D&AD New Blood Awards: Why They Matter


Senior Writer Seun Areoye writes about his experience as a judge for D&AD’s annual New Blood Awards.

D&AD are actively shaking the industry from the top – not something you often see – and I think it’s great if every young creative gives the New Blood Awards a go. 

The gravitas of being a pencil winner is unmistakable. We often hear “it’s not about what you know, but who you know.” Being able to reference D&AD as an award-winning creative is possibly the most connected “who” you could know.

There’s a new judge in town
This year, I was lucky enough to be selected as a judge for D&AD’s annual New Blood Awards. It was a full circle moment for me as only a couple years ago I had just finished New Blood Shift, a programme dedicated to helping creatives without a degree break into the industry.

Previous to my Shift experience, I had flirted with the industry for a while, but with nothing super concrete to my name and only a partial understanding of how everything worked, I struggled to navigate the industry. I didn’t know many people and experienced serious amounts of self doubt as a university dropout. This is why it was such a huge honour to be asked to judge this year’s awards.

On the right track
Being a judge at an awards ceremony is something I’d always associated with having massive amounts of experience, greying hairs and a cabinet full of awards for work you have done.

It felt great to be in the presence of people who definitely were more versed in the industry as writers and copywriters, but not to feel insecure, to represent myself and be unequivocally certain about the value I bring. It represented a proud checkpoint for me to stop and reflect on where my resilience has landed me so far in my career. 

To be part of this event and give a well deserved confidence boost to creatives who, like myself, might be victims to both external and internal doubt, was something that filled me with joy and reminded me that I was on the right track myself.

Fresh faces = 100% FRSH thinking
As one of the participating companies, Burger King set out a theoretical brief with a challenge – Use fresh language to let people know that Burger King’s menu is 100% real.

One of my favourite ideas was 100% FRSH. A simple yet effective execution, every ‘E’ was removed from a paragraph that boasted about the freshness of Burger King products. Albeit confusing at first, as the reader I was taken on a journey that felt rewarding, informative and made me laugh by the time I got to the end.

Another favourite of mine was Burgers without Secrets. Flipping the idea of a ‘secret ingredient’ on its head, it was an idea that challenged a well held belief – the thought that consuming ‘secret ingredients’ was normal –  and felt very Burger King in its execution. It once again landed the point that there were no secrets on the menu, just natural ingredients in your burger.

Whilst neither idea won a yellow pencil, it was down to technicalities that meant they just missed the mark that warranted that prestigious prize. The ideas were nothing short of original – ideas and executions I would’ve been proud to have my name next to. They made me excited for a new generation of talent who promise to shake the creative industry up.

Although it was a virtual event, it was great to see and be inspired by work that challenged the status quo. And this is why the work D&AD do is invaluable.

With great power comes great responsibility
Inviting people without a traditional creative background, like me, feels like Narnia; it looks like any old cupboard until you step into it. The industry has infamously been tainted by nepotism, and bodies like D&AD are frontrunners in making the industry a truly diverse space where everyone can thrive.

Whilst the work they do is great, it’s not work they can or should do alone. An observation I made was that many of these entries came from university students, or advertising schools that encourage their students to enter and craft a response.

The amount of talent that exists beyond the spheres of the industry is immeasurable, and I believe it’s everybody’s responsibility to be a portal of access for those creatives, like myself, who didn’t see themselves in an industry that prides itself on being diverse.

There’s a multitude of ways in which we can truly open the doors of creativity to everyone – inclusive of those who have not yet discovered their creative superpowers. From a personal perspective, it would’ve been really useful to have known that I could actually get paid to write before I went to university. University was presented to me as a quasi-essential rite of passage on the path of success. If I had known my expertise as a copywriter could have been my vocation, I would’ve strongly considered pursuing that at 18 instead of studying.

Both formally and informally, I have benefited heavily from the many mentors I’ve had during my career so far. Whether or not that’s been the case for you, we should all offer ourselves as mentors, to offer others  an insight into the expertise we have gained working in the industry.

How can we do even more for the next generation?
Taking it a step further from mentorship, organisations can and should provide opportunities for creatives that allow them to gain real life experience. 

I am grateful that in my first few work experience placements I was thrown straight into it, tackling briefs, generating ideas and learning on the go. Gone are the days of doing the coffee rounds. Opportunities like New Blood Shift that offer relocation are a plus, as I can only imagine how difficult it is being a creative that doesn’t live in a big city.

As a young creative, the ultimate opportunity arises when you can explore your creative talent without having to work a part-time, or full time job to fund your living costs. It’s why I scream and shout about We Are Social’s Upstarts programme.

Not only are you offered the opportunity to relocate, but also the opportunity to earn whilst partaking in the programme. Every agency should be offering these types of opportunities, as it’s our responsibility to nurture the next generation of creatives, removing any barriers – physical, mental and financial – that may prevent someone from reaching their peak potential in an industry that only benefits from diversity.

The Upstarts programme aims to provide opportunities within the creative industry for those from lower socio-economic backgrounds around the UK.

This year we are providing two paid placements within our Strategy and Research & Insights teams. Two individuals will gain an insight into the day to day runnings of agency life, the ins and outs of the departments and be able to gain experience that they can use as a stepping stone in their career. To find out more about the programme please get in touch by emailing [email protected].