3 Themes (1 big, 2 small) from the inaugural D&AD Festival 2016

Old and reoccurring themes but still as relevant as ever according to this year’s speakers:

1. Take risks, make mistake’s.

This was the most preached topic of the talks I attended:

“Mistakes are important”
“We are too risk averse”
“The most dangerous phrase in the language is ‘We’ve always done it this way.’”

The most vivid metaphor for this that one speaker gave was how Clive Owen’s character in the early 20th century-based US medical drama ‘The Knick’ — a cocaine and opium addict but brilliantly talented surgeon — has to come to terms with the fact that he will consistently make mistakes in the operating theatre knowing that he’s never that far from success.

Quite the moving tale. And brands should follow this philosophy more often.

But they also have to earn the right from their customers to take risks and make mistakes from time to time. Throwing someone out of the spaceship from the stratosphere or hiring Brooklyn Beckham as your photographer might be a big risk worth taking. But will people really care about all this cool stuff when all they really want is to be able find a number on your website to call customer services?

Risks on a small scale seems the sensible thing to do for most brands — A/B testing different creative variants or trying out a new medium or platform — as opposed to the equivalent of exploratory medical procedures.

The Tesco Labs team are experimenting with IFTTT to automate online shopping. It might not work and only 3 people might use it but the mere fact they’re trying is newsworthy on its own.

TV networks now test 10min pilots on YouTube — if it gets lots of views, it gets made. Seems sensible.

A risk-taking brand I took the most inspiration from thanks to a brilliant talk by Ashleigh Axios (Ex-Creative Director at the White House) is the President of the United States himself.

For a politician, “being yourself” is a risk in itself, but he isn’t afraid to do the unexpected to reach new audiences and get his message across.

Famous examples include Between Two Ferns, Anger Translator, Things Everybody Does But Doesn’t Talk About and Mean Tweets to name but a few.

If Obama can take risks with his content…

2. Get it live, get it right.

Not dissimilar to the first point, there was a rallying cry from D&AD speakers for the advertising industry to follow the lead of technology or gaming fields, in releasing the idea early then working out what it does later. Even Kanye is doing it.

Technology = Get it live, get it right
Advertising = Get it right, get it live

The idea that the creative industry is sometimes guilty of overthinking, finessing and perfecting an idea to the point that it’s no longer relevant with its audience certainly rang true with a lot of people…

3. Doing good is good business, more than ever.

The White Pencil Award has shifted in just 3 years from an award that received entries predominantly from or for charities - to all sorts of different brands doing things the right way for social good.

Here’s 3 of my favourites from this year:


Best festival quotes:

“Storytelling in communications is too often Story Yelling”
(On starting a YouTube channel) “Do something you love and hope that someone will love watching you do it”
“Pre-roll should be like the short film before the movie in the cinema”
“If you find it puzzling, your brain is working correctly”
“If Kodak knew they were in the ‘capturing memories’ business they wouldn’t be f*cked”
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