DWH's copywriter reacts to 2021 Christmas ads (Part 2)

DWH's copywriter reacts to 2021 Christmas ads (Part 2)

Welcome to the second part of the festive fun, as Claire Baldwin watches the best 2021 Christmas ads according to Creativepool and shares her first impressions. Remember to check out Part 1 if you haven’t already!

After 15 festive ads, I’m still not feeling particularly Christmassy, though my birthday is in December so Christmas legally isn’t allowed to start until after that.

Let’s see if there’s anything in the second half of the list that will get me craving mince pies, mulled wine and cosy firesides…

Tesco: ‘This Christmas, Nothing’s Stopping Us’

While I hadn’t seen the advert already, I did know that there were 5,000 complaints about Santa showing his COVID passport, which I think is an absolutely ridiculous thing to phone the Advertising Standards Authority about.

I could maybe see it being an issue if it was the entire focus of the ad, but it’s just an amusing moment in a 90-second spot about the very British attitude of just getting on with things, even when it’s all gone to shit. I think a lot of kids would be relieved to hear that they won’t miss out on presents because Saint Nick is quarantining in the North Pole with Rudolph. It’s not like Tesco is giving away 500 Clubcard points when you show your vaccination card…

Tesco’s 2021 offering is pretty festive, but I always find it extremely jarring when a song as well known as Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ is chopped up like it is here. Few songs get a crowd pumped like this one, and it seems a bit of a waste to pay for the rights but never quite let it get going.

O2: ‘We’re better, connected’

With 1.5 million homes in the UK not being connected to the internet, O2 is pledging to donate free data to someone who needs it for every plan purchased. This is the true spirit of Christmas!

While the ad itself doesn’t feel particularly festive, and could be from any time of year were it not for the snowy streets and twinkling fairy lights, at least O2 is on the mark with the overall concept of their Christmas campaign.

Along with continuing the use of the network’s bubble motif as a metaphor for the data connection, we also see a return to O2’s slogan “We’re better, connected.” You couldn’t ask for a more perfect line for both the campaign and the first proper Christmas since COVID.

Debenhams: ‘A Christmas Like Never Before’

Here’s my big issue with Debenhams’ advert: the poem is absolutely awful. Nobody is forcing you to write a rhyming poem. If all the budget you have at your disposal for your big Christmas advert can’t deliver a poem that actually rhymes and scans well, then you’ve done something massively wrong. Maybe a kid wrote it and I’m just being a jerk, but that doesn’t stop it from being an objectively bad poem.

Also, “A Christmas like never before, delivered to your door” is a nice sentiment (and it actually rhymes), but I don’t think that’s what people want. We just want a normal Christmas! After trading sprouts for social distancing in 2020, I think we’d all just like to enjoy a completely uneventful day of spending time with family and friends.

House of Fraser: ‘House of Holiday’

This is a bit style over substance for my liking. House of Fraser is definitely aiming for a bit of style and glamour in their 2021 Christmas ad, but it doesn’t really do anything for me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s beautiful to look at, but it’s definitely more on the “please buy my stuff” end of the spectrum rather than the “let’s all enjoy a nice Christmas” end.

The message about finally being back together is nice, but it does feel a bit tacked on, like House of Fraser realised at the last minute that they should probably mention the nice family parts of Christmas instead of just trying to make people buy perfume and sequined gowns.

I also can’t quite understand all of the “House of …” statements. Some of these actors need to enunciate more. “The house of flahhh” isn’t inspiring me at all. And I swear that one lady says “florious”. I assume she’s actually saying “flawless” but it really doesn’t sound like it. She’s literally been paid to say one word and it’s a total miss.

Argos: ‘Baubles to Last Year!’

I quite liked this one! Argos hit the nail on the head with the “we’re all going to say screw 2020 and have a bumper Christmas” message that lots of brands have been tackling this year. Instead of just encouraging people to buy physical gifts, there’s more of a focus on fun, family and festive celebration.

I love the one guy in the office who’s absolutely Christmas mad with his beard baubles and totally tinselled desk. I can imagine a lot of desks looking like that this year! Granny opening the door to a single relative only to be surprised by dozens of guests queuing out the door was also a lovely moment.

As a ‘90s child, circling items in the Argos catalog really brought back a bit of nostalgia, and while the framing device designed to make everything look like it was part of the catalog wasn’t my favourite in terms of visuals, it showed great attention to detail for the Argos brand. The slogan “Baubles to last year!” could be stronger, though.

Very: ‘It’s the very best excuse’

YouTube tells me that Very published their Christmas advert in October, so they’re fully on board with the message of starting Christmas early! I just wish they’d done more with it. I love the image of Trick or Treaters receiving mince pies from a family dressed in matching Christmas jumpers, but the rest of the ad falls a little flat in comparison.

In a statement that will shock nobody who has read this far, I also hate the song. The stress of the syllables in the word “excuse” is totally wrong for half the lines they use it in, which is a real disappointment when it’s the entire concept of the Christmas campaign.

TK Maxx: ‘Christmas to the maxx’

Yes, TK Maxx! This ad focuses on a young lad absolutely stealing the show at the school’s Festive Comeback Concert thanks to the newfound confidence in his amazing holographic boots and I am here for it!

Best parts of this ad:

  1. Obviously the boots. Magnificent.
  2. An organ version of Aerosmith’s ‘Walk this way’? Yes please!
  3. “This is not the Nutcracker! I LOVE it!”
  4. The “Maxx” setting on the organ is perfection

This ad is just cheesy enough. It brings a smile to your face. Instead of just pushing the concept that you need to buy things to be happy, this ad highlights how the right items of clothing can make us feel more confident and bring out our best.

Asda: ‘Make Christmas Spectacular’

This masterpiece from Asda fully lives up to the message of making Christmas spectacular. Accompanied by Ravel’s ‘Bolero’, we see a family literally skating through all the magical moments that make Christmas what it is.

From the school play to the office party, and from a festive get-together to Christmas lunch on the big day, each scene is filled with beautiful set dressing, tasteful nods to the things you can buy from Asda, and some beautiful figure skating. All in all, it’s a lovely festive ad.

Vodafone: ‘Give the Gift of Connection’

Like O2, Vodafone’s Christmas campaign focuses on the 1.5 million homes in the UK that are without data connectivity. For every device that’s donated, Vodafone will provide a SIM card preloaded with data, calls and texts to someone who needs it.

For me, Vodafone’s ad beats out O2’s in the way it’s presented. Firstly, it feels much more festive, with ‘Here Comes Santa Claus’ instantly putting me in a Christmassy mood. Secondly, it plays on the image of people preparing for Christmas with parcels and gadgets that we expect are presents for family. When they turn out to be generous donations to those who are less fortunate, it’s all the more heartwarming.

JD Sports: ‘JD Street’

Okay. So I’m clearly not in the JD Sports demographic. Other than the fact that there were lots of nice-looking trainers, and all the shops on the street had names that started with JD and taglines “King of [something]” I had no idea what was going on.

However, a quick look at the YouTube comments seems to suggest that those who are in JD’s demographic are big fans of this festive offering. Take this comment from user Jan Spirit: “bro this is how ads should be done not annoying af but include our favourite ballers, content creators and music artists.”

If, like me, you have no idea who KSI, Maya Jama, Aitch, Little Simz, Tobi Brown and Jadon Sancho are, you probably won’t get much from this ad. If, like Jan Spirit, you would include these names in your list of favourite ballers, content creators and music artists, you’re probably already on your way to JD Sports to grab some new kicks.

Waitrose: ‘Best Bit of Christmas’

This delightfully honest and cheeky offering from Waitrose made me laugh. We all know it’s true, so let’s stop pretending: The best part about Christmas is the food.

From becoming entranced by turkey to her intense passion for sprouts that are “mostly pancetta” and a completely unapologetic apology for eating all the stuffing, Ashley Jensen’s performance throughout was absolutely perfect.

This ad is festive, funny and completely brazen in pushing the brand’s products, and it all works. I genuinely loved this one, and the callback to the “favourite aunt” plate is a great touch.

Domino’s: ‘Christmas DOMIN-OH-HOO-HOO’

Oh god, this one’s going to be annoying, isn’t it?

Yodelling is very impressive in terms of technical execution. But it. Sounds. Awful. Why are we yodelling about pizza? Even in the canon of the advert, everybody is confused that yodelling is happening.

It’s not festive, it’s got nothing to do with pizza, and they’re not even yodelling words about pizza. It’s just subtitled yelling. Apparently there’s a festive pizza. Just tell me that.

This was a bad advert.

Deliveroo: ‘The Ultimate Gift’

I like the idea of this advert but I’m not 100% sold on the execution. Why was there a randy cartoon gherkin? It’s all just a bit much to look at. I’d rather there was more of a focus on actual food than the accompanying imagery, although I guess some of it adds more of a festive feel.

There’s some great stuff in here, though. “No-one ever said ‘Did you keep the receipt?’ for a bucket of chicken” is a great line. As someone who recently cleared out their loft to get it professionally boarded, I can vouch for the fact that, generally speaking, we don’t need more stuff.

Buying someone a voucher for tasty food is a great way to treat them to something they actually want without being wasteful. Something about the ad’s intense delivery was just a bit off putting, though.

Selfridges: ‘Christmas of Dreams’

Um… What did I just watch? Are we sure this campaign isn’t called ‘Christmas of Fever Dreams’? Have I been going too hard on the mulled wine?

I can’t tell if this advert is from the past, present or future. All I know is that I hate it.

Thank god it’s only 15 seconds long.

Matalan: ‘Real Moments, Real Magic’

At least we’re ending on a high note! Matalan’s ad shares the lovely message that Christmas is what you make it, and it doesn’t need to be perfect. I particularly love the part about “the magic in those middle moments; the least planned moments.”

With a delightfully real feel to it that in itself feels imperfect in a very genuine way, everything about this advert is enjoyable. It feels festive, the message is great, and Matalan doesn’t shove its products in your face. It barely feels like an advert at all. It’s very understated but it actually made me look forward to Christmas this year

The best of the best

Here are my top picks from the list:

#1 Waitrose: ‘Best Bit of Christmas’

I loved this one! It was funny, festive, honest, beautifully shot and impeccably acted.

#2 Matalan: ‘Real Moments, Real Magic’

A lovely advert that was festive yet understated and genuinely felt like it understood Christmas as a time for real people and not just mindlessly supporting capitalism.

#3 Aldi: ‘A Christmas Carrot’

From the inspired pun ‘Ebanana Scrooge’ to Cuthbert the Caterpillar being arrested, there’s a lot to love here!

#4 Coca-Cola: ‘Real Magic at Christmas’

Heartwarming, fun and with a lovely message at its heart. One of the few longer ads that I genuinely enjoyed.

#5 Asda: ‘Make Christmas Spectacular’

This ad was spectacular to look at and got me in the Christmas spirit!

The worst of the best

And for fairness, here are the ones I hated the most!

#1 Selfridges: ‘Christmas of Dreams’

I feel like this is the sort of stuff Hunter S. Thompson was seeing on mescaline.

#2 Domino’s: ‘Christmas DOMIN-OH-HOO-HOO’

Why. Are. We. Yodelling?!

#3 Smyths Toys: ‘If I Were a Toy’

Grating singing, a bad reworked version of a popular song, and almost no Christmassy imagery.

#4 LEGO: ‘Rebuild the world’

See above.

#5 Boots: ‘Bags of Joy’

I’ll say it again: Wasteful capitalist nonsense.

Let’s wrap this up!

So, there you have it. My rambling opinions on 30 Christmas adverts.

I actually found it harder than I expected to narrow it down to a top 5, and I’m still not sure I chose the right ones. Honorable mentions go to McDonalds, Barbour, Etsy, Argos and TK Maxx, who all put together some great adverts.

With 2021 being the first year ‘back to normal’ since the pandemic, I think we were all expecting a lot from this year’s ads, so it’s to be expected that some would absolutely nail it and some would go off the deep end a little. There was so much creativity this year, and loads of new things that we’ve not seen before, which made sitting and watching 30 Christmas ads back to back much more entertaining than it could have been!

I hope you’re all feeling as festive as I am! Time to go hang up my stocking and hope that Santa doesn’t bring me coal for being grumpy about some of these adverts…

DWH's copywriter reacts to 2021 Christmas ads (Part 1)

DWH's copywriter reacts to 2021 Christmas ads (Part 1)

It’s that time of year again! The weather is getting colder, the kids are finalising their letters to Santa, and office conversations are dominated by “Have you seen the new [blank] ad?!” In the first of a two-part blog, we've set Claire Baldwin the challenge to watch the top 30 Christmas ads of 2021 and give us her thoughts.

As a millennial, I don’t have TV anymore. I have Netflix, YouTube Plus, and the occasional questionably obtained 4k Bluray rip. So I haven’t actually seen any of this year’s Christmas ads… yet. Join me as I watch them for the first time and share my thoughts.

Creativepool has very kindly gathered the best 2021 Christmas ads into one place, so this will be my festive viewing guide.

As there are 30 adverts on this list, I’ll be splitting this into two parts.

John Lewis: ‘Unexpected Guest’

Knowing that the ad is titled ‘Unexpected Guest’, I thought we’d see an older relative who wasn’t able to visit last year because of COVID. I was not expecting an alien.

The blossoming friendship of the alien and the ad’s young protagonist (with unexpected romantic tension) put me in mind of Stranger Things. The alien learns to eat mince pies, experiences snow and messes with some Christmas lights, which is all pretty festive.

When it’s time to leave, the alien receives an ugly Christmas jumper as a parting gift and we see the line “For a Christmas almost as magical as your first.”

I’ll be honest. I don’t think the alien even knew it was Christmas.

I like the messages of inclusion and sharing but this didn’t leave me with the festive fuzzies I expected from John Lewis.

McDonald’s: ‘Imaginary Iggy’

Awww, I liked this one! I’m not a big McDonald’s fan but becoming emotionally attached to cute characters definitely speaks to me.

This ad follows the classic ‘kid growing up and putting away childish things’ narrative, with Iggy, the fuzzy blue imaginary friend.

Watching Matilda and Iggy put out a plate of ‘reindeer treats’ (a bag of Maccy D’s carrot sticks) brings back memories of leaving a carrot out for Rudolph when I was a kid. I always wondered which of my parents took the bite out of it on Christmas Eve (My money’s on Dad).

When Matilda grows older and puts Iggy away in the closet, my eyes did get a little watery. Flash forward a few years and she sees a child at McDonald’s enjoying some of the very same reindeer treats she once fed to Iggy.

Cue the feels as Matilda rushes home and rekindles her imaginary friendship, and we come full circle as the newly reunited pals put out a plate of carrot sticks for Santa’s reindeer, despite objectively being too old for such things.

This ad was warm and friendly and Christmassy without being over the top. It didn’t make any kind of big statement, it was just a nice parcel of festive feels. Good effort!

Coca-Cola: ‘Real Magic at Christmas’

This one left me with a genuine smile on my face!

Starting out with a single-parent family moving into a sparsely furnished flat, things are looking a little bleak – especially when the son realises that there’s no chimney for Santa to deliver presents! Fortunately, he’s a creative little dude, and puts the moving boxes to good use, crafting a long cardboard chimney.

It’s not long before all the neighbours are getting involved, with the chimney wrapped in fairy lights and winding through corridors, up fire escapes and onto the roof. Even the security guard comes in clutch, brandishing a red Coca-Cola box for the top of the chimney, which is a lovely gesture but that thing is an enormous fire hazard…

When a present finally drops from the chimney, it’s not for the little boy after all; it’s an invitation for their cranky older neighbour (and presumably the rest of the tenants) to join them for a sumptuous Christmas dinner of turkey and Coca-Cola.

The line “Christmas is magic when we share it” is a nice touch. It’s not the neighbours rallying to provide an underprivileged family with a Christmas to remember, but an overall message of the magic of community, sharing and giving back, no matter what you have. Lovely stuff.

Boots: ‘Bags of Joy’

I straight-up hated this one. Wasteful capitalist nonsense.

The ad features Jenna Coleman with a Mary Poppins-esque bottomless bag of Boots products that she proceeds to pour all over the bed and writhe around in like Scrooge McDuck.

The bag is apparently a gift from her nan, accompanied by the note “This is what Christmas feels like.” Yeah. Endless piles of things you don’t need that you’re just going to throw away a few weeks later.

She doesn’t even use the bag for good. No handing out gifts to orphans, no making the community a better place. Do you think you can pull meal deals out of the magic bag? We could end world hunger!

After she’s done gallivanting with her friends and showing up the rest of the family around the tree (and she hasn’t even bothered to wrap any of these gifts she hasn’t paid for), she presents Nan with a bottle of perfume accompanied by the creepy note “This is what love smells like.”

Hated it.

Amazon: ‘Kindness, the greatest gift’

Overall, this ad presents a sweet message about supporting those around you, and sheds light on the rise in anxiety following the pandemic.

It’s another in the ‘neighbours who don’t really know each other come together to look out for each other’ category. It’s not particularly Christmassy, but the message is nice, and it’s pretty heartwarming.

I just find it hard not to scoff at this message of kindness when it comes from Amazon.

Sainsbury’s: ‘A Christmas to savour’

If you suffer from motion sickness, don’t watch this one.

We take a journey through a super-slow-mo Christmas scene, zooming through Grandad’s exploding walnut, a weird fried square, some champagne bubbles and a big gloopy gravy drip, before taking a nasty upside-down spinny journey under the table, where there’s one weird kid who isn’t in slow motion for some reason.

We zoom out to a ‘Last Supper’-style tableau and this strange, time-bending advert is closed out by the words “It’s been a long time coming, so let’s make it a Christmas to savour.”

This was obviously a huge feat to film, and it nods to the fact that many families were unable to get together last year due to the pandemic. The message that we should make time to really enjoy spending the festive season with our loved ones is a good one, but this ad just made me feel quite unwell.

LEGO: ‘Rebuild the world’

Honestly, I would have had no idea that this was supposed to be a festive advert if it wasn’t for the fact it was on Creativepool’s list and there’s a LEGO Santa at the end.

It’s dominated by a cheesy parody of ‘Build me up Buttercup’ that sings about building up, tearing down, mixing up and changing around, which is all fine but it’s just a little grating.

The visuals are pretty amazing, with lots of weird and wonderful real-world creations flying around. From sports cars and fire engines to dragons and Storm Troopers, it’s an exciting mish-mash of the endless imaginative possibilities of LEGO.

While the message “Rebuild the world” is a little on the nose, it’s at least appropriate for the product. It’s a decent advert but it’s not festive at all. I don’t know why I just watched it… and the song was too much.

Disney: ‘The Stepdad’

This one didn’t really grab me, possibly because I’m not a huge Disney fan, and I don’t relate to having or being a stepparent. It’s beautifully animated, though. I wasn’t sure whether I was watching a trailer for a new Disney movie or just an ad.

It’s a lovely representation of a modern family, but I thought the kids were a bit OTT when the gingerbread house got broken. You were the one that dropped it in the first place. Calm down.

According to the description on Wikipedia, this is a continuation of the story of last year’s ad, with granddaughter Nicole all grown up with her own family. And there’s a magic book, which is apparently “a precious item belonging to Max from his birth father.”

I think you’re trying to jam too much lore in your advert, guys.

Sports Direct: ‘Go all out this Christmas’

One of the shorter ads (thank you!) Sports Direct had a pretty fun concept with this one.

Nothing brings people together and brings out their fun, childlike side like going out and playing in the snow! There’s something magical and wondrous about snow, and even the crankiest family member just can’t resist a snowball fight wrapped up warm in some Sports Direct kit.

I’m assuming that the majority of people in this advert are professional athletes and sports personalities. Unless it’s pro wrestling, I’ve got no idea. But I reckon if you’re into sports, these cameos are pretty fun and heartwarming.

Barbour: ‘Paddington, Please Look After This Bear’

Cute! Paddington was a great choice for this advert, as he has both nostalgia potential for older viewers, and has also had a resurgence in popularity thanks to his more recent movies.

Of course, the fact that he’s a lovable, bumbling bear is another good reason. He’s also very practical and resourceful, and re-waxing Mr. Brown’s Barbour jacket is a top-tier Christmas gift if you ask me. No waste, no unnecessary expense, just a lovely thoughtful gesture. Yes, Paddington. You win Christmas!

The famous ‘Please look after this bear’ note makes an appearance, accompanied by the heartwarming addition in Paddington’s messy handwriting (which is still very impressive, considering he doesn’t have hands) “Thank you for looking after me.” No, you got emotional.

All round, this is a great advert. A cultural icon delivering a practical, thoughtful gift accompanied by a heartfelt message. Big fan.

Aldi: ‘A Christmas Carrot’

This is the only advert on this list that someone had mentioned to me before I sat down to watch them all, and it’s a great one!

Here’s my list of why I liked this advert:

  1. Ebanana Scrooge. BAHAHAHA!
  2. There’s no cheesy or annoying song.
  3. It’s not 3+ minutes long.
  4. It’s a vegetable-based twist on a Christmas classic.
  5. I literally laughed out loud at Ebanana Scrooge’s origin story for being cranky about Christmas.
  6. The Easter egg of Cuthbert the Caterpillar being arrested is perfect.

Super little advert! Great work, Aldi!

Lidl: ‘Big on a Christmas you can ALWAYS believe in’

Not the catchiest of campaign titles, guys!

At first, I was very much thinking “What? This is just a completely normal Christmas!” But that’s the point! As we see the same Christmas dinner repeated further and further into the future, some things are different, like the fashions and the tech, but the traditional food and the mundane conversation stay the same.

Lidl pokes a little fun at Christmas being a bit samey every year, wrapped up in the message that “Even when we’re carving turkeys with lasers, we’ll always be Lidl on price.”

Not my favourite, but a clever ad that gets its message across.

Etsy: ‘Give More Than A Gift’

Browsing Etsy is one of my favourite activities when I need a break from work, so hopefully their festive marketing is as good as I’m expecting.

Creativepool shared two of the ads from the series but I’ve hopped onto Etsy’s YouTube channel to watch all of the 30-second spots featured in the campaign, which I’ve ranked below.

  1. The Recipe: A super sweet ad about family and cultural heritage.
  2. Bus Stop: A heartwarming tale of support, understanding and friendship.
  3. Our Santa: A lovely ad highlighting the importance of racial representation.
  4. The Tradition: A nice little ad about community and embracing new traditions.

Each one is a beautiful work of succinct storytelling, framed by the message that a gift can be more than just an object. Super stuff.

M&S Food: ‘Percy’s First Christmas’

I’ve been a huge Percy Pig fan since I was a kid, so I’m super jazzed about seeing him in his first Christmas ad!

Well, I have to say I’m a touch disappointed. Percy’s reverenced trotting around the store to explore its goodies was very sweet, and the line “I’ve never seen anything so beautiful in all my 23 seconds of life” made me laugh, but I just felt like they could have done more with him.

What impressed me the most was the fairy’s Dawn French likeness. I knew it was her straight away! I’d like to see M&S do more with the animated Percy character, though. I just felt like this ad focused too much on selling the food and not enough on selling Percy.

Smyths Toys: ‘If I Were a Toy’

This is going to be another cheesy reworked version of a pop song, isn’t it…

Yup. Ughhh.

I just don’t get this type of advert. Similar to the LEGO one, it doesn’t feel Christmassy. There’s a Christmas tree at the end but that’s it.

The whole ad is just lots of overwhelming colours and visuals with a sickly-sweet, uninspiring rewrite of a popular song that has nothing to do with what they’re selling other than the fact that “boy” rhymes with “toy” so it’s easy to change. And kid singing grates on me.

Time for a break!

Well, I’m halfway through Creativepool’s list, so it’s time to draw Part 1 to a close.

It’s snowing outside as I type this, so I’m starting to feel a little bit festive, but I’m not quite there yet.

Maybe another 15 Christmas ads will do it?

Rebranding a brand agency: Creating DWH’s new identity

Rebranding a brand agency: Creating DWH’s new identity

#1 Colour palette

Different colours have long been associated with certain meanings, and can instantly evoke a particular mood. Red is the colour of passion or power, while green brings to mind nature and renewal. Orange can symbolise everything from health to hazard, and purple creates an air of mystery and luxury.

Colour theory dates back hundreds of years, and modern designers still implement it to create an instant impression in their audience. If there are certain traits that you’re looking to embody with your brand, delving into colour theory is a great place to start.

For fun, creative industries, bright, clashing colours can make you stand out and show your unique personality. For something fairly corporate, muted tones might be more suitable — but don’t be afraid to throw in an exciting splash of colour!

Not only does colour help to create an instant impression, it’s also an extremely powerful branding tool. Think about the red and yellow of McDonalds, or the blue and yellow of IKEA. When you see these colours in combination, you instantly recognise the brand behind them, even without a name or logo. The same can be said for individual colours, like Coca-Cola red, Facebook blue or Amazon orange.

Rebranding a brand agency: Creating DWH’s new identity

The new DWH colour palette

For DWH, we wanted to move away from our toned down black-and-white branding, and inject a little colour.

Although we loved the confident, professional feel of our monochrome identity, adding a little playful colour felt like a no-brainer for a creative design agency. We opted for a palette of blues and teals, evoking intelligence and responsibility, while also creating a sense of calm.

Blue is the most popular colour in the world, and is the top choice for businesses. It’s particularly favoured by IT, tech and finance brands, thanks to its association with trust and intelligence. This felt like a great fit, but we wanted our brand to feel a little more fun and creative, which we’ve achieved through our eye-catching teal accent colour.

#2 The offering

A business is a living, breathing entity, constantly evolving and adapting to new challenges.

Coronavirus was an unexpected catalyst, forcing many brands to pivot from one core offering to another. With restaurants offering take-away services and vegetable boxes, and gyms making exercise classes available online, everyone had to make changes to survive.

Now that things are (sort of?) getting back to normal, brands have realised the value in these new offerings, and a lot of these emergency changes are here to stay.

Of course, it’s not just unexpected global pandemics that can cause a change in your brand offering. Your offering is shaped by lots of things, such as:

  • The size of your company
  • The skills of your employees
  • The needs of your target market
  • The area in which you operate
  • The products and services of your competitors

However your business changes, and whatever the reason, it’s important to make sure that your branding aligns with what you offer your customers now.

The new DWH offering

Since we started out five years ago, our services have naturally evolved over time. From bringing in new staff with exciting new skill sets to simply reacting to the shift in what our clients are looking for, we wanted to make sure we were shouting about everything we do.

More recently, the acquisition of Art Director Gemma has allowed us to add video editing, motion graphics and 3D design to our offering, and we wanted to showcase these exciting new additions on our website and social media.

You’ll notice lots more 3D visuals, videos and motion graphics in our branding, most notably on our shiny new homepage. As well as looking pretty damn cool, they help us to show our clients what we’re capable of, giving them the confidence that we can tackle similar projects for their brand.

#3 Name

Changing your business name can seem scary, and it could be a big undertaking. Depending on the age and legacy of your business, a new name could be a minor tweak or a huge shake-up, and it’s important to determine whether the benefits will outweigh the negatives.

However, sometimes a new name is the next necessary step on your journey. Don’t let the thought of filling out lots of paperwork or changing all your social media handles dissuade you from something that could yield huge profits in the long term.

Let’s look at some of the reasons you might consider renaming your brand.

  • A change in your offering
  • A change of target market
  • Creating a more modern appeal
  • Distancing yourself from something

Think WWE being forced to stop calling themselves WWF due to a trademark violation against the World Wildlife Fund or, more recently, Weight Watchers rebranding as WW to signify a more holistic approach to health and wellbeing, instead of focusing on the scales.

If what you’re calling yourself no longer represents who you are and what you do, or it doesn’t resonate with your target audience, it might be time for a change.

The new DWH name

We’re still DWH, but we’ve made a minor tweak to better represent what we do for our clients. You may have noticed this in our new URL — complete with approximately a thousand redirects lovingly programmed by founder and DWH namesake David.

Instead of DWH Design, we’re now DWH Creative. Design is obviously a huge part of what we do, but as a full-service digital agency, creativity is really at the heart of our offering. We felt it was only right to reflect this in the way we refer to ourselves, helping to build trust and show the relevance of our creative design agency.

Your new brand identity

Hopefully we’ve shown you that we know a thing or two about refreshing a brand identity.

If you’re looking to make a change, whether that’s a minor tweak or a complete overhaul of your branding, we’d love to hear from you.

Midlands Enterprise Awards 2021

About the SME News Awards

SME News is a quarterly digital publication aimed at those who own, run or assist in the running of small and medium-sized businesses within the UK.

From supporting businesses in their day-to-day operations and offering practical advice to celebrating outstanding achievements, SME News is a great resource for the business community.

2021 marks the fourth installment of the SME News Awards. Unsurprisingly, last year’s awards were postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic – which means we’ve been waiting to hear some good news about the awards for ages!

The Midlands Enterprise Awards

The Midlands Enterprise Awards aims to celebrate hardworking firms and individuals hailing from the Midlands.

Every shortlisted nominee is carefully scrutinised by the SME News team, gathering information from nominations and applications, as well as publicly available information. The final decision is based on various criteria including client dedication, innovation, business growth, longevity, online reputation, customer feedback and business performance.

And the winner is...

As a proud Midlands-based agency, we were absolutely delighted to be named the Best Web Design and Development Agency for the SME News Midlands Enterprise Awards. There’s plenty of tough competition in the region, and it’s nothing short of an honour to have our hard work celebrated after such a rigorous selection process.

By evolving the services we provide and the way we work with our clients, we’ve been able to consistently provide successful business outcomes, while staying relevant in our market. This adaptable approach, coupled with our dedication to each and every project, is how we’ve managed to stand out in a bustling and fast-moving industry.

The soppy part

This is the part where we get a bit emotional but, as gracious winners, it’s important that we take the time to show a little appreciation to those who helped us to win this award.

First of all, we’d like to thank our wonderful clients. Without you, we wouldn’t be where we are today – both literally and figuratively. 2020 was a tough year for us all, and your support has helped us to not only weather the storm, but to come out even stronger on the other side.

Of course, we need to extend a huge thank you to the amazing team at DWH, who support our clients and continue to go above and beyond. These are the steady hands that have helped to steer us through the aforementioned storm, and with such a talented and passionate crew on board, the Good Ship DWH is sure to find itself in some amazing places in 2022 and beyond.

Finally, we’d like to say thank you to the SME News Awards for honouring us with this special accolade. We’re so proud of everything we’ve accomplished, and this recognition feels even more special after such a challenging year.

Fancy some award-winning support?

We didn’t get where we are without knowing a thing or two about self-promotion!

The DWH team is already looking ahead to our next exciting projects, and we’d love to see what you’ve got in store for us.

Get in touch with us and let us know how we can support you on your brand journey.

Celebrating five years of DWH

Celebrating five years of DWH

The evolution of an agency

In 2016, DWH was Dave. In 2017, we were calling ourselves a boutique agency. Now, DWH is a fully fledged creative design agency with an impressive portfolio of projects covering branding, graphic design, digital marketing strategy, social media, web design and print. Our evolution from a one-man band to a compact yet flexible digital marketing agency hasn’t been completely linear, which is pretty par for the course. Dave never meant to start an agency, but he did.

Five years on, it’s doing pretty well.

The amazing DWH team

Having a great team of talented and dedicated people is one of the most valuable things a creative agency can have. Here at DWH, we’re fortunate to have just that.

The unexpected arrival

In 2020, we welcomed a new addition to the team: Coronavirus!

Like just about every other business on the planet, when Rona reared its ugly head, we all thought: “shiiit.” There were plenty of tough times, with the lads out on furlough, PE with Joe Wicks, approximately a million Zoom calls, and dog parenting in lockdown, but we made it out the other side. We learned a lot during lockdown, not least of which was the importance of our client relationships, and how amazing the DWH team really is.

Climate positivity

One of the things we’re most proud of is partnering with Ecologi to become a Climate Positive Workforce.

Known as Offset Earth back when we signed up, the scheme has helped us to do something great for the planet by planting trees to offset our carbon footprint and support projects around the world.

After just under 2 years, we’re currently proud sponsors of 1,576 trees, which has allowed us to offset 60.02 tonnes of CO2e. That’s the equivalent of 46 long haul flights!

Advice for graduates starting out in the creative industry

This time last year, many graduates were thrust into the world of work during a period where every other sentence included the phrase “unprecedented times” and it was, to say the least, pretty daunting. In particular, those looking for work in the creative industry struggled to find their feet, although there were several local schemes put in place to support graduates.

A year on, things are feeling a little less unprecedented, but still far from being back to normal. If you’re a recent graduate looking to take your first steps in the industry, read on for a little advice from one creative to another.

Set goals and deadlines

If you’re anything like me, your creative brain won’t let you get anything done without a solid, non-negotiable deadline in place. Setting and sticking to these deadlines is really important to make sure you’re actually progressing instead of distracting yourself with interesting but unproductive tasks.

Whether it’s putting together a portfolio or taking a temporary position to make ends meet while building experience for your dream job, set goals, assign deadlines and uphold them religiously.

As well as keeping yourself on track, it’s great practice for working to deadlines, which you’ll be doing no matter which creative industry is your specialty. When inspiration and motivation are hard to find, a well-trained discipline is an absolute life saver.

Understand your value

It might be a bit of a stereotype, but creatives can often be a little timid and lacking in confidence, which makes us easy targets for those looking for a bargain.

Avoid working ‘for exposure’ or accepting low-paying jobs that require a high level of qualifications or experience. Know your value, shout about your talents and enthusiasm, and speak up for yourself if it feels like a client or employer is taking advantage of you.

It’s also a good idea to work on increasing your value as much as possible to open up more opportunities. This is a really productive use of any free time you may have now you’ve graduated. Take courses online, visit art galleries, immerse yourself in a different culture, and just do anything you can to add unique value to what you’re offering.

Don’t be afraid to move on

It’s no longer the norm that a person takes a role straight out of education and stays there until retirement.

Whatever your parents or senior colleagues may tell you, moving jobs is not a bad thing. Taking a new position at another company is a great way to get more experience, learn new skills, and even secure a pay increase.

Remember as well that there’s nothing wrong with leaving a role you’re not enjoying. As a creative, it’s important to be invested in and excited by the work you’re doing, and if you’re unfulfilled, it’s worth seeing what else is out there.

Define what success looks like to you

The only way to succeed in your hunt for a creative role is to define what that success looks like to you.

Success for one person might be a high-paying job in a capital city; another person might be happier with a lower salary but more creative freedom. Whatever you’re looking for, keep it in focus throughout your journey and take things one step at a time.

Learn as you go, and use your new experiences to guide the next steps on your journey. Not all steps will be in the right direction, but as long as you understand where each one fits on the route to your final goal, you can avoid being discouraged if you end up taking a little detour.

Coventry: UK City of Culture 2021

As a Coventry-based creative design studio DWH has of course been following the developments of the city’s selection as the UK City of Culture 2021.

From bidding to selection and delay to eventual launch, there have been a few ups and downs throughout the process.

Here’s a quick round-up of what it means to be awarded UK City of Culture and what’s in store for this West Midlands city.

Source: designweek.co.uk

What is the UK City of Culture?

The initiative was created to build on the success of Liverpool’s selection as European Capital of Culture in 2008, giving cities in the UK a significant social and economic boost.

The year-long title is awarded every four years. Hull, the last UK City of Culture, generated £300 million in tourism spend during its spotlight year of 2017.

Part of the award is a £3 million Heritage Lottery Fund grant to be used for and will host a year-long cultural celebration encompassing events, installations and exhibitions.

Coventry, culture and COVID

After a two-year bid process, Coventry was chosen in 2017 as the UK’s next City of Culture, beating shortlisted cities Swansea, Paisley, Stoke-on-Trent and Sunderland.

While Coventry’s year was set to be 2020, it was understandably pushed back to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even after the delay, Coventry wasn’t able to create the opening event they dreamed of, with restrictions in England persisting well into 2021. The Coventry Moves event was postponed from the City of Culture launch on May 15th, instead taking place at the start of June.

The launch event was held online, and opened with a song called ‘River Rushing Flow’ by Pauline Black, lead singer of The Selecter. The song represented Coventry’s River Sherbourne, as well as embodying the first of six “energies of the city”: resilience, social justice, youthfulness, sustainability, people power and innovation.

Other events included cavalcades of bikes and cars travelling across the city to commemorate Coventry’s manufacturing roots. Packed with Irish, Bollywood and Caribbean dancers, they facilitated pop-up doorstep performances honouring the city’s cultural diversity. We also saw a procession of 14 modern-day Lady Godivas, chosen from more than 140 nominations, to represent the city’s women.

So, what’s next for the City of Culture celebrations?

Source: theherbert.org

A very Special exhibition

Coventry is perhaps best known for two things: The WWII Blitz, and The Specials.

Understandably, the City of Culture celebrations honour the legendary two-tone band, who formed in Coventry in 1977. The music video for their hit song ‘Ghost Town’ was filmed right here, with its eerie look at the despair and desolation seen throughout a country in the grips of a recession.

A first-of-its-kind two-tone exhibition has been opened at the city’s Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, honouring the roots of this unique genre. Featuring never-before-seen artifacts and exclusive interviews, the exhibition focuses on Jerry Dammers’ two-tone label, founded right here in Coventry, as well as celebrating The Specials, The Selecter and other ska-influenced bands such asMadness, The Beat and The Bodysnatchers.

Source: coventry2021.co.uk

Home Sessions festival

With summer in full swing, The Specials’ frontman Terry Hall has curated a special lineup of acts to perform at the Home Sessions festival, taking place later this month.

As well as an appearance by Terry Hall, the three-day event will also feature The Libertines’ frontman Peter Doherty, Roni Size and The Lightning Seeds, as well as DJ sets, films and spoken word.

Some of the events will take place in the ruins of Coventry Cathedral, where The Specials performed their 40th anniversary show back in 2019.

CineCov film festival

Developed by Flatpack Projects, CineCov aims to turn the whole city into a cinema with more than 150 pop-up screenings taking place over the next 12 months.

With locations ranging from huge outdoor park screenings to community centres, churches and even towpaths, CineCov is one of the first chances for Coventry residents to join together in a real, in-person event to celebrate their city.

We can expect to see a special tribute to Coventry’s role in the filming of the 1969 classic The Italian Job, as well as the long-awaited reopening of Warwick Arts Centre’s three-screen cinema.

Plenty to look forward to

Lots of events are still being finalised and revealed, so there’s plenty to look forward to for the remainder of Coventry’s year in the spotlight.

Check out the guide to what’s on for more information.

The weird and wonderful world of NFTs

As if the world of cryptocurrency wasn’t confusing enough, 2021 saw the explosion of NFTs. Let’s look at some of the weird and wonderful things people have sold as NFTs.

What is an NFT?

A non-fungible token, or NFT, is essentially a certificate of ownership of a digital asset.

‘Fungible’ means ‘replaceable’, so NFTs are given the status of being irreplaceable virtual items. While digital assets can be easily downloaded, saved or copied, NFTs allow someone to own the ‘original’ digital work, while copies would be worthless.

Most NFTs are part of the Ethereum blockchain. You don’t actually own the original gif, video or image file, all of which can be replicated for free. NFTs use metadata, which is processed through a special algorithm (a cryptographic hash function, if you want the technical term) to produce a unique string of numbers, which is linked to the digital asset. Basically, you own a token that proves that you own the token.

Still confused? Yeah, me too…

NFTs exploded at the start of 2021, offering digital artists a shot at the exclusivity and commercial appeal enjoyed by traditional artists. However, as with all things digital, shit got weird almost immediately.

Here are some of the weirdest NFTs that have been bought and sold.

Memes and viral videos

Some of the internet’s most popular memes and viral videos hit the NFT market, giving content creators a new way to monetise their work.

In February, ‘Nyan Cat’ sold at auction for $590,000 (£424,000). Not a bad chunk of change for a rainbow Pop-Tart cat from 2011.

The viral video ‘Charlie bit my finger’ was sold as an NFT in May for $760,000 (£546,100). The creator had announced that they would remove the video from YouTube following the auction, but it is currently still accessible, though unlisted.

‘Disaster Girl’ sold in April for $473,000 (£340,000), while the infamous ‘Leave Britney alone’ video netted creator Chris Crocker $41,000 (£29,500) to help fund their gender transition.





Twitter founder’s first tweet

Twitter founder Jack Dorsey’s first tweet, the extremely ordinary yet utterly groundbreaking “just setting up my twttr”, was sold as an NFT in March.

This simple sentence, with its cavalier disregard of grammar, spelling and punctuation, sold for a whopping $2.9 million (£2.1 million). That’s almost $600,000 per word.

Dorsey converted the proceeds to Bitcoin and donated them to GiveDirectly’s Africa Response, so at least this weird transaction helped a good cause.


A digital Trump corpse

Yep. You read that right.

In November 2020, digital artist Mike Winkelmann, AKA Beeple, sold an NFT titled ‘Crossroads’ that changed based on the outcome of the 2020 election.

The artwork featured three distinct states: pre-election, Trump win, and Biden win. The description of the artwork on Nifty states: “If anything is constant about the times we now live in, it’s uncertainty. This uncertainty is perfectly encapsulated in this piece of artwork as the person buying the piece will not know the final artwork.”

It’s a pretty interesting concept, even if the final artwork of an enormous Donald Trump corpse covered in graffiti under a rainbow isn’t quite to your taste. I highly recommend checking out the Trump win edition, which Beeple describes as “sexy boi king trump stomping through hell” and is both delightfully bonkers and extremely terrifying.


Food you can’t eat, and sneakers you can’t wear

Created by teenage chef and MasterChef Junior winner Logan Guleff, ‘Dinner for One’ has been described as a non-fungible token dining experience.

A more accurate description would be a montage of several food photographs with an ‘artistic’ filter. Although it’s been for sale since March, nobody has yet placed any bids on this completely inedible three-course meal.

In a similar, but much more successful, vein, RTFKT, creators of virtual sneakers and collectibles, continued “merging realities in fashion and gaming” by releasing NFT sneakers.

In collaboration with 18-year-old Seattle-based artist FEWOCiOUS, tokens representing 608 pairs of digital sneakers were sold in March, racking up over $3 million (£2.2 million) in just seven minutes. To be fair, NFT owners were then given a 48-hour window to claim a free physical pair.

It’s interesting to note that, in this case, the physical sneakers are considered a ‘free’ item, while the token itself serves as a certificate of authenticity.



So, are NFTs worth the hype?

The environmental impact of blockchain and cryptocurrencies, which fuel and support NFTs, has been heavily scrutinised over recent months, with one report concluding that Bitcoin emissions alone could push global warming above 2°C.

NFTs can be used to verify ownership of all sorts of items, from artwork and luxury goods to legal documents and even virtual land. They offer opportunities to reduce counterfeit merchandise, generate income from digital assets, and increase cyber security, but their recent fad status has painted them with a bit of a weird brush.

Personally, I don’t think NFTs are viable long-term in their current state. They could be harnessed as an extremely useful tool if a solution can be found for the huge energy demands of mining cryptocurrency, but as for destroying the planet over a 10-second looped video of a huge, naked Trump corpse? Probably not worth it.



However, there is light at the end of the tunnel, even if that tunnel looks like it might be getting longer and longer by the day. Restrictions are lifting (for now) and COVID isn’t always the main subject of the news.

Just like the natural cycle of the world continues, things are starting to return to normal. Trees are blossoming, birds are getting ready to lay their eggs, and caterpillars are turning into butterflies …

What’s that? Did someone say caterpillar?


Okay, now I’ve rambled on a bit to get to my point (and you’ve read the title of the article, so you already know what I’m going to talk about), let’s talk Caterpillargate.

In case you’ve been hiding under a rock the last few months (that would be more woodlouse than caterpillar), you’ve probably heard about the beef between M&S and Aldi. That’s right. Pandemic aside, the big news of 2021 was supermarkets arguing about cake.

And it was glorious.

A quick recap: Colin the Caterpillar, the pride and joy of M&S and literal best cake ever (sorry, fancy French patisseries) was the victim of identity theft in April. The culprit? Aldi’s Cuthbert the Caterpillar.

While all the other big supermarkets have their own caterpillar-shaped cakes, M&S was quite rightly a bit annoyed by Aldi’s offering, which is almost identical in design to the OG. They lawyered up … and the Twitter fun began.

Cringeworthy or absolutely incredible?

I know which camp I’m in. I saw a lot of hate for the Caterpillargate bandwagon but I thought it was both delightful and absolutely hilarious.

Let’s face it: it got people talking. About caterpillar cake, sure, but at the heart of it all was a valid concern of trademark infringement, intellectual property theft and copycat branding. It also gave social media teams in just about every industry the opportunity to have a bit of fun, try something new and flex their creative muscles.

Viral marketing doesn’t just happen overnight. Well, it kind of does, but hopefully you see my point. You can’t just choose to go viral, and brands can learn a lot from Caterpillargate and how the story evolved through quick responses and creative content.

Finding joy in the little things

It’s sad when a little bit of fun gets derided as being “cringe”. Maybe I’m just getting old, but I personally thought that a bit of lighthearted banter about bug-shaped cake was the perfect light relief from all the doom and gloom of the pandemic.

The fact that we’re ready to accept these more trivial snippets of news is comforting, as it means that we’re starting to see the other side of this whole ordeal. A year ago, Caterpillargate would have felt completely out of touch, and actually rather insulting. Now, with vaccinations being rolled out, pubs and shops reopening, and the world starting to return to normal, there’s so much relief to be found in enjoying the little things.

We’ve all had to deal with a lot over the last 12 months, and it’s been really refreshing to take the piss out of some cake.

What will 2021 have in store for marketing?

Now we’ve got a few weeks of 2021 under our belts, it’s time to think about the changes we’ve seen over the last 12 months and what they might mean for the future of marketing.

Almost every single person on the planet has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic in some way, and this has been a huge catalyst in an already fast-changing industry.

Here’s what we’re going to see in the marketing strategies of 2021 and beyond.

User-generated content

People love to get involved and have their voices heard—that’s why social media is so popular.

Throughout 2020, many people were getting a little, well, bored. Being stuck in lockdown made people turn to more creative pastimes, participating in virtual quizzes, challenging each other to endless rounds of Taskmaster, and creating window displays with the kids to boost local morale. And it has to be said, the meme quality of 2020 was absolutely *chef’s kiss*.

There are millions of creative, hilarious and inspirational people out there, and they can work for your brand … for free. From giveaways and creative hashtag challenges to simply asking people to share their stories, there’s something utterly compelling about user-generated content, especially in light of the horrible shared experience of a global pandemic.

Virtual events

This time last year, comparatively few people had dipped their toes into the waters of virtual social events, Zoom meetings and remote offices.

However, 2020 pushed a lot of people head-first into the pool, and these remote interactions have become an ordinary part of our lives. And that’s where great marketing happens; integrating brands into these small moments that make up our daily routines.

Now consumers are used to attending virtual events, we can vastly expand audiences by creating additional opportunities for people to attend remotely. It also opens the doors to inviting guest speakers without paying for long-haul flights and hotel rooms, or holding conferences and exhibitions in a virtual space, reducing waste and avoiding the expense of a huge exhibition venue.

Social consciousness

“But Claire! This isn’t the first time you’ve written about social consciousness for DWH’s blog!” No. It’s not. And it won’t be the last.

It’s hard to call social consciousness a trend. It’s not. It shouldn’t be. The world’s largest corporations have the power to literally change the world, for better or worse, and more and more people are realising this every day. The brands that we choose matter, and the companies that are starting to look a little less than friendly are getting scared.

There’s an almost endless list of ways for brands to become more socially conscious. Owning up to mistakes, improving diversity and equality, reducing emissions, planting a bunch of trees, giving employees a decent living wage, banning fur and just trying to do better are all huge steps that companies are making every day.

Brands that don’t adapt to the changing priorities of their target markets simply won’t survive. So becoming more responsible and accountable is one of the biggest things you can do to boost your profits in 2021 and beyond.

Being kind never goes out of style.