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Red Setter Perspectives from D&AD Festival 2023

Vicky Stoakes

Communications Director

May is D&AD Festival time! A chance for our team to hear from some of the industry’s most compelling speakers, talking about creativity’s greatest hits over the last year, the issues affecting the industry, and - on a positive note - the things creatives and agencies are doing to make the industry as forward thinking and inclusive as possible.

Here are some of our highlights:

TALK – How to make seemingly impossible ideas a reality

Chaired by Brittaney Kiefer, creative editor at Adweek, and featuring a line-up including Jonathan Kneebone from The Glue Society, Ana Balarin from Wieden + Kennedy London, Charlie Gatsky Sinclair from Uncommon Creative Studio and Rupert Reynolds-Maclean from Biscuit Filmworks, the panel discussed a range of creative campaigns and what made them succeed.

Highlights included ‘The Lost Class’ campaign for organisation Change the Ref. This involved the creation of a fake school and graduation event that NRA (National Rifle Association) president David Keene and guns rights campaigner John Lott were duped into speaking at.

Rehearsing on a stage in front of 3,044 empty seats, they were unaware that those seats were a harrowing representation of the number of students that didn’t get the chance to graduate because of gun violence. They didn’t learn this until a video of them rehearsing went viral for the world to see and talk about, finally holding their actions to account.

What Gemma thought: “Being reminded of these campaigns, I was bowled over by the bravery, creativity and resilience that went into making them possible. Some key takeaways were that production and creative absolutely have to work together from day one with a scoping budget and time (sometimes up to 12 months) to work out how to even execute the idea; that it’s an art form just getting the right people into the right place and behind a vision but that it’s essential to success; and that ultimately if you really care about an idea you will make it a reality.”

TALK - Represent Me – what does it take to engage the audience of the future?

Celebrating 100 years of WACL (Women in Advertising Communications Leadership), Rania Robinson, VP of WACL, and Lori Meakin, WACL exec member, gave an impassioned talk about working towards accelerating gender equality in the industry.

Laying bare the facts of the industry – and the direct impact of representation on people’s beliefs and behaviours – the talk focused on the need for the audience to remember the impact the work they are creating can have. People from marginalised groups want to be seen - and, importantly, the research noted that when they are included there is no decline in response from other groups, so it absolutely makes sense.

What Vicky thought: “This talk really got to me. I’m a mum of an 11-year-old daughter, and I’m highly aware of the images and stories that brands and adverts are trying to tell and sell her. I loved how WACL has been going into schools to speak to young girls about how they see themselves. These girls ‘knew how smart and funny’ they were, but were savvy enough to recognise that advertising doesn’t always reflect this back to them. They don’t want to be talked down to. No stereotypes. And representation matters!”

WACL’s own 100-year anniversary campaign will kick off at the end of May with its first direct-to-consumer adverts about representation and why it matters. Not just targeting girls and women, but boys, men and grandparents, reminding the industry that it needs to think about the messaging it’s giving to everyone, no matter the gender.

TALK – One size doesn’t fit all. How a tailored approach helps creative talent thrive

How do you not only attract great creative talent, but ensure they thrive?

From adapting to the needs of individuals, to building an industry that isn’t centred around set ways of working and set locations like London, D&AD Shift Alum Marshall Lawrence and Seun Areoye, joined former Shift London course leader Aliyah Hashinah in a panel to discuss how the creative industry can make careers more accessible to talented individuals.

What Gemma thought: “The talk really showcased the amazing work that Shift is doing, by opening up opportunities for young talent to succeed without a traditional university degree. It also addressed the fact that there’s a lot of awkwardness around diversity, with many agencies worried about not understanding the differences between cultures. It reminded the audience that it’s okay to feel that way, but it’s now time to try to understand, and put time into researching those cultures or asking questions, as a good starting place.”

The Festival Awards take place on 23/25 May at BFI.

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