The D&AD Awards 2018: 3 ways to hit the sweet spot


Written By: Emily Gillingham

No single event illuminates the power of commercial creativity more than the D&AD awards. Every year, tucked at the top of the Truman Brewery, the ‘creamy top’ of the creative industry is presented in all its ‘sparkly sock’ glory. The atmosphere is always tight – imbued with the nights spent by the awards body scrutinising, debating and reducing the entries down to the final selection.

Yet in many ways the winners aren’t just a reflection of what the judges deem worthy. Each piece of work needs to be seen within the context of three, often conflicting forces – the client’s budgets, the agency’s creative powers and the needs and behaviours of the work’s intended audience.

The winners show the sweet spots when these three forces align. So we’ve spent time defining 3 key themes to help brands align their budgets and agency’s creative fire power with the way that audiences think, feel and behave in order to hit the sweet spot more often.

Theme 1: Evoke David’s Spirit

People love an underdog. The winners of this year’s prestigious Black Pencils – D&AD’s highest accolade – all understand this, but each win their respective fight in brilliantly clever and creative ways.

This year’s ‘David’ takes different forms, including New York’s Fearless Girl and the people of Palau.  And ‘Goliath’ is represented by differing archaic institutions – characterised by their unwillingness to challenge the established rules.

Fearless Girl – McCann New York for State Street Global Advisors
McCann took a literal approach to fighting ‘Goliath’, positioning a statue of a small girl in front of Wall Street’s famous bull statue. Her unmoving stance is a symbol of power and solidarity for women against the backdrop of a still-male-dominated working world. It’s plucky and brave, attracting millions of visitors since its installation.

The Palau Pledge –  Host/Havas
This campaign puts the people of Palau into David’s shoes. Armed with little money, it’s a remarkable campaign showing how a few people, with limited budget, can tackle a problem bigger than themselves. Their ‘Goliath’ wasn’t won over by defeating him, but by getting him on board.

Charged with the task of reducing environmental damage caused by tourism, the designers created a visa entry ink stamp (prepared in every language) for tourists’ passports to be signed on entry. Each signage is a pledge to the island, agreeing to act in an ecologically responsible way.
What’s so illuminating about this campaign is how the pledge cleverly turns their greatest enemies into allies. Upon signing the pledge, tourists – who were once the source of environmental destruction –  become a part of Palau – seeing it through the lens of those living there. It’s a great example of how small power shifts don’t always have to be won by traditional methods.

Key Learnings
If we can learn anything, it’s about finding opportunities in finding the white spaces. These 2 winners’ key success lay in a two stage process:

1. Their ability to isolate the weakness in their Goliath – finding the existing cracks, waiting to be teased apart.
2. Working out the best means to wage the battle (going for the jugular isn’t always the smartest approach). Understanding who you face and how they will listen is an art in itself.

Theme 2: Give it a Purpose

2018 is the year for AI. Artificial intelligence is splashed across cinemas, documentaries are booming with weird and wacky examples of ‘bots’ across the globe and the tech industry is steadily trying to bring AI into the mainstream. Yet it’s complex technology that makes this a challenging journey.

This year saw the rise of campaigns tackling this challenge head on. These campaigns scrapped traditional methods of telling customers the benefits of AI, instead showing them the benefits in everyday life. Both informing and entertaining, these campaigns successfully broke down barriers by seamlessly showing them how AI could fit into their lives and even more importantly, why it needed to.

Signal in the noise – TBWA/ Chiat for Intel
In an interactive print campaign, Intel challenged consumers to take on bots head on in a Where’s Wally-type exercise.

The engaging campaign illuminated the ground-breaking impact of AI in tackling large-scale issues typically taken on by much slower human processing. By showing users how much faster a bot could complete the challenge than them, it gave them an in-the moment example of the benefits of AI over human intelligence.

Re:Scam – DDB New Zealand for Netsafe
This innovative digital campaign saw the tables turn on internet scammers. The time and energy of scammers was purposefully taken up by connecting them to a well-educated AI chat bot. Re:scam wasted their time by occupying them with never-ending series of questions and anecdotes so that they would have less time to pursue real people.

Key Learnings
If we can learn anything, it’s about the importance of understanding the social role of AI, including how the technology can help humans deal with complexity of emotions felt towards the things we fear or don’t understand.  These campaigns show how AI can become part of ‘us’ rather than its more distant position within ‘them’.

Theme 3: Be Brave, Seize the Moment

The constant stream of social media and instantly updatable news feeds requires brands to think and act incredibly quickly. And to trust their instincts when the opportunity arises to act bravely.

FCK – Mother London for KFC
The unthinkable happened. KFC ran out of chicken. A chicken shop without chicken. It couldn’t have been scripted. But instead of burying their heads in the sand, KFC employed the fast-thinking skills of Mother London to turn it around.

The result was a master-class in PR crisis management. The iconic “KFC” was swapped to “FCK”, a well copy written apology was penned and angered readers were directed to a specially made webpage. The positive reaction that met the campaign was astounding. While it didn’t put chicken in KFC’s shops, it did put KFC’s public image in a better light.

Blue Bag – ACNE for Ikea
While KFC faced that crisis, another brand, IKEA, also reaped the rewards of fast-thinking. In an unexpected twist, Balenciaga released a bag that looked rather familiar to IKEA’s iconic blue bag design.

Seeing the opportunity, IKEA responded almost immediately – releasing a print, TV spot and digital campaign, making light of the bags’ similarities to its high-fashion counterpart. The content went viral.

Key Learnings
In a world where so many things are meticulously planned and written: text messages, political speeches, advertising campaigns, reactionary campaigns do the opposite. As in real life, how brands respond to crises can say a lot about who they really are. They show companies at their rawest – when there’s no time for polishing or preening.

Where IKEA and KFC did so well in these cases, was taking that vulnerability and owning it. They made light of a situation and showed a genuine side. And while these moments don’t come often, when they do, they are for the taking. Brands have to use their knowledge of their customers and own them.

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