As Creative Circle reveal the 2019 Shortlist, this year’s Gold Judges have confessed they’re ‘kind of hard-arses’ when it comes to selecting work worthy of metal. One of the UK’s biggest exports is Creativity and with 2018 - 2019 proving to be a tumultuous year for Ol' Blighty, it seems the industry’s top creative minds are reviewing our country’s output with meticulous scrutiny.
In this interview, Digital Gold Judge and Karmarama ECD Dan Rutherford sheds light on his favourite pieces of work this year, how harsh he is as a judge (spoiler: pretty harsh) and why a balance of purpose AND fun should be the order of the day.
Q> What was your standout project or piece of work this year, Dan?
Dan Rutherford> In my opinion, there were two campaigns that clearly stood out, both for very different reasons.
Firstly, Xbox’s ‘Football Decoded’ was really, really smart. In general, I love campaigns that hack the system - putting the big boys noses out of joint - the rights owners, the media owners, the creative gatekeepers.
Maybe it’s the challenger spirit that appeals to me and why I love this campaign. The work combined a number of genuine football fan insights, creating an idea unique to the Xbox brand and its users - without having to mention the F-word. Yes, Fifa - the rights are owned by PlayStation. The idea of translating every pass, every shot, every possible combination on the pitch into the corresponding Xbox controller buttons was genius. It’s a more than familiar world to the gamer - button combos that result in the GTA cheat or Street Fighter special. Married with the action from a live Real Madrid match and you’re onto something special. Pitch-side advertising that celebrates the game, in real time, tapping into gamer culture. I also really enjoyed some of the other campaign extensions too - namely the post-match reports and social content.
The other idea that stood out for me was the Sainsbury’s tunnel in Bude. So ridiculously simple, silly and fun - it was a brilliant piece of PR. They basically took a wonderfully underwhelming 70 metre long perspex tunnel, linking the Bude Sainsbury’s with a Sainsbury’s-affiliated car park, and made it a festive spectacle. TripAdvisor’s reviewers may have had tongue-firmly-wedged-in-cheek when they rated it the best place for tourists to visit in the Cornish town, but where and how the story developed from that moment on, was why it stood out for me.
Q> What was the quality of this year’s work - is there anything you’d want to see more of?
Dan> The quality of the work was great. I think I’m quite a harsh judge, so any work awarded gold in my session really earned it. Personally, I’d like to see more fun in the creative considered for awards. Not enough genuinely fun and creative ideas get through, for whatever reason. The Sainsbury's tunnel, as I mentioned earlier, was one of the rare examples to buck this trend and I loved it.
There’s also been a wave of work (some great, some not so great) full of purpose and social good. This is awesome, don’t get me wrong, but I’d love to see more of the stuff that makes me smile. We need to see more of a balance in the work.
Q> How is the judging process at Creative Circle different to other advertising awards?
Dan> There was no pressure to award, no ‘quota’ to fill, which was good. Great work was rewarded as it should be without any pressure or sense of burden to dish out recognition willy-nilly. Jeremy Green from Creative Circle was very passionate about the integrity of the awards and the process, which was essential to the outcome on the day.
The judges had ample time to think, debate and reflect on the work. Being the jury foreperson added some additional stress and pressure, but that’s par for the course really. All in all, the process was just as it should be - fair honest and democratic.
Q> Which industry issues have you felt were particularly prominent this year, perhaps coming up in discussion frequently?
Dan> Campaigns that helped raise awareness, shining a light on certain issues and social injustices but also campaigns that delivered results and change - not just awareness. Awareness is great, but effectiveness through transformation and genuine change is even more powerful. We reviewed a lot of work designed for good, which is fantastic to see, but it was the work that helped shift the needle or made us stop...and think… that really won. I specifically loved the work that was thought-provoking, highlighting issues in a way that made me reassess a world view or opinion. Work that didn’t have the idea or strategy on show like an embarrassing tag you’ve left in that new piece of clothing. Work that allowed the audience to make their own interpretation, assumptions and conclusions.
Q> What are your thoughts on the new ‘free to enter’ categories for younger applicants - are these modifications important to make sure there’s a fairer opportunity for great work to be recognised?
Dan> Jeremy and the Creative Circle have a drive to support, inspire and nurture new talent from all walks of life. They are keen to make our line of work more inclusive - taking the rich story of our craft to young potential creatives who might not have the creative industry on their radar yet. There’s a diverse pool of talent out there that might not realise that being a creative is a role they could do, enjoy and thrive within. The ‘free to enter’ category is a great way to open up the awards process. It might just unearth the next gem.
Tickets for the Creative Circle Ball on Thursday 9th May at The Troxy are now available. Each year tickets sell out fast, to secure tickets to the awards night, head to the Creative Circle bookings website.