In 1961, notoriously hot-headed photographer Bob Brooks arrived in London.
The advertising scene he stepped into was a very poor relation to the one he’d left in New York.
His biggest grievance was it’s annual advertising awards “it was put on by a printer, whose clients were the major agencies, so the ads were often credited as being ‘designed on a group basis”.
No names were mentioned, and nobody knew who designed anything.”

Rather than except the situation, he got in touch with London’s top Creative Director, Colin Millward, to pitch him an idea; ”Let’s set up an awards show where creatives are named’.
The whole business of naming names is that, if you do something successful, and it gets into the show, and everyone sees that you are the art director, designer, writer, photographer or whatever, the chances are that you will make a bit more money the following year.
And that is what the business is about.”
By 1963, they’d got a posse together, it now included the country’s top designers.
One of those, Bob Gill, knocked up this logo for the new enterprise.

It looked cool, but had no particular meaning, Gill explained “We just tried to get the letterforms as close together as possible”.
Over the years this jumble of letters was imbued with meaning, it represented excellence.
If you were a creative, you were in one of two groups –  those who’d ‘been in the book’ and those who hadn’t.
(It’s an awards show, it’s supposed to be elitist.)
Being asked to be a judge was like an award in itself.
Winning a pencil would be followed by a pay rise and a few job offers.
Creative Directors looking to hire would go straight to the index of the last annual.
I’ve read at least four on Facebook recently saying ‘Decided to chuck all my awards (except my D&AD pencils)’.
When I decided to bin all my certificates, writer Nigel Roberts came by and said ‘You do realise that some of those are D&AD?’
The point is, that little logo was precious.
Coveted, not just in the U.K. either.
One year, 2005 I think? Whilst judging The One Show in New York, I couldn’t help but notice that all the American jurors kept referencing D&AD, so I asked the group which pencil they’d rather win, the one we were judging or D&AD?
They looked at me like they didn’t understand the question – D&AD!
Why? They’re so rare.
While we handed out 102 One Show advertising pencils, D&AD handed out just 15. (And eight of those were for craft, The One Show didn’t even have craft sections.)
This year D&AD handed out 371 Pencils.

I find it hard not to care about this stuff, D&AD has been really helpful to me over the years and it’s an organisation I feel I’ve invested in.

I’ve handed over hundreds of thousands of pounds in entry fees.
I’ve given 20 or 30 days to judge over the years.
I’ve done my time on the Committee, sneaking out of my day job once a month to argue about jurors, goals, positioning, etc.
I’ve donated hundreds of hours designing two Annuals (’04 and ’12), four ads (two of them are below, ’98), one book launch invite and one poster.
I don’t say this to suggest that I’m owed anything or that my opinion is important, just to explain why I have one.
Besides, there are literally hundreds of people out there who could write much longer lists than me.
But having just read that the Type Directors Club of New York has shut up shop, it got me thinking about whether D&AD would one day go the same way?
It made me wonder whether now might be a good time to have a kind of brand audit.
The two toughest questions a brand can face is: What are you for and who are you for?
They sound innocent enough, but they aren’t.

What is D&AD for?
To inspire people to produce better work?
To promote the communications industry to the business world?
To be an alternative to Cannes?
To be a public record of the industry’s finest work?
To entice people into our industry?
To, as Bob Brooks said, help the good people get paid a bit better?
To teach people how to communicate?
To be a meeting place for global communication companies?
To reward those who make our industry look better?

Who is D&AD for?
The staff?

The membership?
Creative people?
The winners?
The communications industry?
The business community?
Future generations?

People with eyes?

The temptation is to tick all of them. (Don’t do that in a brand workshop, they’ll make you sit in the corner facing the wall.)
You need to reject some and give the rest in a hierarchy.
Try to be everything for everyone and you’ll end up being for no-one.

Maybe the best place to discover what they stand now is to look at what they’ve stood for previously.
Their Call For Entries campaigns are the ideal place to start,
when you’re trying to part people from their cash you’re forced to consider what you’re offering them in exchange.
Some of the following ads are great, some are awful.
But lining them up, in chronological order, you can’t help but notice one thing.

They used to be created by the the best minds in the business; Bob Gill, Charles Saatchi, Tim Delaney, etc, now they seem to be done in-house.
So they don’t have ideas, insights or reasons why they deserve a bigger slice of an agencies awards budget than Cannes.
That may seem harsh, but if there’s one organisation out there you’d hope would choose excellence over the convenience of bringing things in-house, you’d hope it would be D&AD.























1991. 1992.

















Thanks to The History of Advertising Trust for helping me track down some of these blighters.

25 responses to D&AD&ME.

  1. Keith Bickel says:

    Albert Hall Pencil (TBWA 1983): I toyed with that while Malcolm Gaskin was out the office putting the annual together. Neil Patterson kept me company. Thanks for reminding me how lovely they both were.

    • dave dye says:

      Hey Keith, when you say ‘toyed’ do you mean did? Or wrote even?
      (I like that ad, more than the annual actually. Light grey type on white is a pain in the arse to read.)
      Hope you’re well.

      • Keith Bickel says:

        Hi Dave,

        I played with the layout. Malcolm did the final design. Neil wrote it. Good learning for me.

        Was going to suggest light grey type on the white background, but the words wouldn’t come out.

        Hope you’re okay, too.



  2. Mick G says:

    The work from 2015 onward beautifully captures the creativity of the time.

    • dave dye says:

      Yep. It’s a shame, I wanted it to be more of a celebration of Call For Entries ads, but I couldn’t un-see it.
      It’s not even a cost saving measure, I guarantee all the ads listed were done for free, as it’s an honour and opportunity to get the brief.
      Presumably it’s just a bit more hassle to get outsiders to do it?

  3. Mark Denton says:

    …371 pencils you say? I think Syndrome put it best when he said “And when everyone’s Super, no one will be.” Oh, and the last couple of years worth of D&AD adverts are CRAP (then again you knew that)…

    • dave dye says:

      I did consider not showing them, but why hide it?
      I also wondered whether there were better ads out there those years that I couldn’t find?
      It’s possible, but those were all from Lurzer’s, so aimed at the creative community.
      D&AD should ask their members to produce them. Their absolute best members.
      Then they should trust them, be a good client.
      The results would be more akin to the kind of advertising that gets into their annuals – striking, compelling, unusual, intelligent, original, etc.
      And, if we believe in all this creativity stuff, lead to more submissions which would bring in more cash.
      (I doubt those ads were entered.)

  4. sebastian wilhelm says:

    They’ve killed the one thing that made d&ad stand apart from every other show, including cannes. In fact, the great thing about d&ad is that it didn’t try to be cannes. It was much cooler, sophisticated and harder to win. Now you don’t even know what a wood pencil or graphite pencil or glass pencil or any other represent. It’s a pity.

  5. Tim Jones says:

    “98’s smug-walk-past-tables-of-losers’ is my clear favourite” ***scroll back to top*** “of course he bloody wrote it”. It’s brilliant amongst (some) brilliance.

    (I really struggled with the passed/pass/past in this post).

    • dave dye says:

      Thanks Tim.
      (What do you mean passed/past/pass?)

      • Tim Jones says:

        Ha. sorry for the confusion – within my own comment: “smug-walk-past…” always struggled with that preposition!

      • dave dye says:

        Oh, ok Tim.
        Funny, struggled with ‘past’, no problem with ‘preposition’.

  6. Phil says:

    Think it was crucial to include those more recent call for entries ads Dave – as they sum up perfectly the state of the business. The organisation that once represented the pinnacle of creativity couldn’t be bothered to apply those standards to their own ads. In a further sad D&AD footnote for me personally- we came up with an idea for a campaign that won a silver pencil this year. But as we were freelance, were left off any credits. As Les McQueen of Crewe Brûlée would say “…it’s a shit business…”

  7. Paul White says:

    In further education they call it Grade Inflation – year on year it gets easier to attain high grades.
    15 pencils awarded back then, to 371 pencils this year…
    if my (grade 4) ‘O’ level maths is correct that’s an inflation rate of 2,473%

    • Mark Denton says:

      …I remember getting my first ad in the book (not even a pencil) and with it came a big bunch of enquiries from London’s sexiest agencies.
      It was a door opener to my first job at a good agency, BBH.
      Now, if I’d had a pencil for every ad I’d got in the book since (they never used to give you a pencil for anything less than a silver) I’d have a small tree’s worth.
      But I’d still struggle to get a job in any agency as a creative…that’s how devalued they’ve become…waffle, drone, bore…

    • Keith Bickel says:

      If every person who played the lottery won, their winnings wouldn’t cover the price of the ticket.

      • Paul White says:

        (Had to think about that one Keith) YES!

  8. Secret Peter says:

    I’m a creative working today and I find it a bit insulting that you lot are suggesting our generation don’t care or value D&AD as much. We really do. The yellows are still bloody hard to win. You say they gave out xxx number of pencils this year, but the wood just represent in-book, graphite are noms…the yellows are still very rare. I think what you’re really getting at is that you don’t think the work is as good as it used to be. But things have moved on. We don’t have the luxury of sitting around for months on end crafting a VO. I wish we did, but we don’t. Time has been crunched across the board, which to me, is the real reason why ads ‘aren’t as good now.’

    I think, actually, it’s way harder to win a yellow pencil as an advertising creative nowadays. Before there was a formula of media, and all you had to concentrate on was the big idea or 30 second ad strategy and execution. Now we have to think about the media solution ourselves and the big idea and a thousand other strands of a campaign. My point is that I wish older creatives would start giving the younger generation some appreciation and credit. It’s very easy to go ‘ah it’s all shit now’, like we do with music. But the fact is that the landscape has changed.

    • dave dye says:

      Hey Secret Peter, thanks for your feedback.
      It’s nice to feel some emotion in the comments.
      I’m not sure whether you are directly responding to my post, the comments or both?
      If it was my post I’m certainly not criticising today’s creatives.
      I’m wondering whether D&AD is still as important to them as it was to my and previous generations.
      I also didn’t want to criticise D&AD for that matter, but, I couldn’t un-see their last few Call For Entries ads, and wonder whether they were done in-house.
      Personally, I don’t like the idea of giving out a ton of pencils because it devalues them, but that’s just me.
      I try to make these posts as celebratory as possible, the odd rant slips in, but generally it’s about shining a light on the good. (At least, what I think is good.)
      In terms of whether advertising is better now or then? It doesn’t feel like a golden age at the moment, it never does, but there’s still great work being done.
      Who knows? It’s easier to judge things from a distance.
      p.s. I’ve been in this business for over 30 years, I can’t ever remember a time when ‘older creatives gave the younger generation appreciation and credit’.

  9. Secret Peter says:

    Hi Dave.

    Appreciate the thoughtful response.
    I’m sorry if my post also came across as ranty…I think I’d actually merged your post and Mr D’s LinkedIn comments about D&AD (thrown all his pencils out etc) in my head.

    I’ve just become a bit sick of seeing certain older creatives knock the value of the current pencil. It feels like it’s because they’re bitter because they aren’t winning them any more (being simplistic). To me, they are still valued. Before lockdown I saw a Wood pencil on the desk of a hardworking young creative and could feel their pride. I personally don’t mind the new system as it feels like there’s ‘hope’ for winning a yellow.

    Anyway, thank you for sharing the call for entries ads and the great blog.

    Yours, Secret Peter.

    • dave dye says:

      Hey Secret Peter, I don’t mind ranty, it’s good to debate and disagree.
      Again, I’m not saying D&AD is pointless, not worth winning or that todays creatives are keen to own them.
      Just that giving out more makes them a bit less special.
      Let’s take D&AD out of the equation for the moment, let’s talk about Oscars.
      They give out 24 each year.
      Let’s say they gave Oscar statuettes to all the nominations too, bronze coloured ones, the winners are gold.
      Next year 120 people would win ‘Oscars’.
      It would be difficult to say that it didn’t diminish the Oscar statuette in some way, because there’s less of them in circulation.
      One of the reasons older people question whether ads or music is as good as it was in the old days is they’ve experienced both, so are well placed to compare.
      It doesn’t make them right.
      But generally, the people in the comments section are commenting because they care.
      And there’s the hope that exchanging opinions about D&AD will ultimately be good for D&AD moving forward.
      Good to chat SP.

  10. Secret Peter says:

    Yes, I understand your Oscar analogy.
    They certainly were a bit more special when there were less…
    But, as someone who grew up with and loves D&AD, the Wood and Graphite additions provide me with hope and a touch more pride than just being in-book. (Declaration: I’ve only ever won as high as Graphite!)

    Anyway, keep up the great work.
    It’s important that we are reminded of our heritage, as an industry, and that more rigor and selection when it comes to ideas and craft would make the industry great again. Oh no, I went a bit MAGA there. Apologies. Although Make Advertising Great Again is something I could definitely get behind…as someone who started in the industry 2003, I feel like standards have definitely slipped. Anyway, I digress.

    SP x

  11. Mark Denton says:

    Hey, Secret Peter…don’t get the wrong idea about me and D&AD.

    I’m right behind young creative people (I used to be one myself).

    I want to see them get more recognition, more money (a lot more) and YES, MORE FAME.

    I want to see creatives at the top table and setting the agenda.

    But I don’t think handing out more and more awards is the answer (you’re being seriously short-changed imho).

    I’m waiting for a youngster like you (I’m assuming you’re young) to upset the apple cart and start a new creative body that is all about the very best, most inspirational work on offer.

    And use that to remind clients what they’re paying all that money for in the first place.

    D&AD are GREAT (see, I do like them) at education and shining a spotlight on the need for a more diverse creative presence in the industry but they’ve lost their way a bit when it comes to the work.

    I’m going for a little lie down now (because I’m old)…


  12. Hi, I see you refer to Stephen Coe, and I wonder if that is the guy I used to know. He used to live in London, was a photographer, and lived within walking distance of Kentish Town (where I used to live). Quite a long walk!

    Your url request doesn’t work

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