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D&AD was the first adland awards scheme I heard of when I started studying creative advertising in college and is arguably still the most coveted award on the block.

It’s a huge scheme with 664 pencils awarded this year – far too much for any one blog post to cover. So, since we’re all about 1-2-1 here at T19, I’ll focus on the direct category. To give more focus still, I’ve looked for work that rings the T19 bell for creating distinctive and impactful conversations.

Here are my top 5:

1. Diesel – Enjoy before returning (Yellow pencil)

A conversation isn’t just about talking, it’s also about listening. Diesel listened to what was going on in wider culture, and amongst their own customers, and turned it to their advantage. They picked up on a trend called ‘Wardrobing’ – buying something, wearing it once, and returning it.

This work is also a brilliant example of turning a negative into a positive. Rather than telling people not to return their clothes, they launched ‘Enjoy before returning’ at Fashion Week, encouraging people to do just that. But crucially, to wear it with the Diesel tag still attached and visible.

It was a super-risky move but one that paid off, making Diesel relevant again, increasing sales, and actually decreasing the rate of returns.

See the case study here

2. Spotify – Alone With Me (Graphite pencil)

Spotify have long been kings of using data to be highly personalised (although we like to think we make pretty nifty use of it ourselves in our Data Playback and Fruit & Veg Challenge work for Sainsbury’s), but this time they’ve taken it to the next level.

To support The Weeknd’s new album launch, they used deepfake tech and AI to create a personalised video of him speaking just to you, calling you by your name and referencing your listening history.

A pretty impressive use of tech that would definitely make fans sit up and take notice. Your favourite artist talking directly to you? I can’t think of much more of a distinctive and impactful conversation than that.

See the case study here

3. Thai Airlines – Stay Home Miles (Wood pencil)

The travel industry is one of the hardest-hit by lockdown, so how does an airline maintain loyalty and keep itself front of mind when a global pandemic stops everyone flying? This airline managed to do both with a bit of clever, altruistic thinking.

Rather than rewarding their members for flying, they gave them points for doing the responsible thing and staying home.

Keeping the conversation going with your customers through these times that are drastically altering behaviour is something that’s been on our collective brain a lot at T19 over the last 18 months; this activity does the trick nicely for Thai Airlines.

See the case study here

4. Burger King – Homes of the Whopper (Wood pencil)

This is so simple and a bit cheeky (very BK).

To promote their delivery service during lockdown, they gave customers free delivery – but only in return for putting a ‘Home of the Whopper’ sign (more commonly seen on the front of their restaurants) on their house.

A brilliant use of their long-standing tagline that’s totally distinctive to the brand, definitely hugely impactful, and a bit of a smile during a pretty grim period.

See the case study here

5. Born Free Foundation – Creature Discomforts (Wood pencil)

This choice is a bit of a personal indulgence. The original Creature Comforts ads were much-loved in my house when I was a kid (I was very young, I can’t emphasise that point enough) so straight away, I’ve got a soft spot for this.

For me, this is another example of a really clever creative flip. Born Free recorded interviews with people talking about how they felt in lockdown, and then put their words in the mouths of zoo animals. It makes the point about the distinctly questionable practise of keeping animals in captivity simply and elegantly.

A definite conversation starter (it got the likes of Greta Thunberg and Ricky Gervais talking) with huge emotional impact.

See the case study here


This year’s winning work in this category raises the question, as it does increasingly every year, about just what ‘Direct’ means these days (but that’s another blog post. Possibly two). Regardless, there are some key things I admire in all this work that made me pick them out of the abundance of amazing ideas on show this year.

Lots of them employ those brilliant creative leaps where something is turned on its head, whether that’s a clothing brand encouraging people to return their purchases; a burger place getting people to stick their restaurant signage on their homes; or an airline rewarding people for staying home rather than getting on their planes.

We always strive to be ‘refreshingly real’ in our own work at T19. I love these ideas for being just that, by seizing a societal or cultural moment and delivering their messages with healthy doses of wit and charm.