By JAMES LOWTHER, chairman of M&C Saat, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 30 June 2000 12:00AM
Well, I would like you to tear up this article right now and never
look at it again. For two reasons.
First, after being locked in a darkened room for 60 hours watching 5,700
commercials, I can barely remember my name, let alone spot a trend even
if it was wearing pink socks and singing the Bulgarian national
Second, the minute a trend is identified, people start following it and
when they catch up with it and conjugate with it, they give birth to the
sort of repetitive, unoriginal, mediocre, dull and risk-averse
advertising that made up so many of the entries I had to sit
Great advertising is made by setting trends not by following them.
That said, allons nous. (As is appropriate for an article about trends,
I now break into pretentious French.)
Sur La Croisette - our fashion correspondent writes - ’bright colours
are in, as are halter tops, sparkly things, polka dots, snakeskin prints
and henna tattoos. Among the men, black is fighting a strong rearguard
action, though rose is making a strong bid in the glass and bloodshot
red is definitely in evidence in the eyes. At the Gutter Bar, the
general trend is a rapidly descending spiral and skirts are up while
trousers are down.’ (Less of this irrelevant rubbish - get on with it,
Avec le jury - the general trend is toward a coma. No, there were no
international incidents, racial abuse, outbreaks of hooliganism between
supporters of rival ads. It was well run, well mannered, friendly and,
God, sooooooooo long. Perhaps they should get Robert Mugabe in next year
to liven up the voting process. Just a suggestion, guys.
Entre les competiteurs - here are the trends from the entrants, rather
than the winners.
In are the following: millennium ads (either the ’isn’t it fab’ or the
’we’re all going to die’ variety), black-and-white ads (hanging in
there, especially for ’serious’ ads), visual analogies, bad ads with
good music, bad ads with good sound design, talking babies,
incomprehensible Japanese ads with a lot of shouting at the end, a fair
amount of groping (one featuring a willy with a knot in it), a lot of
farting and what my doctor would call stools (in one case talking stools
- pleeease!) and toilets galore. (My personal Palme D’Orrible goes to
the ad where the camera was placed at the bottom of the bowl during
’evacuation’ - definitely double bubble for the cameraman on that one.)
And finally, interminable dotcom ads, where the main trend (with some
honourable exceptions) was towards generating the response: ’What the
f*** was that trying to sell me?’ The sooner we all realise that dotcom
companies are merely a brilliant new technology to access fairly normal
goods and services and not an excuse to do weird and totally irrelevant
scripts from your bottom drawer, the less we’ll have to boohoo.com about
in the future.
Entre les gagneurs - among the medals, the drift (with the notable
exception of the grand prix winner) was fairly conservative. In what was
a respectable but not vintage year, there were some memorable and
wonderful ads but not many that pushed the penny, centime, dime or lire
forward. Generally, thank God, ideas were rewarded more highly than
executions. New executional techniques were not greatly in evidence
(with the distinguished exception of Vodafone) and ideas were often shot
more for performance than visual beauty (Audi being an exception
Emotional ads were there - including the splendid Nike ’beautiful’ and
my personal favourite runner-up for grand prix, the hypnotic and
intelligent ’the week’ for Epoca magazine.
But the overall winner for trends in Cannes 2000 was ... pause for
climactic music, smoke machines and banana skins ... once again,
Despite our charming Brazilian president Marcello Serpa saying ads were
not all about being funny, at least 70 of the 109 medal winners used
This could be because an ad that makes a jury laugh amongst a plethora
of ads that make you comatose is like a Power Shower in a very large
It seems we like our hearts to be warmed but we prefer our funny bones
to be tickled. And very funny they were too, from America’s ads for MTV,
Fox Sports, The X Show, Budget, E-Trade, to our contributions from VW,
Lynx, Malibu, BA, Marmite and Livostin.
But the indisputable and massively deserved King of La Croisette is the
brilliant ’whassup’ campaign for Budweiser.
And the most brilliant thing about it is that it is magnificently,
splendidly, triumphantly trend-less. The idea of loads of blokes ringing
each other up, making weird noises and sticking their tongues out did
not come by reading articles like this. It came from a free imagination
working at top power, based on a brilliant insight bought by a brave and
In short, it is original. It will hopefully not turn into a trend -
although the thought of some Swiss ads turning up next year, with a
bunch of ski instructors shouting ’Ya! Wassistoupen?’, is, sadly, not
So, clients, just wonder if your decision processes allow you to buy an
ad of such worrying originality. Agencies, wonder if you could produce
such a thing.
And everyone, tear up this article.
This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk