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How AI has changed the game for pitching work to clients

D&AD’s Digital & Social Jury President tells us how emerging tech is helping her augment creativity

Image from the Yellow Pencil-winning Pay It Forward that won in the Digital category in 2020

At a time when AI is at the forefront of every creative’s mind, it seemed apt to chat to Ashley Rudder, D&AD’s 2024 Jury President for Digital & Social — our category that celebrates  campaigns and comms that primarily make use of tech, data, and digital platforms — about how she’s using emerging tech in her own work. Rudder started her career in beauty marketing, spending two decades at M·A·C Cosmetics, where she was responsible for the brand’s digital footprint on global social platforms. Guided by Rudder, M·A·C became the pioneer beauty brand to debut on IGTV, introducing platform-specific vertical videos, thus setting an industry benchmark on Instagram. Previously the first-ever Chief Creator Officer at global creator company Whalar, Rudder is now focussing her full attention on her own creative agency HAUS OF SÔS. Here, Rudder weighs in on AI, why social projects need heart, and why celebrities and big budgets don’t necessarily mean a win in this category.

What does creative excellence look like in the Digital & Social category?

That’s a tough one — given the fact that the landscape of Digital & Social continues to remain so rich, diverse, and unapologetically nuanced. From beautifully composed works that could rival the magic of the TVC to those that charm us in their raw, authentic nature. Digital assets are set apart by their ability to sync with the cultural heartbeat. Keeping the social aspect of social media top of mind is paramount. Great digital creativity is more than content; it becomes a movement. As I view some of the best work in the world, I’m looking for answers to questions like, did the creative compel the public to share, discuss, co-create, and engage? True creative brilliance in this genre isn't merely seen; it's felt, prompting action, weaving itself into the fabric of our omni-channel dialogue, and honoring the platform and the communities it aims to reach.

What is happening in the industry right now that is exciting you?

I'm sure many people might have already spoken on this, but boy is AI picking it up. It's shaking it up. I am so excited about it. The buzz around AI in the industry is more than hype; it represents the breaking of boundaries and the discovery of new frontiers in storytelling and design. The introduction of AI has completely revolutionized how I storyboard with my clients. While the traditional methods of using illustrations and Photoshop have their place, the shift to using AI with HAUS OF SÔS marked an extraordinary transformation in our storyboarding process. We are now able to convey our vision in a way that's more tangible, immediate, and infinitely more compelling right from the beginning. There is no better moment than revealing a concept brought to life by AI, with the planned talent seamlessly integrated into our visual storytelling, and seeing your client’s jaw drop. It’s truly my new favorite part of a pitch. With almost instant buy-in from decision-makers, we've secured larger budgets for campaigns that would have otherwise required additional revisions. As a futurist who wants to be a Jettson yesterday, it’s an exhilarating time to be in the creative field. 

Image from the Graphite Pencil-winning Black-owned Friday Every Day by BBH USA for Google that won in the Digital category in 2023

What’s one thing you’ve learned in your career that you want to share?

A pivotal lesson for me as a digital marketing creative is understanding that the platform you're engaging with has its own distinct business model and operational logic. It's crucial to grasp how a platform's algorithm interacts with your content, which is critical in determining your content’s visibility and success. Recognizing that many of these platforms operate on a pay-to-play basis for advertising is fundamental. Mastery over the platform's ad products, audience targeting mechanisms, ROI timeline, and optimizing your creative regardless of budget size, becomes paramount.

When evaluating digital creative work, my focus extends beyond the size of the budget or creative that features a celebrity that doesn’t have native platform influence or community interaction. I'm delving deeper, seeking creations and strategies that genuinely resonate and imprint on culture. It's about discerning whether an asset’s visibility was bought or if it truly earned its place in the cultural zeitgeist through its intrinsic merit. This understanding redefines success on digital platforms, emphasizing the importance of strategic, culturally impactful creativity over financial firepower.

Image from the Yellow Pencil-winning Shot on iPhone by Damien Chazelle – Vertical Cinema that won in the Digital category in 2021

What else will you be looking for in Award-winning work in the Digital & Social category?

As a social media manager and creator myself, I've developed a keen eye for the unseen labor that fuels the magic behind each post. It's not just about the post itself; it's about appreciating the depth and breadth of effort that goes into making these digital moments come alive. True dedication shines brightest in campaigns that manage to capture the audience's imagination in real time, driving engagement and sparking conversations. These feats are a testament to a social team's creative commitment and strategic finesse. Social never sleeps, so a creative team’s relentless pursuit of excellence, agility, and ability to weave their creative into the fabric of the zeitgeist that I find extremely compelling. 

D&AD Awards 2024 is now open for entries. The Digital & Social category celebrates marketing campaigns and communications that primarily make use of technology, data and digital platforms. Learn more about and enter the Digital & Social category here.