From Good to Great

Last week some of the best talent in the world descended on London to review the best work from the last 12 months and decide what deserves the coveted D&AD pencil. And when we asked some of the attendees of the festival what made some of that work great (in our Good to Great Workshop), we got some very similar themes across the 8 case studies we reviewed (taken from our favourite D&AD winners below):

· It’s simple

· It solves a real problem

· It’s relevant, both in terms of connecting to the right people but also relevant to the brand and its values

· It’s engaging

· Beautifully executed

Other terms used to describe the work included funny/cheeky/playful, interactive, immersive and efficient/measurable. The one that I was surprised not to hear at least once was the word insightful although it was recognised that a couple of the case studies did tap beautifully into an existing human behaviour and were extremely relatable. However the most common feedback across them all was the idea of simplicity — I still love the whole post it note idea that if you cannot communicate an idea on a post-it note, it’s probably not a good idea.

However what can’t be seen from a case video is the blood and sweat that goes into delivering a great piece of work. Having a great idea and delivering a great piece work are two very different things. To a certain extent having a great idea is the easy part. That’s when the hard work really starts. Because the first thing you need to do is sell it to your client. And in most cases that means you need a brave or very hungry client. Which also means that you need a team around you who is as passionate about the work as you are and is willing to protect the idea at every stage. As Becky Power comments, “Work with people who are as determined to sell good ideas as you are. If you don’t have those people in your agency then move!”

In a lot of cases you also need to have the right infrastructure around you. This includes not being limited to the office or existing working practices. Ale Lariu recommends that everyone finds new ways to work: “.. abolish meetings, work from a shed, build fun environments to co-create with clients — basically challenge, redesign and reinvent the 9–5”.

And from my own personal experience you have to be willing to invest in the idea yourself. Both in terms of the personal commintment you want to put in but also in terms of the extra investment you are willing to put in as an agency. Of all the award winning campaigns I have been involved in, not a single one has been profitable from a financial perspective. The value it brought to the agency came from elsewhere (ie reputation, attracting talent and clients etc.).

The fact is that it’s bloody hard to deliver great work. Of course it is possible (as this year’s Pencil winners have proved — congrats all) but it requires a massive team effort and some real bravery. Sam Ball, Creative Director at M&C Saatchi probably best sums it up when he says “If you’re not worried, scared or ever so slightly shitting it, chances are you are not trying hard enough.”

Our favourite D&AD Winners

Van Gough BNB

Perhaps my personal favourite, this example highlights the power of collaboration to deliver a truly unique experience. This is the one that made me sit up and think “F**k, that’s good”.

Samsung Trucks

I had included this because until recently I had worked very closely with Samsung (as Head of Innovation at Cheil) and I admired the way they set an ambition to ensure that their marketing is as innovative as their products. Three years ago they set aside a fund to support highly innovative ideas like these and I would not be surprised if that this came out of that fund.

Clever Buoy

I was on the WARC Innovation jury that gave this Gold back in 2014 and it is so satisfying to see it being developed beyond a prototype that garnered some great PR into a product that is now saving lives across Australia.


Pure genius.

Looking for you

“The use of technology to bring the characters of dogs to life in such a charming way. Joined up thinking. Simplicity of idea” — Becky Mc-Owen Banks, Creative Director at FCB Inferno (and member of the Art Direction jury).

Soap Powder Ticket

“For me, it’s an outstanding example of creativity in media. I just love that:

• a tiny functional piece of paper was transformed into a piece of educational media

• it wasn’t just educational, it transformed again to actually help solve the problem

• it’s such a clever way to deliver an important message so directly to the target audience (quite literally put the soap in their hands!)

• it actually changed public behaviour”

Becky Power, Creative Director at Mindshare (and member of the Media jury)


“This is one of the instances where I actually don’t think the video case study does the idea justice. New Zealand has some of the highest fuel prices in the world. Through science, DB export have found a way to not only create an entirely new stream of revenue through upcycling their waste, but they’ve massaged the perfect storm of financial and ethical insight to produce a campaign with a rare combination of relevance, comedy and meaning.”

Cyrus Vantoch Wood, Founder Heart, Head & Power (and member of the Direct Jury)

I am a Witness

““I Am Witness emoji” enables a shorthand way for witnesses of cyber bullying to step up. It says “I see this” and cuts through the language barrier with a universal voice of disapproval. Ad Council has not only created a utility to tackle a complex problem in a simple way but ensured it’s widely accessible via partnership with Apple and Google. Whilst it’s an idea in its infancy, it’s already a tool that empowers teens on this tricky issue. I look forward to watching its progress.” Ben Cooper, Group Innovation Director / M&C Saatchi and MD / Tricky Jigsaw (and member of the Digital Marketing jury)

Not Allowed

“I really liked this campaign. It was a perfect harness of good insight, simple execution and then putting all the right pieces in place to let the campaign grow. Even Obama got in on it and to be fair they were more successful than he has ever been.”

Nina Taylor, Creative Partner, Iris Worldwide (and member of the Digital Marketing jury)

In the eyes of the Animals

“It’s a beautifully simple idea. Everyone has talked about the degrees of empathy that can played with in VR, and this is a wonderful expression of that, allowing users to experience the world through the eyes of woodland animals.

The thing I love most about it is that the idea seems to have been conceived based on deep understanding of what is sensibly achievable in VR. These animals see the world in different colour wavelengths, at different speeds, and from different perspectives, all perfectly illustrated in the image quality currently achievable in a head mounted display.

The experience is extended with brilliant sound design and a rumbling body suit, and the lucky few who got to experience it in the middle of the actual forest which was 3D scanned for the virtual experience.

This is exactly the sort of work that D&AD should be celebrating. Brilliant idea. Thoughtful use of technology. Flawlessly executed. And fun.”

James Britton, MD at Stinkdigital (and member of the Digital Design jury)


“It’s true personalization, without the ‘industrial’ feel, bringing back what the personalization of craft really means. For example, you can ‘personalize’ watches, trainers, but at the end of the day you are just assembling pre-made parts that then get output at scale. What I like about ‘Unmade’ is that every single pixel — or pattern — can be customised and the result is unique. No one will ever have exactly the same scarf (pattern).

The customization journey is fun too. And it think they built the machine. The feel of the whole thing is small and cannot scale and I like that.”

Ale Lariu, ECD at Frog (and member of the Digital Design Jury)

And the people’s favourites

And if you interested, the attendees from our workshop voted their favourite campaigns (using the above case videos only) as follows:

1. Soap Bus Ticket

2. Samsung Trucks

3. MacWhooper

Do you agree?

The Good to Great workshop is part of our Creative Social training offering. If you are interested in this or any other creativity training for your agency or brand team, you can find out more here.

The workshop will also be making a guest appearance at Talent Social in London on 17th May.

Written by:

Daniele Fiandaca, Co-founder of Creative Social and Consultant at Mutant