What I learned judging copy at D&AD 2012 – plus some tips if you’re entering next year.

If you’re a copywriter, art director or designer, you know that it’s easier to criticise than it is to create.

I was reminded of that back in April when, instead of creating, I spent a day in the Grand Hall at Olympia, West Kensington, criticising other writers’ work.

The occasion was the judging of entries for the D&AD 2012 Awards, and I was on the “Writing for Advertising” jury.

It was a fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable experience, and I’m passing on some tips from what I learned, below.

There’s also a link to the work we voted into the 2012 D&AD Annual, at the bottom of this post.

D&AD entries are always judged on their originality and craft skills, not on sales results.

So some clients and creative people dismiss the awards, believing that ads should only be rated on their effectiveness.

For them, effectiveness equals sales.

Fair enough.

But getting noticed and considered are prerequisites to selling.

So creativity and craftsmanship are important.

And if you can use them to surprise and delight a panel of jaded jurors, you’re well on your way to selling.

I found one of the trickiest parts of judging entries was separating the writing from the execution.

While this was pretty easy in print – our jury quickly rejected pieces which should have been entered for typography, not writing – it was a lot harder when considering the film entries.

So I often had to ask myself, and other jurors, whether an ad’s strength was down to its script or its direction.

Sometimes we argued over the merits of particular pieces of work, and in the process I realized how brilliant entries need to be just to be included in the Annual, let alone win a Pencil.

In case you’d like to enter work into next year’s D&AD Awards, here are five tips based on my experience:

5 Tips for entering work for D&AD’s “Writing for Advertising” category

  1. Although it’s about copy, don’t forget about art direction and production values – they still matter. So make sure your entry is well executed.
  2. Ask yourself: is the copy/script brilliant in itself or does it seem that way because of the way the ad was produced?
  3. Is it typography, direction or other production values, more than the copywriting, that make the ad great? If so, enter it in another category.
  4. Check the detail. Our jury saw a couple of pieces of copy that were original and witty, but one had a clunky sentence and the other used the wrong word to describe something. As a result, they both fell at the final hurdle.
  5. Before entering work, compare it with previous years’ winners. Is it as good or better?

You can get inspired by this year’s winners, here, or  have a look at work from previous years.

Good luck with your copy.










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