For over forty years, British Arrows has been celebrating innovation, bravery and artistry in moving image advertising. This year, we approach the whopping 47th instalment of the award show, which was born out of “the embarrassing failure of the TV Mail Awards in 1974,” according to British Arrows co-chairs, Clare Donald and Jani Guest.
“The disaster of the show that year led to a small group of young producers on the AFVPA Council (Advertising Film and Videotape Producers' Association) to support Peter Levelle’s proposal for new national awards; the idea was approved in principle and discussions were joined with the IPA.” And, as they say, the rest was history. The idea was that the new and improved awards would be “by the business, for the business,” say Jani and Clare. A mantra that has stuck with the British Arrows until today, as one of their integral pillars. “We remain non-for-profit and free of commercial influence.”
Looking at the awards today, we see their incredible evolution through the years. From a TV-only show, the British Arrows became something that captures the ‘full gamut of contemporary moving image production and media’. The co-chairs explain that “the once separate Arrows and Craft awards, were brought together, to celebrate the best work in the UK each year in one exceptional industry event.” In fact, when Clare, Jani and Lisa (British Arrows’ managing director) took over the reins, they and the board felt that it was time to return to Grosvenor House, which is the historical home of the awards and where so many memories stand untouched through the decades.
It was just last year, in June, that the British Arrows finally announced the launch of its brand new awards show, dedicated solely to recognising and rewarding emerging talent: the Young Arrows. The show continued the British Arrows’ heritage of honouring the best moving image commercial content creation, while boosting young talent and nurturing its entry and development in the industry.
“Jani and I have always been clear about our wish to support new talent and to open doors for people from all backgrounds,” says Clare. “The Young Arrows concept had been with us since we started in 2019, but covid made creating a second show impossible.” Fortunately, she continues, the two had the passion and energy of [British Arrows MD] Lisa Lavender and the team behind the show, which helped them launch in October last year with the inaugural event at the British Film Institute cinema on London’s Southbank. “The evening was a huge success,” remembers Clare, “The positivity in the room as the winners went up to collect their awards was generous and joyful. We were blown away by how well the event landed - I think everyone recognised that we need new talent and fresh thinking to keep the industry relevant.”
Both Clare and Jani agree that the event was everything they had hoped for and more, despite advertising folk’s inclination towards cynicism. “It was so refreshing to feel the palpable enthusiasm in the room,” the co-chairs agree. But it wasn’t just the attitude of the guests and participants that gave Jani and Clare a glimmer of hope about the industry’s future - they both explain that the work was of a higher standard than expected for such nascent talent, and the whole process, from judging alongside the jury to the ‘last glass of prosecco’, was great fun.
No matter how fun, however, the event also reflected a grim truth about adland - one that we’re all aware of, but many people like to conceal. “The only disappointment was that there were not as many young people from diverse backgrounds as we would have liked,” say Jani and Clare. “The work was judged blind, and you can’t completely change a workforce overnight, but our greatest hope is that we see more and more young people from a range of backgrounds, able to truly reflect the demographic of the UK” The two explain that they are also currently looking to expand the categories, as it can get quite tricky to judge individuals in different roles bulked together.
And when it comes to the judging, the shortlisting and entry system for the Young Arrows is also currently akin to the BAFTA process, who provide the entry system and judging technology. The judging itself is two-stage, one remote online session and a second round in person, so that the work can be discussed. Jurors, explain Jani and Clare, use the viewing platform to enter scores during both rounds, which are reported and averaged out. “So, the published shortlist is a curated list of the highest performing entries.”
They add that there are no specificities to the type of work they look for, but wanted the Young Arrows to reflect the main Arrows as much as possible - and in a way, be a natural continuation. “We love the idea of being able to follow talent as they grow in the industry and hopefully go on to win Arrows at the main event,” they say. “In terms of the work itself, we want to be surprised and hope to see the best of the best out there.”
So, finally, let’s look at what gap the Young Arrows fills in the industry - there is virtually nothing to stop new recruits to the industry from entering the British Arrows, but only those with limited experience are able to enter the Young Arrows. “Other than that, the same expectations of brilliant work apply,” say Jani and Clare. “We marketed the Young Arrows through a variety of different sources - Shiny, Creative Mentor Network, Ravensbourne, NFTS, Brixton Finishing School and Create Jobs. We have a comprehensive mailing list of UK creative companies and colleges. We gave away a lot of entries free of charge and will continue to do so, to remove any barriers to entry. The price is also significantly lower than the main show, to encourage individuals and employers to support their younger talent as much as possible.”