A week of two halves: Advertising Week Europe and D&AD Festival

    Author Zoe Aresti

Both Advertising Week Europe and the D&AD Festival took place in London last week and Digital Cinema Media’s Research and Insight Manager, Michael Tull, looks back on his conference and festival-going efforts, highlighting key takeaways from the week. 

Last week was a true week of two halves with both Advertising Week Europe and the D&AD Festival coming to town. The first half of the week saw Advertising Week Europe take over DCM’s flagship London cinema, Picturehouse Central, with all of its glitz, glamour and hubbub. While across the second half of the week, over in East London, Shoreditch the creative industry came together in the sparse, industrial calm of the Old Truman Brewery for the D&AD Festival. 

A whole week full of advertising insight and creative excellence was a somewhat daunting prospect so this year I decided to focus my conference and festival-going efforts around one topic (well aside from fanboying at the Anthony Joshua and Professor Steve Peter’s Advertising Week Europe sessions), and this year it was all about “storytelling” for me.

At Advertising Week Europe, Felix Barrett, director of immersive theatre production company Punchdrunk, neatly summarised why storytelling, and in particular compelling human experiences, are so important in today’s connected world - “Everything is so accessible, everything is two clicks away. It’s distanced us from the tactile, human experience. We have to remind people of what it’s like to ‘live in the moment’”.

It’s our role as a creative industry to do just that and it was interesting to hear Abi Morgan, acclaimed screenwriter of The Iron Lady and Suffragette (among many others) in conversation with MediaCom’s Josh Krichefski about the art of storytelling and how “persuasion is at the heart of what we do”, for screenplay writers and advertising professionals alike. 

While we often talk about the great, emotionally engaging advertising that makes its way on to screens, there are lessons to be learned in how we pitch and sell our media and plans to clients. While rational, logical arguments will always have their place these can be equally countered by other rational logic. However, when great stories are told, people listen. It’s important for us to put forward engaging stories when we pitch and sell media to clients - just as it’s important for them to make best use of the space to tell compelling brand stories that cut through and make people sit up and pay attention. 

Over at the D&AD Festival, advertisers who have managed just that were awarded, with the winners of the prestigious Pencils announced. Insight directly from the judges revealed some interesting themes coming through in the Film category. In the post-John Lewis world, brands are unsurprisingly trying their hand at ‘emotional’ advertising and one of the trends coming through in the entries was the “person through time vignette”. We’ve all seen them, the ads telling stories of people and families growing up, experiencing challenges along the way before coming good – all backed by a subtle piano piece which builds to the moment of success. However, when these ads are executed right they can work perfectly – as the judges (and for what it’s worth me too) felt that this Nike campaign did.


Emotional advertising can be incredibly powerful but the challenge these days, when so many advertisers are attempting to tug at the heartstrings, is not to appear like you’re over-egging it or being a copycat. Mumsnet’s Ellee Mae ad creates a powerful emotional response. As judge Martin Loraine put it “the tidal wave of sentimentality can make you feel queasy, but this feels real”.


Great storytelling isn’t just about tugging at the heartstrings and bringing out the tears, it’s about evoking any kind of emotional reaction. This year the judges noted very few entries actually made use of ‘visual comedy’ but one campaign did to great advantage. Lauded for its technique, craft and perfect delivery of a ‘one liner’ to pull the ad tight to the product the Harvey Nichols campaign is a winner in every sense.


So what have I taken away from the week? Well there’s never been a more important time to tell compelling stories to engage audiences and as we’ve always known emotional advertising can truly pack a punch or elicit a reaction when it’s done right. Here at DCM we always say that the best place to tell your brand stories on the big screen but don’t just take our word for it, take Martin Loraine, D&AD judge’s - “Film is the most emotional medium there is”.