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New Directors' Showcase

Posted by Alex Bec,

The Saatchi & Saatchi New Directors’ Showcase is an annual event at the Cannes Lions Advertising Festival. It exists to seek out the best new directors and share them with the advertising community. Some of the legendary creatives that have been housed by the NDS since it’s conception in 1991 include Gondry, Jonze, Cunningham and Barnbrook. That’s quite some legacy. I was eager to learn a little bit more about it, so who better to take me through the scheme’s finer points than Saatchi & Saatchi’s Creative Director, Global Culture Richard Myers…

How long has the NDS been running?

The first NDS was in 1991 – hosted by the legendary Paul Arden who, at the time, was Executive Creative Director of Saatchi & Saatchi, London. When people started booing some of the featured directors, Paul stopped the screening and accused the audience of having ‘tin eyes’.

How many of you choose who’s in and out? Is there a way for the public to vote?

First, we identify a long list of candidate directors through our network of 150 offices around the world, though personal contacts, through film schools and so on, and through the internet, including specific relationships with sites such as BUG Videos. This generally harvests several hundred directors, and the final selection is made by the 17 members of the Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide Creative Board.

We have our own NDS channel on YouTube and it has a People’s Choice feature for visitors to rate the directors who make it on to the Showcase reel.

What, in your opinion, makes a really successful video?

Any video that isn’t just a singing, dancing marketing department-driven pack shot is a step in the right direction. But only a small step. I want to be surprised and moved – taken somewhere unexpected – through the originality of the narrative, the technique or the direction. I guess I’m saying a successful video starts with an idea. But that’s only my opinion.

Do the chosen directors get any favours from Saatchi? Placements/pitches etc?

We want to encourage new talent – that’s why we set up the New Directors’ Showcase in the first place. So, although I wouldn’t describe them as favours, we do put forward appropriate featured directors to shoot commercials for our clients. One recent example, we hired Joey Garfield from the 2008 showcase to shoot a Visa spot this year. It’s also been known for new directors we’ve discovered to have already shot for us before being proposed for the Showcase.

Is this year any different to before?

One difference was the absence of Bob Isherwood. He was Worldwide Creative Director until November 2008, and had been instrumental in growing the NDS into the major event it is today. In a way, this year saw us going back to the roots of the Showcase, focusing on the directors. This included having the Showcase introduced by Marc Price, the new director who made his name at this year’s Cannes Film Festival with his £45 feature film, ‘COLIN’.

We’ve also set up a YouTube channel for the films, and see it as a way of extending the life of the Showcase from its day in the Cannes sun to something year-round. We want to try and help alter the reality for new directors now that it’s never been easier to get seen, it’s never been harder to get hired.

If you could choose one director to work with in the world, who would it be and what client would it be for?

I’m choosing two, in fact. The Coen Brothers. And I’d have them direct a (very Coen Brothers-esque) documentary about the life and times of Saatchi & Saatchi.

What does the next ten years hold for the scheme?

The key thing for us is to keep the NDS relevant and the must-see event it is now at the Cannes Lions Advertising Festival. What will always be on our side is the fact that everyone wants to know who the next big name will be. What we have to keep doing is provide the answer

What’s your favourite all time NDS entry?

I really can’t answer this one the way I think it’s meant to be answered, but I can say what I think was perhaps the most significant NDS entry. It’s Mark Romanek’s video for the Nine Inch Nails track, “Closer” (aka “I Want To F*** You Like An Animal”). This was the moment when we made the break from showing only TV commercials. I argued for music videos to be included on the basis of what are they other than extended commercials for pieces of music?

It was the moment we widened our net in the search for new talent. The thing is, if we hadn’t opened up like this we wouldn’t have the eclectic mix of genres that makes up each Showcase now – nor would we be including so much edgy, out-there content.

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Posted by Alex Bec

Alex is one of the directors of It’s Nice That who now oversees our sister creative agency INT Works. For several years he oversaw the Monday Morning Music Video feature until it came to an end in 2014.