Jonathan Kneebone's D&AD Wrap-up

IMG_6434 (1).jpgJonathan Kneebone, director of The Glue Society, represented Australia on the D&AD Outdoor jury this week in London. Here is his wrap-up report, exclusive to Campaign Brief

Judging Creativity.

Is it as pointless as farting in a colander?

Does it have the smell of the absurdist behaviour that Martin Mull is said to have identified with his phrase...'writing about art is like dancing about architecture'.

Can anyone really say with any confidence that one idea is better than another? And what kind of confidence does it say you're that person?
Can we as an industry say one piece of advertising is superior to another - when most people work day and night to avoid the things we spent untold hours trying to come up with to interrupt them.

Ultimately, it depends on how you go about judging creativity.

Paul Arden once told a group of us at college that only a jury that's good enough will recognise work that's great enough.

And juries don't get tougher or more disciplined or more judgmental than the ones at D&AD.

And the criteria used at this particular event - where something only gets a nod (or a pencil) if it reaches a certain standard - makes it more than just a subjective decision.

The standards are pre-determined. And they are ludicrously high. The job of the jury is to decide what is and isn't good enough. It's black and white.

And there's no pressure on anyone to give anything any thing.

So what are we to make of the awards that have been given out just a few hours ago?

Well, unless there's been an Academy Awards style cock-up - and the awards were actually meant to go to Austria - then Australia has had a phenomenal year.

54 pencils - many of them of significant colours - puts Australia third behind the US and then the UK. (The first time the USA has topped this tally.)

Not that awards are about numbers. They are really about people.

IMG_6418 (1).jpgAnd sitting on top of the pile is the extraordinary Graham, winning a black pencil for its creators Stephen de Wolf, Evan Roberts, Tom and George McQueen not forgetting Ant Keogh, James McGrath and the artist Patricia Piccinini - as well as countless others who were involved in its production, installation and its promotion through PR.

This is a spectacular achievement. And my heartfelt congratulations go to them.

Of the 26,000 pieces of work submitted this year, only three other bits of work were deemed good enough to receive that honour.

Clemenger BBDO Melbourne's work sits alongside Serviceplan Korea's braille watch and INGO Stockholm's campaign The Swedish Number, and  Channel 4's work for the Paralympic Broadcast (for concept and craft) - the second time their Superhuman work has won a black pencil. No pressure on the people working on the Tokyo campaign then...

The Clems campaigns for the TAC and Bonds made them the most awarded agency in the world - beating Adam and Eve/DDB London, no less.

So what made this work 'better' than everything else? What made it worthy of a black pencil?

As it happens, those questions are precisely what is important about D&AD.

In a way, the question is actually the answer.

Not everything is given an award. The mystery of what is a truly groundbreaking idea or execution is what should inspire us as creative people. There are no rules or formulas. There's no knowing.

And ultimately, what D&AD recognises is the people who are individually doing their very best work - not to win awards for the sake of winning awards - but rather to do justice to the opportunity and in turn make a name for themselves.

And what D&AD does better than any other festival or awards show is that is does recognise the creative individuals responsible.

This is not about network CEO's strutting down the Croissette or the rather self-congratulatory ranking lists - this is about real people receiving real recognition.

It is interesting today to look back at the first time the Graham campaign was posted on Campaign Brief. I would encourage you to do so.

For there in the comments section lies a story.

In amongst the positive notes are various snide, cynical and try hard comments from people who hide behind the cloak of anonymity.

And today, something occurred to me. I'm not sure it's that profound, but I think it could be true.

Every day, there's a choice we as creative people have.

Do something that makes a name for yourself. Or write something that hides your identity.

In a way, if you choose to do the latter you are getting everything you deserve. No recognition, no reward, nothing but remaining unheard of.

But if you are bold enough to stick your neck out, push yourself to achieve what you are capable of, and challenge yourself to do something incredible or good for the world - and create something you proudly put your name to  - then one day you too might enjoy taking the credit for it.

Goodness knows, you may never get a black pencil. After all, it's highly unlikely.

But today, everyone who has won a pencil of whatever colour deserves our congratulations. 

4 Comments

T said:

Truly inspiring. Thanks JK

A Former Award Chaser (and Winner) said:

Nicely written by the gentle and considered JK.

But a comment or two if I may.

Firstly, awards are completely subjective.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, awards do not - and can not - know or acknowledge the business problem that the creative solution attempted to solve.

The only criteria for award juries, no matter how eminent, are: Do I like it? Does it seem to be original? Did it make me giggle?

These criteria are not drivers of commercial success in the real world.

And if you are so inward-looking as to think awards matter in the commercial world, where the purpose of advertising is to generate business and money for the advertiser, you're farting into a colander.

Barney said:

Terrific article. It made me think, laugh and cry out for more. Congrats to all the pencil sharpeners and friends of Graham.

garyd said:

Thanks JK, great read.

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