Creative Directors Are Unhappy as U.K. Influence Dims at D&AD Awards

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As ad agencies gear up for the annual international award-show circuit, U.K. creative directors are unhappy that British domination of the U.K.'s most prestigious ad show is waning. Like other national ad festivals around the world, the Design and Art Direction Awards opened to foreign entries years ago. As D&AD prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary this year, other countries' creatives are overtaking the Brits on their home turf.

At last year's D&AD, 62% of all entries and 68% of the winners were from outside the U.K. The U.K. is still ahead as the biggest individual-country winner, but the number of British recipients dropped to 215 from 291 in 2009. Meanwhile, the U.S. saw its D&AD awards tally climb to 140 last year from 113 in 2009. Much of the boost in 2011 came from Wieden & Kennedy's "The Man Your Man Could Smell Like" campaign.

D&AD CEO Tim Lindsay (pictured) has just completed a tour to the U.S., Asia and Latin America to promote the awards and plans to open its first office outside the U.S. Sixty-four countries submitted entries last year, compared with 58 in 2007 and 55 in 2003.

As a result of its internationalization, "D&AD has lost its way dramatically in terms of the local market," said Geoff Gower, creative director of Havas-owned Archibald Ingall Stretton.

Jeremy Craigen, executive creative director of DDB UK, supports the idea of international entries but believe's it's out of hand.

"To move forward you need to have a degree of internationalization, but D&AD has gone too far," Mr. Craigen said. "I don't want to be jingoistic, but you need to differentiate yourself. When D&AD was moved to the week before Cannes [in 2011], it looked like it was done to try and get more international people in on their way to the Croisette. D&AD was hanging on Cannes' shirttails."

Denying that he is trying to rival the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, Mr. Lindsay said the D&AD festival aspires to do more. "We combine advertising, digital and design, which creates a unique atmosphere," he said. "We are a not-for-profit, educational organization. ... [And] we set very high standards, so we give out fewer awards. We're not obliged to give out any at all."

Mr. Lindsay said his international tour to promote the festival was necessary because of the global nature of the ad business. "We want to be the best of the best, so we need broad entrants, geographically speaking," he said. "It doesn't please everyone necessarily; there are still those who want to hark back to the old days of British domination."

For some national shows, international entries provide needed revenue.

"They up the international thing because they want more money," said Mark Wnek, former chairman and chief creative officer at Lowe North America. "D&AD lost its credibility years ago -- it relishes its irrelevance."

Latin America now accounts for almost half of the submissions at Spain's national ad festival. To make the event sound less Spain-centric, the organizers, the country's ad agency association, have changed the name to El Sol from San Sebastian, the city where it's usually held.

U.K. creatives also lament the increasingly international composition of juries, which erodes shows' uniqueness. "The makeup of the juries has become too international, and that changes the kind of work that gets through," said Mark Goodwin, M&C Saatchi's creative director. "I'm not anti-international; it's about having a point of difference. Juries are a filter, and it's interesting to have a slightly British perspective."

Mr. Craigen echoed that concern. "Last year there was only one U.K. judge on each jury. The One Show [in the U.S.] manages to award international work but maintain a predominantly U.S. body of judges. There are so many international shows, and D&AD is now just one more. It needs to get back to being the one award that every creative wants to win."

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