D&AD 2024: ‘Big Data Energy’ presented by Tara McKenty, BMF Chief Innovation Officer

LONDON, UK — Tara McKenty has analyzed years of D&AD entry data to uncover the fact that mixed-gendered teams are more likely to win a pencil. It’s an extraordinary discovery – a hunch that is now backed up by solid evidence. And given the amount of effort by agencies put into working out how to win awards – is one that we could all use. If we were to really take this seriously. we would restructure our departments and make this happen. From junior teams to senior ones, mixed gender teams should be the way to go.

But how reliable are the conclusions? First of all Tara, Chief Innovation Officer at Australian agency BMF, had the full cooperation of D&AD which anonymized it treasure trove of entry data. A total of 200,000+ creative individuals and 12,000+ teams from 200 countries. In particular she was looking at the progression of work from Shortlist, the first level of creative recognition, to Yellow Pencil, the top level of recognition. She also did a separate analysis of winners of the rarely awarded, and even more prized, Black Pencil.

She introduced her presentation at the D&AD Festival 2024 with a background on the welcome rise in diversity in the industry over the past few years. This has been particularly in the area of gender diversity. Such that 50% of new graduates in Creative degrees are female. However the ratio still skews male as we look at more senior roles, showing there is still a lot to do. And the reason for doing it? The fact that, as she put it, 72% of people don’t feel like advertising reflects the world around them and 60% said they don’t see the community of friends and family and acquaintances represented accurately in advertising either.


Looking at the period from 2015 – 2023, Tara showed extracts from a database – still being mined – for the gender composition of the Black Pencils awarded in that time. Out of 20 Black Pencils awarded in nine years, 68% of those pencils were won by mixed gender teams. “So pretty cool, right?” she commented.  The story with the Yellow Penci is similar with mixed-gender teams outperforming at this level as well.

She stressed that the point is really about diversity than gender warfare. As she put it: “The boys are not better than the girls are not better than the boys. What works is when the girls and the boys work together.” She speculates that his could be because they were raised differently, and have a different experience that makes the combination work. But male-female teams seem to have a competitive advantage. “The secret sauce is gender diversity,” underlined Tara.

adobo Magazine is an official media partner of D&AD 2024.

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