Q5: What were you looking for in the D&AD Awards submissions this year? In other words, what made work ‘pop’?
Nathan Reddy: I always look for: Is the idea inspiring? Is it beautifully executed? And is it relevant in the category it’s been judged? There’s always a secret envy when you say to yourself, I wish I [had] thought about that. It’s also important to understand the categories in branding, to give things context: New Branding Schemes, Brand Refresh, Campaign Branding & Identity, Logos, Campaign Logos, Brand Expression Print, Brand Expression in Moving Images, Channel Branding & Identity, Multiplatform TV Branding and Promotions, Sonic Branding, Brand Activations, Naming, Tone of Voice. Branding is definitely not [just] about logos. So many elements come together to create this thing called a brand. Today’s sonic branding is as important as ever. That sound when you press the N icon on your iPad — it is all part of a brand’s persona. So, when you are Netflixing and chilling, take a moment to remember that sound.
I’m always curious to understand how an agency tackles business problems. Who is the client? How relevant is the idea to the client? And what is the overall impact? Is it a flash in the pan, or does it really create long-lasting equity? It’s a balancing act, where a few things come together perfectly, creating something memorable. I go back and try to visualise the brief.
Q5: Overall, what was your experience of judging in a virtual space? How did it differ from a typical awards experience?
NR: Personally, I like to converse with judges; people teach you so much at these events. You get the cultural nuance, the landscape of what is happening in their country or continent. Generally, you get a better perspective on the work on display. I like the physicality of looking at work. It’s always interesting getting opinions from judges around the world. So, this [year] was very challenging. It made me concentrate more. I tried to put myself into the creators’ minds; I tried to imagine stuff in the real world. I went back a lot, looking to see if I missed something.
A good idea well-executed does not change whether you are judging online or physically. [That said], some entries work better online than others. Print, publications, books and some of the 3D stuff [are] better in the real world. Most brands today should live online, which is its true experience, so that was definitely easier to judge.
Q5: How do you think design will respond to the novel coronavirus pandemic over the next year? What will we see at the next instalment of these awards?
NR: Tough situations always bring out the best in creativity. That said, I strongly believe that breakthrough creativity and original thinking will outlast most things. The formula for original thinking and great idea generation will never go out of fashion, so invest in [this]. We have a process at Grid called “Investment Creative”, which means a great piece of communication must first solve a business problem in the most-imaginative, -memorable way. When this idea or piece of communication is consistently executed across all platforms, and creates the desired impact, it’s called value, hence investment creative. Clients will be looking for the agility and speed of thinking to break through. We will still need to inform, entertain and inspire, now more than ever. The idea of return on investment from clients will be on high alert. Clients will question the idea of what are valuable experiences; clients will want more for less. We will need to understand the idea of selling versus speaking to our audiences. True authentic brands will, and must, remain true to their persona. Act with integrity and do not be wasteful. Let’s just say, a lot of meaningful stuff will need to happen: smarter, more-concise briefs; leaner, meaner strategic intent; and creativity that breaks through the clutter. Hopefully, the awards next year will reflect our view of this new world.
Q5: Morale in advertising is, understandably, low at the moment. Do you have any thoughts on how we can boost it?
NR: I think agencies need to go back to their true culture and the soul of who they are. If you don’t have a strong culture, it’s going to be very difficult to navigate these hard times. Strong cultures survive because of self-belief. I’ve always said, “Let them like you, then trust you, and then you can be brave.” Clients today will need their agencies more than ever. The key to great marketing is never to stop thinking like your audience. You must excite and entertain your audiences, especially now — constantly creating intrigue and newness. You have to be intrigued by the world around you. Now, more than ever, there’s so much material out there. How people are feeling and acting. Take this as inspiration to do something to change this feeling or situation. Never forget why you got into this industry. Yes, we can change the way we see the world.
Q5: Finally, what do you think the pandemic means — if anything — for transformation in the local advertising, marketing and media industry?
NR: Before covid-19, the industry was in a sense of “What next?” That said, we are a resilient bunch. We have always punched above our weight globally. We have fantastic brands and clients in this country — all built with some really great minds. I do believe the industry has come a long way in transforming itself. We are also a competitive bunch. We will see a resurgence of that spirit emerging. I believe this pandemic has humbled us, but not defeated us. We will come out fighting stronger. We will definitely pay more [attention] to the things that matter. We are in the entertainment business, the information business, and the inspiration business and, if you understand people and you can be your authentic self with them, you will always be in business.
Carey Finn (@carey_finn) is a writer and editor with over decade and a half of industry experience, having covered everything from ethical sushi in Japan to the technicalities of roofing, agriculture, medical stuff and more. She’s also taught English and journalism, and dabbled in various other communications ventures along the way, including risk reporting. As a contributing writer to MarkLives.com, her regular column “Q5” hones in on strategic insights, analysis and data through punchy interviews with inspiring professionals in diverse fields.