Top performers of 2003: production company of the year - Partizan

campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 12 December 2003 12:00AM

With Honda's 'cog' and a swathe of 118 118 ads to its name in 2003, there's no doubt Partizan deserves to be brandishing the title of Production Company of the Year.

Think back over 2003 and choose your top five ads. Ten to one there will be at least one directed by a Partizan director. If your favourite was Honda "cog", anything from the 118 118 TV campaign, Levi's "a bold new breed" with its bizarre game of mouse and cat, or Nike's "angry chicken", then you will already be familiar with some of Partizan's delightful and diverse output.

It is this record of brilliant work, Partizan's strong management and its impressive ability to spot talent that makes it a more-than-worthy winner of Campaign's Production Company of the Year title.

Partizan is no stranger to the title, having held it in 2000 before Gorgeous became the hottest production company in town for two years in a row. This year, however, has signalled a return to form for the production company, under the leadership of its managing director and head of commercials, Madeleine Sanderson.

First, the work. Ads by Partizan directors have this year demonstrated flair, innovation, inspiration and imagination in equal measure. The most talked-about spot of the year, Honda's "cog", directed by Antoine Bardou-Jacquet, helped to redefine car advertising, pushing Honda as a creator of new technology with every compulsively watchable second.

At the other end of the spectrum, Jim Hosking's ads for a previously unheard- of brand, 118 118, gave the brand warmth and achieved stand-out in a new sector that could have been perceived as chilly and functional.

The campaign will no doubt be groaning under the weight of numerous awards next year.

It was Tango's ads involving grown men being Tangoed that were celebrated at awards ceremonies this year. A fresh take on the "You've been Tangoed" strapline, one ad courtesy of James Pilkington and two from Traktor saw all three awarded golds at Cannes. Partizan also won the double in terms of corporate accolades: the Palme D'Or at both Cannes and Kinsale.

Pilkington and Traktor teamed up on the Lynx spot "ever ready". The ad showed scantily clad women in unglamorous professions, such as car-cleaning, delivering mail and gutting fish. The endline? "The girls are ready, are you?"

Evidently, Traktor is not the only jewel in Partizan's crown; it also boasts fine talent in the likes of Michel Gondry, the imaginative brain behind Levi's "a bold new breed" and Dominic Murphy, who directed two Volkswagen spots. Eric Lynne, whose two spots for United Airlines included "checkout", in which a couple is charged by a hotel for enjoying a sunset, was also a favourite with awards juries.

Partizan also made some smart signings. The former art director at Mother, Thomas Hilland, joined to work on commercials. And Partizan kept it in the family by taking on Gondry's younger brother, Olivier, whose directorial debut was the Nationwide ad set to a Dave Brubeck soundtrack. Partizan also signed Romain Segaud, a Parisien animator.

To demonstrate such confidence and verve in such a harsh economic climate was no mean feat. Other production companies found it tougher, a fact epitomised by Harry Nash closing down and Joy Films merging into RSA.

A shining example of a well-received merger came in the form of Large Corp, which is this year's runner-up. The merger of Stark and Spectre was welcomed by the industry as proof that joining forces can strengthen rather than weaken two established companies.

Large lives up to its name, being the biggest production company in the UK in terms of turnover. Its strong management team of Bertie Miller, Stephen Gash and Cathy Green provides the corporate sturdiness that some production companies have lacked in the past. Its roster of directors features the eclectic talent longed for by creative directors.

Most noteworthy is the former Spectre director Danny Kleinman who, according to this year's Gunn Report, is joint occupant of the number-one spot for the most-awarded director in the world. His TV work for John Smith's, fronted by Peter Kay, performed well at Cannes this year, and he also picked up a gold for Johnnie Walker's 60-second spot "fish".

Jeff Stark directed three memorable ads: a partly animated ad for the Ford Mondeo, which saw Tom & Jerry come out of retirement, and a comic spot for MFI with Vic 'n' Bob in bed a la Morecombe & Wise. He rounded the year off with Marks & Spencer's star-studded Christmas ad.

Large is also keen not to lean too much on its big, heavy-hitting names: the relative newcomer Simon Cracknell, for instance, directed a regional TV campaign for Loot.

Academy also enjoyed a strong year in 2003. Jonathan Glazer's ads for Stella Artois and Barclays were outstanding, and Glazer also picked up the chairman's award at BTAA. Nick Gordon's remarkable ad for BBC 1 Xtra won the top award at the BTA Craft Awards for its brilliant matching of music to actions. Peter Cattaneo's "salmon" ad for Kit Kat and Frederic Planchon's "H2O" spot for Gordon's Gin are also both worthy of mention.

Academy, always bound to attract its fair share of criticism that suggests that it is Glazer and little else besides, proved the critics wrong in 2003. With five of its directors picking up major awards, it seems that Academy is providing real breadth and diversity in terms of the talent it is nurturing.

Recent winners: Gorgeous (2002); Gorgeous (2001); Partizan (2000); Gorgeous (1999); Academy (1998).

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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