Out and about at the D&AD Festival

A selection of mark-makers* made their way to this year’s D&AD festival, where the theme was “Make. Change”. It was a chance to take a look at how today’s creativity is impacting change here and around the world. And, more importantly, it helped empower them to challenge the industry and make way for a better tomorrow.

Here’s how we got on…


I thoroughly enjoyed my day at D&AD festival this year. It was great to have a day out in London alongside Anna and Nick and listen to others in our industry give talks on a range of subjects. The first talk we went to was ‘Jury Insights: Digital Brand Experience’ where a panel of jurors discussed their reasons for shortlisting some of the submissions. I really enjoyed seeing new work and hearing about the effectiveness of one submission in particular – a digital campaign for Minecraft, called Urban Miner, which created a fantastic brand experience in the gaming world, whilst helping address a real-world problem. You can check it out here.

That said, my favourite talk was by Kim Lawrie, on ‘Why the industry needs to think more neurodiversely’. I found her choice to not use slides at all (and be the only one I saw to do so) pretty brave – and so was her show of vulnerability on stage when she shared her own experience of navigating the industry with autism. There were some horrifying facts about the challenges and barriers that neurodiverse people face when it comes to finding work, even in the creative industries, which I wrongly assumed would provide more opportunities for people with neurodiversity. Her talk really hit home and it was refreshing to hear someone stand up and speak up about a topic that most of us would rather avoid or have simply never had need to consider.


The WACL (Women in Advertising and Communication Leadership) ‘Represent Me’ campaign celebrates the impact of positive female representation, which I found interesting and inspiring.

It centred around the fact that women account for about 80% of all consumer purchase decisions, yet are still underrepresented within advertising, and historically not all have been represented positively or authentically.

With this in mind, WACL spoke to a cross-section of girls from a school in London (different ages, ethnic backgrounds, etc). The girls were shown a selection of adverts where women had been stereotyped and were asked to give their thoughts and feelings in response. They reported feeling ‘angry and confused’. They were then shown a selection of adverts where a variety of women were portrayed positively and responses were entirely different.

WACL have found that older women are particularly poorly represented and women are most likely to feature in health and beauty ads, whilst men are most likely to appear in finance and home ads. Women were hardly ever portrayed in positions of authority.

I found this quite enlightening. Having worked in the advertising world for many years, sometimes you don’t really see everything until all facts are presented to you. I found myself nodding when any facts were discussed and looking around the room to see what other people’s reactions were. Towards the end of the talk, the two ladies from WACL addressed the few guys who had not got up and walked out, thanked them for listening and told them this is not an attack on them. Instead, it was a way of highlighting that change needs to happen.

Looking to the future, WACL shared a few work-in-progress adverts that they’re working on with a number of high-profile brands in order to create a more positive representation of women and girls within future advertising campaigns. Below is the first one they have produced with Dove.


The talks we saw around welcoming diversity to the industry get a big thumbs up from me.
I particularly enjoyed Viv Greywoode’s talk ‘Unfamiliar faces, unfamiliar spaces: Spotting talent where no one is looking’ because, well, you all hired me from another industry. Well done mm*!

It was great to hear a perspective talking about how dull agencies become without divergent perspectives and voices. That’s what sparks creativity and keeps our work fresh and relevant.

However, the best talk of the whole day (and I think we were all in agreement about this) was Kim Lawrie’s, ‘Why the Industry needs to think more neurodiversely’. Lawrie shared that she’s done her best work since ‘coming out’ as autistic three years ago and being free, for the first time, to live as her authentic self. She cited some truly distressing statistics about how society treats neurodivergence, including suicide rates amongst people on the spectrum. She also highlighted how many of our greatest thinkers have been neurodivergent.

From challenging the status quo to embracing new ways of working and thinking, this year’s D&AD festival was clearly inspirational to those who attended. We hope what they heard continues to guide them as we all look to “Make. Change”.

About markmaking*

mark-making* is an award-winning creative agency specialising in branding, campaigns and communications