side hustles and small businesses, no strings attached. Support spanned media, creative, design, management, HR, strategy, innovation, UX, tech consulting, retail, PR, social, commercial, contractual, financial, and IT. In just over a month, Havas Hustle helped over 200 side hustles.
I think everyone has a duty to use their influence for good in times like these. I’m optimistic for 2021 as we have some really exciting work in the pipeline.