This week London is hosting the second D&AD Festival of Excellence. Its message? Creativity is not just the province of the ponytailed "luvvy", but a no-nonsense business tool. Alex Benady reports
The first thing you notice as you enter the D&AD Festival of Excellence is an enormous pencil suspended high above the exhibition floor. Nine meters high and two across, the giant stubby is there because it is the D&AD trademark, a symbol of the highest standards of creativity in design.
A moment's scrutiny reveals that the pencil is in fact a mock-up, a hollow model made of canvas and wood, completely lacking in substance. The significance is not lost on the festival organisers, who admit that the pursuit of creative excellence has acquired a poor reputation in the business community as the silly superficial domain of luvvies with ponytails.
The avowed aim of this, the second D&AD Festival of Excellence, is to establish creativity as a hard-edged business tool; to put the lead back into the yellow pencil.
Anthony Simonds-Gooding, chairman of D&AD explains, "Creative excellence must not be seen as an end in itself, it is becoming an ever-more vital component in the business of achieving commercial success. The time has come for clients and agencies to collaborate in this."
So the festival, which runs all this week at the London Business Design Centre in Islington, has gone all-out to attract marketing clients, as well as D&AD's natural constituency of design and advertising folk.
Yes, there is a 20,000 sq ft exhibition displaying the best of UK and US design as well as shows of sexist advertising and the history of cigarette advertising. There are offices to encourage companies to come for the day, bars and a shop, a cinema, panel discussions and an interactive media room.
But the real bait for clients is a series of big-name lectures from leading figures such as Anita Roddick of the Body Shop, GrandMet chief George Bull and Coke's "Mr Advertising", David Wheldon, on how creativity has served their businesses. Bull talks about the future of brands, while Wheldon discusses Coca-Cola's search for creativity with a capacity crowd at the 450-seat lecture theatre.
"They and other leading practitioners and academics are here to provide a shaft of steely logic that runs through the week's proceedings and makes the case for the contribution that creativity can make to business and the bottom line," says Simonds-Gooding.
He kicked off the proceedings on Monday with an analysis of the commercial performance of this year's D&AD winners. "It is no coincidence that every one of our winners reached or surpassed its marketing objectives," he argues.
He showed how Murphy's sales had gone up by 14%, while the stout market was in decline; how The Economist has increased readership by 10%, improved the quality of readership and advertising revenue during a recession; and how Courage had regained lost ground in the take-home market with the aid of "hard man of comedy" Jack Dee boosting sales of John Smith's Bitter.
Other campaigns to have been acclaimed by D&AD include Peperami, by Simonds-Gooding's own agency Still Price: Lintas, which brand-owner Unilever reckons boosted sales by nearly 40%, Levi's 501's by 1500% since 1985; Nike, which says that it sold the entire production run of AirMax as a result of its award-winning TV work; and Tesco, with its recent emphasis on service. …