There’s one thing every business and individual unanimously agrees on during these strange times; nothing is more important than the health and safety of our people and our family members. And in making the calls we’ve had to make as a consequence we have all – countries, businesses, communities, families, individuals – made enormous sacrifices. In many, many sad cases, the ultimate sacrifice.
But as we move through this uncharted landscape we’re now coming to a different place, with a different view. Here in Europe we’re beginning to dimly discern what a life after lockdown, a return to near-normality, might look like. We’re beginning to consider the choices we’ll be faced with as our children return to school and university, our shops open, and our businesses fire up.
Now before I go on let me be clear that awards shows really don’t matter very much in the context of where we’ve been and where we’re going – even ones that support a program that helps talented young people into our industry (of which more later). But this is what D&AD does and is good at; and, in a small way, I do think we and others have a role to play as we attempt to put our lives and companies back together.
At D&AD we have a fundamental belief that good work - truthful ideas beautifully executed - produce better outcomes than the alternative – commercially, culturally, socially, environmentally, even politically. And awards shows – together with creative education and training - celebrate, stimulate and enable good work. Of course, there are flaws in the system, as everyone knows – nothing’s perfect and we’re far from that. But the best shows encourage courage, test the boundaries, break new ground, reward brave companies and individuals, set standards, pioneer new uses for technology, attract new talent into the industry and act as flagships for the importance of creativity, innovation and craft for business generally. If all that was important BC then it will be important again, whatever shape the new normality takes. But it’s also important now, perhaps even more so.
Agencies and studios are being challenged as never before by their clients to find the right way of engaging with their customers. Deep counsel is required, along with pinpoint accuracy of execution, tone, placement and messaging. It’s never been more important to get these right and arguably never been easier to get them wrong – we’ll all have accumulated many examples on both sides of the ledger. And of course it’s not just about communication; it’s about product, service and experience too – and all in an alien environment that is even stranger for looking so familiar while
everything in it has changed. Suddenly agencies and studios have the chance to be fully involved in helping shape their clients’ businesses
again. Our skills are valuable.
So all of this persuaded us to keep going with this year’s D&AD Professional Awards – judged virtually of course, but (we’re discovering) with the same level of commitment, professionalism and integrity from our jurors we’ve come to expect. Our entries are slightly down but the standard is still exceptional. The best work from the last twelve months deserves celebration and recognition – the people who did it and bought it put their hearts and souls into it, even if the environment was completely different. And next year the best work will be even more deserving of celebration – much of it will have been done in incredibly difficult and demanding circumstances.
It’s also important for us to say that D&AD’s real raison d’etre is our New Blood program – a series of events, shows, festivals and schemes designed to identify emerging talent and help that talent enter the professional industry and be productive when it gets there. Of course we’ve had to cut all the physical parts of that program but entries to our New Blood student awards were encouragingly up on last year and we’re determined to celebrate that work and to provide a digital interface and resource for this cohort of graduates and others. They don’t deserve to be a lost generation and we’re going to make sure that they’re not.
Perhaps I can close by making a broader point. Truth, honesty, clarity, authenticity, credibility; have these things ever been so important, and yet so threatened? We need to have trust in our leaders, our news sources, the businesses and brands we interact with, the places where our children are educated, our medical advisors and scientists. These are precisely the qualities that our industry, at its best, puts into practice every day but has, in its pursuit of data, technology and the dollar, somewhat lost sight of. They’re certainly the qualities that will help society pluck the good things out of the shit-storm that has engulfed us, in our efforts to create a new normal that is better than the old one. More open, honest, caring, balanced and sustainable; less greedy, selfish, mendacious, thoughtless and short-sighted.
Awards and education, by helping advertising and design rediscover some lost or mislaid qualities can also, in a small way, help make that new and improved normality a reality.
- Tim Lindsay, D&AD chairman