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    9 & 10 May, 24 & 25 May
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"Bring me your funny" — the film Jury President's call for landing impact with humour

Liz Taylor, Global CCO of Ogilvy, tells us why she wants to see humour in unlikely places

Illustration by Lauren Morsley

“Bring me all your funny!” That’s the message ringing loud and clear from the prolific Liz Taylor. As Global CCO of Ogilvy, she’s picked up a host of accolades, including a number one spot in 2022 on D&AD’s rankings of Chief Creative Officers. How does it feel to be on top? “It’s surreal, I’m a little speechless,” she says, “and anyone who knows me knows that I’m never lost for words.”

Taylor has also been chosen as D&AD Awards 2023’s Film Jury President: a title she is particularly delighted with. “There’s no greater honour – D&AD is tough, and the only award I keep at home is my D&AD Black Pencil (for The Lost Class), so to be a Jury President is huge.” She’s more than happy to give you the biggest hint: humour is back – or, at least, Taylor wants humour to come back. “Maybe I’m just manifesting it, after spending hours and hours in a dark room reviewing film, but I want to sit there and find humour and joy and levity,” she tells us. “It’s so hard to get right, but we need it more than ever.”

Over the last few years, as the creative industries had to face down the realities of the pandemic, humour was forced to take a reduced role in communications. “We lost our funny bone a little bit,” Taylor says. “People were minded towards, you know, the sad piano music, the heavy voice-over, connecting with the audience in a very emotion-driven way.” The industry was forced to rise to the moment, but to Taylor, that’s not where things should be staying, even if the world around us is still fraught with difficulty. “Things are still heavy right now. We’re out on the other side of the pandemic, but there’s still recession, there’s still war, there’s still deep societal division. That’s why, when the chips are down, we have a responsibility to counteract the world around us with humour and joy.”

“I don’t want anyone saying that advertising used to be so much funnier than it is”

Taylor is seeing humour creep back into the work she reviews at Ogilvy, and is hoping, rather excitedly, that what she’s seeing is about to be reflected industry-wide. “Humour is our creative weapon of choice, our secret sauce,” she says. “It’s why we went into this industry, it’s the work we talk about with our friends, it’s instinctual, guttural, intoxicating.” And beyond all else, to Taylor, advertising is never better than when it’s funny. “I don’t want anyone saying that advertising used to be so much funnier than it is. We need it back, in every form.”

What this means is twofold: Taylor wants to see not only a variety of different comedic styles, but also humour and comedy sourced from the unlikeliest of places – ways of looking at briefs and subjects that totally subvert expectations. “There are so many amazing examples I can think of,” she says, “from “The Secret” for Voiz Chocolate Waffle out of Ogilvy Bangkok which is classic, weird, ‘what were they thinking?’ funny, and then KFC’s “Anything For the Taste” which is amazing storytelling, based on a true story, that has real wit and makes you smile. Totally different, but both so memorable.” There’s space for any approach, any style of comedy, and when it comes to convincing clients, humour can be the most advantageous route to giving them the impact that they’re after. “Everybody wants to be provocative, to be memorable and shareable, and sometimes you don’t want to be a mirror but a magnet, to draw the audience in. That’s where you can make a real connection.”

“Everybody wants to be provocative, and sometimes you don’t want to be a mirror but a magnet, to draw the audience in”

Beyond styles and modes of humour, Taylor is continually most impressed by the campaigns that take a heavy subject and find resonant humour within them. “I’ve seen topics like breast cancer made with humour – I mean, look at “Dumb Ways to Die”, that was a public service campaign from ten years ago and I still remember all of the lyrics.” In her own work, Taylor cites a campaign she worked on with the ERA Coalition, an organisation fighting for equal rights in America, over women’s equality. “We took the humour route to the client and said that this is how we’re going to break through,” she tells us. “We’ve tried to be serious, we’ve tried every other way, so let’s just give this our all.”

To Taylor, it’s a gamble that is always worth taking. “What do you have to lose?” she asks, “So long as you’re not being offensive, you really don’t have anything to lose in trying it. But there’s a nervousness there, people just don’t do it enough.” For the creatives and agencies that do attempt it, however, the spoils can be considerable when shown to an audience of judges. “I promise you: any time you’re the first person to make something funny that hasn’t been treated that way before, judges remember it. Judging can be super-tiring, with a lot of intense work, and those moments where we’re all laughing together are a real break for us, trust me.”

Written by Kieran Morris

D&AD Awards 2023 is now open for entries. Download the entry kit and submit your work here. Read more insights from jurors into their corners of the creative industries here.

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