Don’t fuck up. D&AD 2017

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Last week, me and the rest of the creative team were allowed out for a cultured (ahem) trip to the D&AD Festival down in good-old London town.

We set off bright and early from Birmingham International full of excitement. It really did feel like we were on a school trip. After a pretty uneventful train journey on the rattily London Midland service to London Euston, we arrived and quickly found our way around the tube.

After contorting my body into all sorts of positions to try and fit into the packed tube train we finally arrived in Aldgate East. A short walk brought us into the heart of Brick Lane and the destination for our day – the Old Truman Brewery, Shoreditch.

### Be brave

The first item on the days’ agenda was a talk from Trevor Robinson from Quiet Storm called *Bravery: The Leap of Faith. *Trevor didn’t disappoint. His talk focused on the work he did on the Tango account back in the late 90s – a time before some of our Dreamers were even born. Remember the You Know When You’ve Been Tangoed ads? It was amazing rewatching them with the man who’d had the balls to put these concepts to his client.

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Doing something like this in your career will either make or break you. Trevor and his team took a risk. They were walking a fine line between comedy and offence. But, as I’m sure you’ll agree (if you were born pre-1990, anyway) – these adverts were disruptive and memorable.

After Trevor’s talk, we splintered off into smaller groups and mooched around the fantastic work from the D&AD awards entrants. Some of this work is next level. And it was so inspiring to see the difference that time, passion and brave clients can make to an idea.

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### From the old to the new

After a couple of hours wandering around, absorbing all the amazing work, chatting to a few randomers and drinking lots of coffee, we reconvened for lunch. We decided upon the only timber-framed building to have survived the Great Fire of London – The Hoop and Grapes.

With bellies bursting with burgers and chips, we headed back to fill our brains. We decided to go for one of the New Blood talks targeting young creatives – Move On Up. Stu Outhwaite from Creature, and Will Knox and Martin Murphy of The Talent Business gave sound advice about how to break into, progress and flourish in what can be a pretty shallow and cliquey industry.

Apart from feeling slightly passed my sell-by-date, it was good to hear advice and guidance that I can pass down to more junior members of the team.

### Following the leader

Another great talk for that was Great Leaders are Made, Not Born: A Masterclass for Aspiring Creative Leaders.

Andy Sandoz, Eloise Smith, Tanya Livesey and Katriona Fraser hosted. Andy really stood out to me as a great creative leader.

Creative people are sensitive people. Fact. So, a draconian management style will never produce the best results for creative departments.

To be a good creative leader, being switched on and knowledgeable isn’t enough. You have to have a high emotional IQ, too. Recognising people who are better than you should excite and inspire a good leader – not threaten them. And people should want to follow you. That’s how you build a truly brilliant and inspired team.

Which brings me on to the title of my blog: Don’t Fuck Up. This was one of Andy’s punchy mantras, which he used to say to some of his team. Both scary and empowering, it encapsulates the role of a creative leader and letting people dare to do their thing as well as they can.

This was my favourite talk of the day and probably the thing I got most from at the festival. I’ve always understood that being a manager in the creative industry is very different to any other. To lead emotional people, you must be in control of your own emotions. This is where I’m still learning – I can get a little emotionally charged sometimes, but as each day passes I feel myself growing and learning as an individual. And hopefully as creative leader one day.

A final piece of advice from the leadership talk? Don’t run. People never want to see their leaders running. No matter how bad things are.


By Tristan Nesbitt, Creative Head