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Awards Director Donal Keenan on why the recent additions have been made and what to expect

From the rise of new platforms to shifts in habits, D&AD responds to creativity today

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A new generation is driving directional change in commercial creativity now, from the rise of content platforms, shifts in retail patterns, to the global demand for brands to change their behaviour and provide more ethical products and services.

Having worked at D&AD since 2007, in addition to having the privilege of seeing a vast array of creatively brilliant work, I have also witnessed shifts reflected across the D&AD Awards. For example, gaming is now a key aspect of commercial creativity. In Survival Billboard Xbox turned an advertising channel into an entertainment channel to promote Tomb Raider; and in 2021 The Uncensored Library used Minecraft to usurp censorship for those living under extreme online censorship laws.

We’ve seen entries that use digital innovation to make interventions that will help support the effort against the climate crisis, such as FARM Stockholm’s The 2030 Calculator, which helps small businesses to work out their carbon footprints on products. And, though the pandemic has accelerated innovation in e-commerce, we’ve witnessed increased innovation and creativity there for some time; Raising Profiles supported homeless Big Issue sellers to make a living in an increasingly cashless and online society.

In response to the innovation we’ve witnessed, we’ve responded by driving change in the categories and juries we put together. One of the best parts of the job is meeting and listening to creatives from all corners of the world and different creative disciplines. Each year we get feedback from all the judges, host roundtable discussions, and reflect on the changing industry landscape, so that we can develop the awards to best reflect changes within the awards categories. 

“One of the best parts of the job is meeting and listening to creatives from all corners of the world and different creative disciplines”

Some of the latest changes involved splitting out e-commerce from our Digital ‘Marketing’ jury to form its own specialised E-commerce jury, which first launched for the 2021 Awards. We saw massive growth in this area over the past few years and a huge amount of market competition driving some innovative and creative solutions. Now in its second year as a standalone jury, the category promises to show us how new, inventive interventions, such as new tech like VR, AR, XR, are shifting this customer experience.

For over a decade D&AD has had gaming sub-categories embedded across the awards, from Digital (online branded games), to experiential (gamified experiences). In 2021 we decided to pull those together and launch a specialised jury to judge how well those brand messages were being delivered through gameplay, including all interactions via e-sports, cloud-streamed games, mobile games and gamified experiences.

The category was developed with the support of industry experts, including Rosh Singh, Managing Director of Unit9, who led the gaming category as its first Jury President in 2021. Gamification and gaming-led experiences are no longer niche PR stunts of the past, but a mainstream channel to reach a global audience, so it’s even more important to recognise and celebrate this shift within the awards.

“Gamification and gaming-led experiences are no longer niche PR stunts of the past, but a mainstream channel to reach a global audience”

I love to see creativity used to drive behaviour change in positive ways. For years, D&AD has been exploring how we tackle the climate emergency and drive sustainability, and other issues affecting the World. We began factoring this into our awards in 2011 when we launched the White Pencil initiative, which awarded creative work that makes a real difference to the World. This was launched in collaboration with Peace One Day. The top winner that year was the brilliant work from Leo Burnett Chicago Recipeace, a movement that aims to bring conflicting people together over food.

Following the success of its inaugural year, the White Pencil category was predominantly associated with Creativity for Good, and then D&AD Impact, where all work submitted must respond to the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. This decision, in 2013, resulted in sponsorship from Unilever, a brand who is itself now committed to many purpose-led initiatives. Unilever’s then CEO, Paul Polman, spoke eloquently and passionately about the responsibility of businesses to change the world for the better, to behave ethically, to grow but with a smaller and smaller footprint, and to treat consumers, suppliers and the planet with respect. 

“I love to see creativity used to drive behaviour change in positive ways”

Not only does Impact celebrate creative ideas that are making a real and positive difference to the world and to people, it also helps creative ideas to grow, by providing mentoring, training, visibility and funding to work that shows potential for impact to life. Each year we continue to evolve the Impact programme, but we also look at other areas for how to help drive awareness and support work that addresses issues like the climate crisis.

This year, for instance, following research and consultation with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, we launched three new categories under Impact and Packaging Design, with the aim of recognising those who are rethinking products and services at the design stage so that they fit a circular system, whether it be developing new concepts and materials, applying reuse models or finding other ways to circulate components. 

We hope to shine a light on the work in these subcategories that aims to intentionally design out waste and plastic pollution. AMV BBDO with Lad Bible’s 2018 campaign Trash isles demonstrates the problem with plastic pollution in the ocean. We’re looking to support creativity that can help provide solutions for problems such as this.

“We hope to shine a light on the work in these subcategories that aim to intentionally design out waste and plastic pollution”

Amongst the changes this year, we are looking forward to seeing work that will help define the creative landscape, set new trends and inspire a generation of creative thinkers.

These changes in society and consumer behaviour – to demand more of not just the product but the brand behind that product –  has created a space to think differently, to challenge the norm and drive innovation; drive creativity and drive excellence. 

And nothing but excellence succeeds at D&AD, which is of course the mission of the education charity’s awards – to promote excellence in design and advertising.

D&AD Awards 2022 is now open for entries. Submit your work and be part of more.

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