Pushing boundaries: creative advertising within education, key learnings from the Design and Art Direction Festival 2016

Pushing boundaries: creative advertising within education, key learnings from the Design and Art Direction Festival 2016

You only need to scroll through your Facebook newsfeed or walk through a tube station to know that advertising is everywhere, but what makes you stop to look? Our brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text (90% of info transmitted to our brains is visual) – that’s a pretty high statistic isn’t it?


Creativity really is at the heart of advertising, making it effective, memorable and inspiring. There is ever increasing pressure to show tangible outcomes and ROI (rightly so), however this often means the importance of creative and content is overlooked.

On the 20th and 21st of April we immersed ourselves in the D&AD 2016 Festival, held just a stone’s throw away from London’s artistically innovative Brick Lane, to get the latest top tips, inspiration and inside knowledge from some of the biggest (and pretty exciting) names in the industry. These included the former Creative Director from The White House, Ashleigh Axios, illustrator Ralph Steadman, Sir Martin Sorrell and many, many more.

With over 150 speakers, young talent and local agencies opening their doors we really were spoilt for choice. So, here is a snapshot of our favourite parts, including our top tips, taken from our time at D&AD.


Always stay one step ahead

Clients often ask us what their competitors are doing. It’s true, nobody wants to be left behind, but in advertising it’s imperative that you think beyond this.

What’s more, don’t get blindsided by focussing all your attention on what’s going on within the education sector. Take inspiration from music, magazines, general media, the world around you, so you’re aware what your target audience are surrounded by every day.

We went to a talk hosted by The Design Studio, The Future Laboratory and The Innocent Smoothie Company, where we learnt about branding and the importance of challenging the industry you’re in.

Big brands are notorious for showcasing shocking content; just think about Protein World with their ‘Are you beach body ready?’ campaign. Although there was loads of negative press and social media erupted, the company had 5,000 new customers within five days.

In response to Protein World, Carlsberg launched a comeback campaign, putting up billboards next to the well-known posters throughout London stating: ‘Are you beer bottle ready?’ We’re certainly not suggesting you run an open day campaign with this kind of messaging, but it’s important to stay on trend with your advertising and social media content. Why shouldn’t we utilise the momentum generated by brands, trends and current affairs to help inform your campaigns?

Take Risks

It’s crucial that content is kept fresh, appropriate and relevant, but what’s stopping us from taking a risk once in a while?

We live in confusing, paradoxical times, but as crazy or unconventional as your thoughts might be, you have to remember everything was once just an idea. Experimentation is the best method of discovering a groundbreaking solution. Instead of predicting what an outcome might be, we should be brave, bold and test our options.

If you try a new idea and it doesn’t go to plan, then don’t be afraid to rock the boat late in the process. Take your idea and run with it. The best thing about digital is that it allows you to change and evolve your content or strategy instantaneously. If you see something isn’t working as well as you’d like, you can change, optimize, and enhance it.

So take risks, be confident in your ideas and don’t be afraid to fail. Behind every amazing campaign there are countless concepts that have been tried and tested.

Have fun with what you do

Finally, remember who you’re targeting. If you’re running campaigns for students, get into the mind of a student. Think about what catches your eye or sparks a conversation and use this for inspiration.

Make your advertising count and, most importantly, try not to be too serious. Endeavor to have fun!