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Why Gareth Leck Is Pencilling In D&AD PR Judging

Posted: April 7, 2016

Gareth Leck, CEO or (chief problem solver) at Joe Public, will be judging on the D&AD's sparkly new PR jury. Find out what he's most looking forward to in this exclusive interview.


Gareth Leck is one of the brains behind 100% proudly South African entity, Joe Public. His passion and belief lie in the creativity of business and the business of creativity.

Now look at the D&AD Awards, seen as the pinnacle of creative accolades, with its Yellow, Black, Wood and Graphite Pencils coveted by creatives around the world. Particularly so in SA, which last year saw its best showing at D&AD since 2012. Click here for a reminder.

Put Leck and the D&ADs together and you have the perfect match.

Leck lets us in on a few of his personal and agency highlights, as well as how D&AD differs from the other global award shows (hint: it’s all about funneling any funds generated back into the industry), how PR fits into the communications mix and the unique perspective South Africans bring to international industry juries...

1. Share the highlights package of your creative career and awards judging experience.

Leck: My creative career started in the mid-90s when I began in advertising with the Jupiter Drawing Room in Cape Town. A few years later I opened Joe Public with two other partners, Pepe Marais and Noel Cottrell. Noel left the business in 2001, but Pepe and I continued to run Joe Public. My title is CEO, but I like to think of myself as chief problem solver – my view is that although it is our job to use our creative talents in the service of our clients, some of our best creativity is applied to the growth and development of our own organisation. The highlights of my career are numerous, but Joe Public being rated as ‘Agency of the Year in 2012’ and ‘Agency Group of the Year in 2014’ were probably the biggest. I have been the chairman of the Apex Awards for the last eight years and had the privilege of judging close to 300 case studies over that time. In addition, I’ve been the chair of the Loeries Effective Creativity category for the last three years. Both of these experiences have been fantastic in terms of growing and inspiring me as a creative leader, and that is the best part of being involved in judging great creativity.

2. Certainly the right person for the job, then! What makes D&AD different from other global awards shows?

Leck: Awards shows like D&AD and others on the international circuit appear to serve the same purpose. Essentially they exist to reward and celebrate great creativity. But, the big difference with D&AD is that the money they generate is used to go back into the industry on a global level. Because the awards show is a non-profit one, D&AD takes all of its additional revenues and invests them back into the creative industry. So for example, the funds from the D&AD Foundation are dedicated to funding programmes that develop the next generation of creative talent. There seems to be a far more altruistic approach and culture to the D&AD Awards show. They believe in advertising for good and changing the world for the better. D&AD CEO, Tim Lindsay, has been quoted as saying that great creative advertising talent can solve many of the world’s problems. This is extremely inspiring for me as a creative person, and creates a high level of affinity to this already prestigious awards show.

3. What are you most looking forward to from judging D&AD 2016?

Leck: I’m most looking forward to being exposed to global best practice. Since starting Joe Public in 1998, I have always had immense respect for the D&AD Awards. One of our first awards we ever won was a D&AD and I remember thinking “that’s it, we’ve made it.” I remember thinking if we can win a D&AD that we are up there with the best in the world, and I’m happy to say nothing has changed in the last 16 years. To win a D&AD really does mean you are up there with the best in the world, and to be asked to judge these awards is a massive honour. But what I am most looking forward to is being inspired, and bringing the knowledge and inspiration back home and applying it to our clients’ business.

4. Looking specifically at your judging of the new PR category at D&AD, explain how PR fits into today’s distraction driven world where advertising rules.

Leck: PR always will play a key role in the communications mix. Given the point of the distraction-driven world and the overload of communication, I am finding more and more there is a desire for authentic and truthful content. Content that is honest, interesting and relevant. This is where I believe PR plays a vital role in the communication mix.
We have also found that PR is often the best way to amplify a big idea. Even when you have massive media budgets, you need PR to amplify the creative in digital and social media. And when you don’t have big budgets, PR is often the only way you can amplify a big idea. We have created campaigns in the past where the idea has cost virtually nothing and has had very little media budget, but through the use of powerful PR we have generated R20-million worth of media exposure. So for me, what this says is PR is key in supporting great ideas, and a vital part of the communications mix.

5. Definitely. Let’s end with some of the unique perspective an SA judge brings to an international awards show.

Leck: South Africa is a truly unique country and is also a very creative country, consistently being ranked in the top 20 countries at awards shows like D&AD, Cannes and One Show, with the Gunn Report placing South Africa 18th in the world in 2015.
As we are the 30th biggest country in terms of GDP, to be ranked in the top 20 creatively clearly shows we punch above our creative weight globally. Also, South Africa has a very unique set of challenges that we face and to overcome these challenges we have been forced to think differently. Given this background, I am certain that I will bring a fresh perspective to the judging that no other country will be able to bring. I recently read that “with great diversity comes great creativity”, and South Africa is undoubtedly one of the most diverse countries in the world, so I hope to share my inherent learnings from our rich culture and bring it to the judging process.
I have no doubt Leck will do exactly that.
Seems we have much to look forward to from the D&AD Awards 2016, set to take place this July in the UK.

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