It's not every night one finds oneself serving paella to Philippe Starck while simultaneously explaining to the world's most famous designer exactly who Jason Donovan is, or was, or could be. But that was the unforeseen joy of last week's D&AD Awards at Old Billingsgate, hosted with gusto by Graham Norton.
In between behaving like a Frenchman who really had just "fired my nine girlfriends", and was trying to collect another nine, Starck talked with the absolute honesty of someone who either doesn't have to try any more, or simply doesn't care. I will leave you to judge. But I think it's the mark of the true A-list of creative industries that they can be more generous with praise about their peers and rivals than the wannabes are. He was a worthy winner of the lifetime achievement award. But he runs the risk of becoming the next Pierre Cardin if he doesn't watch the way he licenses his brand.
As you may have guessed, sitting on Starck's table rather got in the way of the actual awards. I would love to give you chapter and verse about each and every Pencil winner, but I became obsessed with his black-tie-and-black-leather-jeans combo. If you are a designer known for being cool, can you be as uncool as the worst middle-aged swinger and get away with it? Less Lizard King, more lounge lizard. I just hope he remembered the talc.
D&AD night. The theme was "obsessives only". I used to hate the event when it actually was obsessive - back when the voting was so entirely out of synch with recognising the best work of the year; back when the ad people and the designers really did have nothing to do with each other. In short, back when the entire London creative community appeared to be creating ads day in, day out in the office aimed at winning a Pencil, rather than shifting clients' products.
Tim Delaney and David Kester really got a grip of the organisation though, and Michael Hockney has done an excellent job of making it more relevant. It's refreshing to attend a show where the winners still really care. Crucially, a little bit of the losers' souls die with envy at everybody else's awards. Small wonder, given some of the winners.
Sure, I loved Sony's "balls" from Fallon, the ad of 2006, and the Department of Transport's cameraphone viral from Leo Burnett London. It's hard to argue with the fourth successive year that an iPod got a Pencil, and I was delighted that the genius that is the Nintedogs game for Nintendo DS was recognised. Judging by the lack of applause, there were clearly not too many parents in the room. All the young creative johnnies clearly play a rougher, more violent type of handheld game.
Let's leave aside the Guardian's Black Pencil until circulation has slid back down to pre re-design hype levels, or how unfunny the Five idents are. They would never have troubled the scorers if they were a traditional ad campaign. There were two entirely strange winners on the night.
One was a Black Pencil for Leo Burnett for its own website. Tough client there, then? Whatever one thinks of the all-singing, all-dancing site, it is hardly the same as creating a site for, say, McDonald's. And, come to think of it, go on it yourself. The conceit of turning my own PC's cursor into a pencil, whether I like it or not, I actually found really annoying.
But this is as nothing to my aversion to the Golden Wonder "skins" poster campaign, which did so well previously at Campaign's Poster Awards. This is as distasteful and exploitative as anything I have seen recently - even borderline pornographic. Add to that irrelevant. In what way on earth does a near-naked, ginger-haired, porcelain-skinned young boy have anything to do with selling crisps?
It didn't work, of course, and Golden Wonder went into administration earlier this year. OK, I know it wasn't just because of the advertising, but what difference did that advertising make, if not to sales, then perception, say in the way that Sony's "balls" did?
Joining the 1,659 other guests ahead of the show, I was sceptical about the event. My take-out afterwards is that actually D&AD has become more relevant, not less - it has always amazed me that the two disciplines of design and advertising have not come together more often.
Now that industry circumstance rather than the D&AD show is forcing still closer co-operation and integration between disciplines, it will be fascinating to see whose egos come out on top. My money's on the admen. Or, at least it was before I met charming Monsieur Starck and his exotic leather trousers.
* OH FOR a Polaroid when you need it. A rather large guy in black tie fell into the deep sleep of intoxication well before midnight at the show.
Later, much later, as the immediate vicinity was being cleared for parties, the excellent staff at Billingsgate sat near him. I thought they were mocking the guy, but they insisted they were protecting him from being mugged. If anyone knows who I am talking about, and how he got home, please let me know.
* OVERHEARD IN the men's room in Old Billingsgate, on the day that the law lords ruled in favour of the wives in two major divorce cases: "...And, mate, let me tell you, that's another reason why I'm not gonna let you marry that woman. You've gotta wake up. She's trying to screw you." And, with that, our heroes stumbled out of the cubicle they had curiously just shared together. There was as much talk about that divorce ruling on the night as there was about the work. Get copywriting those pre-nups, gents.
* SO, STEVE Henry is to join TBWA as executive creative director. It's a much overdue appointment, but I am happy for him. Henry was one of the more influential admen of the Nineties at the iconoclastic Howell Henry Chaldecott Lury, and his work was never less than interesting. Although I am sure I am wrong, he appears to have been "on cruise" for some time. If Henry can get his mojo back at 50 then all will be happy. I spoke to him this week, and he sounds excited and raring to go. It was a smart move by TBWA European boss Paul Bainsfair; one that instantly re-energises what had appeared to be a drifting agency. Let's hope it works out as well in real life as it looks on paper.
Amanda Walsh also left United last week, but I don't think there is much more to read into this than possibly the downsizing of the network. It would be good to see Walsh back in a mainstream role soon. This is now a test for United CEO Andy Berlin to see if he's still got it, or is just full of hot air.
E-mail email@example.com with your leather-trouser horror stories. (I know you have them.) And, if any concern Andrew Harrison, the new chief executive of the RadioCentre, all the better. Good luck in the new job, Andrew.
Hatfield's Worst In Show: 'Becks'
Oh dear! Am I ever going to like a new commercial? I am a big fan of the Flaming Lips. I loved the OK Go pop video that this is obviously ripped off from (hasn't anyone spotted that?), and I even enjoy the odd Beck's. But, sorry, all you nice people at Leo Burnett, this is horrible. The "four steps to brewing Beck's" brought to life in a dance routine? Yuck! It's tortuous planning. At least make it so bad it would be good. This is just wallpaper and a criminal waste of the OK Go idea.Reuse content