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Judging at the UK’s 2009 DMA’s

Issue 13 | December 2009

Date

2009

You see the best of what other agencies are doing. You see how your own work compares. You network and chat to industry friends and stare down industry enemies. All rewarding. But you look at the work in a completely different context to the context in which the consumer will look at it. Which makes it a bit odd.

When you hear a thirty-something, urban, male creative director claim ‘This art direction doesn’t work for me’ while looking at a piece of work designed for a young, single, council flat mum – you have to question the sanity of judging pieces without completely understanding the background, the target audience and the objectives.

Most entry forms can’t possibly give you a complete enough picture. So is it surprising that as judges we shortcut the process of elimination and start to judge the work that appeals to us?  Is it a coincidence that a disproportionate amount of award-winning work tends to be for brands that appeal to thirty-something, urban, male creatives –Nike, Sony, Stella, VW, Harvey Nichols?

Which brings me on to the UK DMA’s.

From the start, the rigour of the judging process sets the DMA’s apart. There is no room for generalisations or approximations and no tolerance for embellishments.  Clients are asked to countersign the entry forms to ensure accuracy and honesty.  There is a legal team to double check authenticity.  The Advertising Standards Authority spot-check the finalist list – to ensure there are no breaches of codes of conduct.

i.e. you can’t make stuff up.

And then your work is judged by not just fellow creatives but also by planners, clients, data and industry specialists. It means that strategy and results are recognised and have to be at least as good as the creative output if a piece is to become a finalist.

If something is beautifully art-directed but is flabby or predictable in its strategy, it tends not to make the cut.  This for me is the joy of judging at the DMA’s. You get to judge creativity in its widest sense. So this year there were award-winning entries that hung great creative off really different targeting and new insights.   Knotty business problems solved in innovative ways.

The feeling was any agency that dared enter a piece created purely for awards would be shot down faster than you can say ‘Agency Christmas Card’.

I loved EHS Brann’s ‘Get Active’ programme for the Department of Health. The creative direction was spot on, managing to motivate and lead what, I imagine, is a pretty passive audience, and it did it without sounding patronising.

Glenmorangie, at Story, always impresses with its in-depth knowledge of its consumer. It shows the deep level of intimacy a brand can have with its audience over time.  The work maintains a quirky ,almost indie, tone of voice while still imparting product attributes.

I am also a fan of 20:20’s ‘Thmbnls’ campaign for COI, a relevant and appropriate use of technology to give the ideas life, rather than an idea tacked onto the back of what ever is the latest gizmo.

Our own work, the RNLI ‘Mystery Packages’ campaign, is difficult to talk about objectively, but for me it puts a marker in the sand for what the future of Direct and Digital can be:

It created a connection between brands and consumers that was not just direct, it had depth.

It changed behaviour, not just attitudes.

It was (and is) about consumers investing time and interest, not just money, in a brand.

What excites me is the role consumers are having in all of the work. They are moving quietly into the position the brand manager used to occupy.  Now that is something interesting to talk about …

Caitlin Ryan

Is the executive creative director of Proximity London and was one of the judges of the 2009 DAM Awards.

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