Jonathan Kneebone's D&AD Diary # Two

KNEEBONE-IMG_0968.jpgJonathan Kneebone, director of The Glue Society, is representing Australia on the D&AD Outdoor jury, currently convened in London. Here is his second report, exclusive to Campaign Brief

Case-study-philia.

Yet another modern disease. One's that every bit as infectious as over-entering (see previous diary), but this one is additionally capable of causing the uncontrollable onset of tiredness and yawning.

Yes, case studies are the new mood films. And they can be just as dangerous in the wrong hands - as they can feel oddly impressive, even if the idea is anything but.
The time and effort required to wrap up a campaign into a compelling and award-worthy package is leading some agencies to appoint departments to tackle this process.

KNEEBONE-IMG_0965.jpgThere are numerous start ups the world over being dreamt up to handle the endless workload of editing all manner of materials - from news reports to tweet flashbacks to subtitled talking heads to even the odd creative team appearing to interact with their own idea - into a comprehensive visual and musical argument for a prize.

As the latest strain is released, case studies in themselves are essentially necessary evils - to help juries avoid turning a two day judging experience into a lonely month-long pre-judging slog.

But what is distressing is that the industry's obsession with case studies is also changing the nature of the ideas that creative people are actually originating.

The boundless opportunity of conceptual thinking appears to have been reduced to an array of projects, experiments, stunts, pranks, and comedy what ifs.

KNEEBONE-day-2.jpgSpeaking a little from this week's experience of judging, the first step in answering a brief for a lot of agency folk nowadays appears to be 'what can we come up with that will create the case study?'.

They appear to be coming up with ideas that in themselves become the case study. It saves so much time you see. If the film is already a case study...

It's why a lot of ideas see kooky things happening to real people in the real world.

And while there are within this narrow segment of ideas, some which have genuine merit, the majority have forgotten that there are other ways to crack nuts or solve problems.

And so we saw a lot of slapstick stunts that would otherwise been happy to fill the solitary projector screen of a cheap eastern European airline as part of that rather creepy re-run of Just for Laughs 'gags'.

Ideas have become less about communication and more about doing something - anything - that will then allow a newsreader or commentator (ideally from a foreign country) to be forced to explain the strategy or be left to work out the relevance to the brand.

In our category, we had the chance to look at two types of entry.

Within outdoor, there's now the physical (real outdoor posters which appear on real billboard sites) and the filmed case study kind.

The level of care and attention that goes into the filmed entries was emphatically more impressive than the care and craft of the rather old-fashioned looking print versions.

But in order to judge both, what became obvious is that films can - and generally do - disguise an absence of communication within the work itself.

Whereas the physical billboards had to at least try to present an idea which worked off the page.

As you will discover, the finalists (both physical and filmed) which are now announced on D&AD's website all had one thing in common.

An idea which in itself was provocative to create genuine and instant interest.

And in every case, was smart enough to back that up with some very immediate, pointed and relevant communication.

While the best concepts may not have literally been a poster - allowing us as a jury to move the goalposts of what outdoor means or at least call it into question - they actually had the simplicity and punch of a headline, image and logo.

KNEEBONE-IMG_0970.jpgSome ideas were just irreverent images with great headlines. Diesel's 'Make Love Not Walls', for instance, took classic images of photojournalism and turned them into a contemporary comment on Trump's America. IrnBru managed to make sense of running a headline 'Derek Sock Bandage The Ninth' - albeit to prove it was nonsense.

But other ideas went beyond a poster. One idea was a flag. One idea was a sculpture. One idea was a soundtrack. But in each and every instance, immediately behind the vital quest for attention was a piece of communication to back it up.

Social media and PR can help take a great idea and give it magnitude like never before. But what they cannot do is make a random concept or a lazy bit of thinking relevant to a brand or award worthy.

So, as a jury, we came to a rather interesting conclusion.

Maybe a great way to start in solving any brief these days is not to think of the case study - or to think of the press release (as per Crispin Porter in their heyday) - but to try to originate something that has the efficiency, emotion, effortlessness and impact of a billboard.

Something worth sharing visually, something that explains itself instantly, and something relevant enough to the brand to make you think better of it.

Do that first. And I guarantee the case study will write itself.

In the meantime, congratulations to everyone who's done well not just in outdoor, but across the entire show.

As I've said before it really is to your credit because D&AD juries don't give pencils out without good reason. But the word on the street around Shoreditch is that Australia is making its presence felt.

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