Last week D&AD’s annual awards ceremony was held at The Roundhouse and RAB were sponsor of the radio categories.
Sound has an incredible emotional power (Confession: I still have to turn scary films onto mute) and one thing that struck me at D&AD was the significance of sound in so many categories beyond radio. The standout campaign of the night was ‘Dumb ways to Die’ by McCann Erickson Melbourne for Metro Trains, which won 5 pencils including one Black Pencil, the D&AD’s highest accolade. The memorability of this campaign depended hugely on the song – the faux naïve folk track was certainly what I was humming on the way home. Interesting then that this was nominated in the radio category but didn’t convert to a Pencil. Perhaps it’s that the judges feel radio should deliver more than a straightforward sonic message: engaging the imagination to stimulate a “visual” response through sound is what makes radio at its best.
The phrase ‘Theatre of the Mind’ is an oft-heard phrase in the context of radio creativity but great radio certainly does have something physical, something theatrical about it. Think of the classic Hamlet ‘Bummer’ ad, Ricky Gervais Prostate Cancer commercial or the Old Spice spot from Wieden and Kennedy last year: there’s a strong element of visual drama in all of them that lets you picture the scene.
This year only two Yellow pencils were awarded at D&AD going to Y&R New York’s ‘Poetry’ ad for Campbell’s Soup and DraftFCB New Zealand’s ‘Call Girl’ for Prime Television. Campbell’s Soup is a classic radio ad that is well-scripted and well-produced which dramatises the dispute and reconciliation of an angry mother and daughter with their favourite soup as the mediator. The DraftFCB ad promoted the premier of ‘Secret Diary of a Call Girl’ by planting a call girl in a room opposite a radio broadcast studio and, unsurprisingly the DJs couldn’t help but comment on it live on air, inadvertently publicising the Prime TV programme. Again, it’s about theatre, engaging the imagination and exploiting what you can’t see. To me this award was also interesting as it breaks the mould of classic spot advertising. It’s all about content.
Since the relaxation of Ofcom regulations over here, it seems that beyond the spot ads could represent a big opportunity for radio stations who generate lots of creative solutions like this – and might also change the way creatives in agencies approach their radio briefs. Considering various wins from Cannes Lions last year such as Global Creative’s ‘Warchild Show’ with live ads or the Grand Prix anti mosquito campaign, is the theatre of the mind finally breaking down its ‘fourth wall’?
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