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TIPS ON HOW TO WIN A D&AD NEW BLOOD PENCIL

These are my, not your average, 5 top tips from a strategist and past New Blood winner's

point of view.



Intro into D&AD


D&AD New Blood briefs are some of the best live briefs, set by real brands, that you can get your hands on to flex your creative thinking. But first and foremost, New Blood is a competition, and if you want to win a pencil, blood will spill, tears will fall, palms will sweat. Just like any competition if you’re in it, you’re in it to win it.


To win any pencil your work has to get through an extensive panel of industry professional judges from around the world.

However, in my book, winning isn’t always about being the best, it’s about understanding the competition.

Beyond every great work, there’s strategy.

So from someone who's won two New Blood Pencils, here are my personal top tips on how to bag yourself a Pencil award. (These tips are based around the advertising briefs, but they may also be relevant to the design briefs).


For those aware of D&AD skip this bit, for those who don't, I'll give a brief introduction. D&AD stands for Design and Art Direction and it is the Oscars of the creative industry. It's an organisation that was created in 1962 to promote excellence in design and advertising and it's most famous for its highly prestigious, globally recognised awards, The Pencils. There are 5 Pencil levels, Wood, Graphite, Yellow, White and Black. With Yellow being one of the most iconic awards; win one of these and you'll have brands and agencies knocking on the door of your DM's. White and Black Pencils are harder to achieve with only a couple if any at all, handed out each year. Read more about Pencils here.



1. Pick a brief strategically (not what's cool)


Selecting the right brief might just be the most important step. It can be tempting to pick a brief from a glamorous brand because it sounds cool or would look cool in your portfolio.


My biggest tip is to choose a brief STRATEGICALLY. Which brief can you bring the most value to?

Which brief do you have a personal experience with or interesting point of view on? Do any of the problems stand out to you? Maybe you are the target audience or maybe you have a really interesting and relevant truth to the problem? Do you know something somebody else doesn't?


Your idea has to stand out from hundreds of others, if you want to win a Pencil, especially a Yellow one, you need to be different. So don't be obvious and don't be boring!


When choosing my brief, I chose Penguin Random House, not because I loved books and reading, but actually because I didn't read. I used that as my unique perspective to solving the problem because I thought if I can get me to read I've solved the problem.



2. Find your point of view.


If you don't immediately have a personal insight or perspective to bring to your brief, that's fine, you can find one... Research.

A good insight is the key ingredient to EVERY really great idea. A good insight should be so obvious, finding it should feel like an ah-haa moment.

Insights can sometimes feel hard to find, but that might be because you're looking in the wrong places. Some great places to find insights aren't on google, or in stats and figures, they're from people.


Insights are found in reality.

Stand-up comedy sketches are great for relatable insights, reading reviews, memes, online communities, and simply just talking to people. Speak to the audience you’re targeting, and hear directly from them what their pain points are. Don’t be afraid to contact strangers, people usually love to talk about themselves, and usually love to help.




3. Going beyond the brief (A bonus tip for the ones hungry for Yellow and more)


How can you go beyond the brief?

Going beyond the ask, without going off brief, can be your ticket to winners lane.


Can you use your personal experience/perspective or unique truth to come at the brief from a different angle? Can you solve more than the briefs problem? Can you use the problem in your brief to highlight another one?


Going above and beyond the boundaries of the brief will make you stand out from the crowd.

However, there is a fine line though, because you mustn't steer too far away from the brief or you won't answer it.


Find the purpose in your idea. Why should anyone care about it? What value is this idea going to bring to the world?

Is it just creative, for creative sake? What is the PURPOSE behind this work? If your idea aims to tackle a real-world problem, or makes the world a slightly better place, particularly if this is beyond the ask of the brief, then your idea is in a pretty remarkable place.


So ask yourself how can I go beyond the boundaries of the brief?


When I picked the Penguin brief in 2021, I chose it not because I loved books or reading. I chose it because I was the opposite. The only reading I did was texts, emails and Instagram captions. I was disinterested and disengaged at reading in school and related to the struggles of those who are Neurodivergent.


My brief's problem wasn't about Dyslexia, but I made it about Dyslexia. I recognised another neglected audience and I wanted to target and represent both.


This is an example of how personal experience and insight led to an alternative solution that didn't just aim to solve the problem in the brief, but another problem altogether, putting a spin on the brief. This choice didn't just win me a Yellow Pencil, but a Black Pencil.


You can watch it here.


4. Analyse the competition


This is an absolutely essential step.


Check out the past winners and get to know the standard you're up against.

Analyse their work, why do you think they won? What makes their idea unique? What was their journey from the problem to solution? How have they executed their idea? How can you make yours better? Can you see a gap on a topic or solution that hasn’t been done before? Remember the more original you can be the better your chances are at impressing the judges.


If you want to win a Pencil, aim to be better than last year’s winners.

Don’t just aim to be better than previous Wood, Graphite or Yellow winners, aim to be better than the best, the Black Pencil winners.


When I was answering my brief in 2021, I watched and re-watched previous Black Pencil winners. I picked apart what was great about them and then applied those qualities to my work. I made sure I fully understood what boxes my work had to tick, to win a pencil.

Like it said, winning isn't about being the best, it's about understanding what it takes to be the best and applying THAT to your work.



5. Don't ruin a good idea with a bad execution


This isn't about creating a cinematic, slick, professional mini movie. Most entrants don't have the time or the skill set. But don't discard trying. Especially if you're going for gold (yellow). The delivery of your idea is equally as important as the idea itself, so you should put the same amount of effort into both. Remember you want the judges to put in as little effort as possible into understanding your idea, you need to land your idea immediately and clearly. The judges have to sift through hundreds of entries and they'll discard anything that doesn't instantly grab their attention.

A great delivery is everything, and it will be the difference between winning Yellow and winning Wood or not winning at all.
With a 2 minute video, you can tell a story and take the viewer on a journey. You can use sound and visuals to enhance your story, which is much more effective than words on a page.

And guess what, you don't need to be an adobe, video editing pro, to create a slick video. That's coming from someone who had zero Premier Pro or After Effects experience before my 2021 entry. I dedicated time into watching YouTube tutorials and taught myself the basics to create my video, it is doable if you can find that time.


If you don't have Adobe software on your laptop, see if your College/University do, or sign up for a free trial. Canva is also a great, and free, tool you can use, as well as Davinci Resolve. There are other ways to create a video, such as screen recording a presentation with a voice-over.


Also don't shy away from getting creative with your execution, if you don't have the skills/time/facilities to create a professional video. Think about other ways you can deliver your idea.


How can you make your video different from the rest?

Some past winners rapped their idea. Can you record a video on your phone talking about your idea, that requires little to no editing? D&AD request that you don't show your own face in your entry to reduce any bias, so maybe you put googly eyes on socks and use puppets to deliver your idea. Maybe that's a terrible idea, but creativity and problem solving will always be rewarded and respected when used to overcome a hurdle. That's how you'll stand out, plus if you can make a judge laugh then you're already ahead of most.


If you've made it to the end, thank you, this was a long one. These aren't your average D&AD tips these are tips to going beyond, these are about elevating your work to the next level to bag you not just a pencil, but a top pencil.


Strive for better than best and you might just be surprised with what you can achieve.
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