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Whisky industry outside of Scotland 'quite conservative' says Love creative director Dave Palmer

The whisky industry outside of Scotland has been described as ‘quite conservative’ by Dave Palmer, creative director of Love and chairman of this year’s Scottish Design Awards

Discussing his views on the whisky sector, with his own agency working for Diageo’s Johnnie Walker brand, Palmer described the whisky sector in Scotland as ‘the biggest’ in the country.

“It’s a billion pound business. There’s enough action in whisky to keep a whole industry in good shape but elsewhere you can see it’s quite conservative still,” he told The Drum while judging this year’s awards. “But it’s always going to be, even if we’re in the good times, clients make their briefs quite conservative and it’s up to the agencies to challenge them. Are you going to be the agency that’s a bit of a pain in the arse or a thorn in the side because there are so many pitches, not enough work and too many agencies? As a result you end up playing it safe because you want to bring the work in.”

Palmer added that it is up to the brand itself to creating the conditions for great creativity, before the agency should take the opportunity “and make it worthwhile.”

Explaining his point, he said that he was referring to the whisky industry as a whole in comparison with the work done for bourbon brands and other spirits.

He continued: “There is a shared responsibility. That poster that should have been far edgier than what it was, a missed opportunity the agency hasn’t been responsible, maybe they felt the client just wanted a vision for something.”

He also advised: “Just because it’s in Scotland doesn’t mean it should be Scottish, it should be international. The whisky for instance has got to operate on a global level, it has to have that. The stuff you look for is the same as what everyone else looks for which is you want to see - a fantastic idea and a really good solution for what the brief was. You want to see great craft and execution. There are so many things that win awards that don’t solve the client’s problem. You never know what the problem is because it isn’t attached to the piece, you’re guessing what the problem is based on experience.”

Palmer was also critical of the amount of design work within the industry that was created for the sake of it. “The design industry is massively guilty of designing stuff for itself rather than for humans out there on the street. There is no attempt to produce something that will engage somebody on a human level. It might look incredibly beautiful in Helvetica typeset and photography but what is it actually communicating?”

Of the Roses Award entries for this year, Palmer added that the entries he felt had done well each ‘communicated something’ and offer ‘some personality’.

“If you’ve got too much copy on page one you’re screwed, people will say ‘well I haven’t got time for this.'” he concluded, discussing the need for communications to cut through the thousands of marketing messages being targeted at people on a daily basis.

The nominations for the Scottish Design Awards will be announced later this week.

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