Positivity, Fairness, Purpose: D&AD's President on this year's awards
Adam&EveDDB's Richard Brim, D&AD President, on the judging process behind the awards
25 May 2023
Most great creatives grow up hoping to one day win a D&AD award but few dare to dream of being anointed D&AD president. It’s a real honour and mark of respect to be given the D&AD presidency for a year and since last summer that distinction has fallen to Richard Brim, the chief creative officer of adam&eveDDB.
As President Brim presides over the D&AD awards, one of the most prestigious global awards for the advertising and design industries and arguably still the most respected. This year’s awards attracted a record number of entries, with nearly 30,000 individual pieces of work making up the 12,243 entries, spread over more than 40 categories and judged by nearly 400 of the world’s leading creatives.
The D&AD awards have grown so big, in fact, that the handing out of Pencils (the winning trophies that range from Wood through to Graphite, then Yellow and, rarest of all, the coveted Black Pencil), now takes place over two nights.
Last night saw production company Division win a Black Pencil in the Visual Effects/ Craft category for Pharrell, 21 Savage and Tyler, The Creator’s music video, Cash In, Cash Out, which used CGI animation to create avatars of the three musicians dancing in a magical environment. A Collaborative Pencil was also awarded to Ogilvy UK and Unilever for their 66-year partnership, a collaboration that began in 1957 when David Ogilvy wrote the first print advert for the Dove beauty bar.
UK agencies won eight Yellow Pencils on the first night of the awards. Adam & EveDDB took three Yellow Pencils, in Film, Editing and Press and Outdoor, for Campaign Against Living Miserably’s "The last photo". AMV BBDO's work for Essity UK, "Libresse #Periodsomnia" earned Trim Editing a Yellow Pencil in the Editing category. Havas London won a Yellow Pencil in Casting for "Ambitious about autism" and Reckitt’s "Me, my autism & I". Other Yellows for the UK were for collaborations with overseas agencies.
We asked Brim – who had 72 D&AD awards credited to his name before this year's show and who last year scooped a mighty Black Pencil for Hopeline19 – to talk us through this year’s awards judging.
What marks D&AD out from other awards shows?
I started every morning of judging by saying that D&AD is special, and I really think it is; it’s the only one that really focuses as much on design as it does advertising. And it does it effortlessly, with the same amount of care and dedication and depth and quality of juror, whereas everybody else simply has a design category.
This is as much an advertising show as it’s a design show, as it is a craft show, as it is an emerging tech show. So it's a very special. I think it's the only one that does it properly across everything.
So how did judging go this year?
It was great that people were back judging in person; I think everybody had a really good time. The general vibe was one of positivity. And it's a show where you get to chat about stuff, you’re not just inputting data. Really good people got to talk about work.
There’s a lot of work that has coming to the end of the cycle. So there's a lot of pieces of work that this is their last awards outing. So things like McEnroe versus McEnroe [by Unit 9/FCB New York for Michelob Ultra], Apologise The Rainbow [by DDB Chicago for Skittles], Hack Market [for Back Market by Marcel] feature quite heavily and they're brilliant pieces of work, but they won in Cannes last year. So what you’re seeing is a lot of work that's already done the shows. I don't know whether familiarity breeds a little bit of boredom, or sometimes it breeds a sort of a comfort in awarding it because it you know it's historically been awarded. But then there were some surprising things that were new, and I hadn't seen before.
A couple of categories were a little bit light. But I think I think the majority of people judging have felt it's been a real pleasure to spend two days just talking about work in their discipline, or a discipline they know and, and that's really invigorating and energising.
As President, how much do you get to impact the jury’s decisions?
You’re there to sort of make sure every voice is heard. And to make sure that certain voices don't take over. You're there to direct the conversation. And if something feels one sided, to make sure you prompt consideration of the other side. You're not really meant to give your own opinion, you’re there to stimulate debates.
So some decisions might not be ones that you would have chosen to make yourself but you oversee a fair process?
Yes. That's exactly what it is.
Purpose work always comes up as an issue at awards now; what approach did D&AD take?
There was a debate around purpose versus paying clients and then paying clients who are doing purpose. Are we here to promote commercial creativity that sells products and services, or are we here to use creative to propel companies’ purposes forward, or is creativity here to change people's opinions and mindsets? That debate is brilliant, and I think the answer is yes to every single one of those questions.
But can all of those aspects of creativity and purpose be accommodated in the same judging process?
Yeah, and they have been. I think that there is a place for everything. But it's a tricky one, because are brands just putting logos next to good causes or are they funding good causes to make a difference - all those conversations happened. But unless you have a very experienced jury you can end up awarding the purpose rather than the creativity; purpose can overshadow what you’re actually there to judge, which is how that purpose is communicated in an interesting, engaging, wonderfully crafted, deep-rooted, brilliant way.
Tomorrow we look at the next tranche of winners, including the recipient of the prestigious President's Award, and Brim gives us his thoughts on the UK's performance at the show.