Feature

Annual: Advertiser of the Year - Transport for London

TfL made the most of its budget, now under threat from Boris Johnson, this year, with powerful advertising across a range of issues and media.

One of the main reasons Transport for London landed this award this year is the sheer amount of cut-through work created by its agencies: M&C Saatchi (which does the lion's share); WCRS, the creator of the government body's most (in)famous work in 2008 - the "moonwalking bear"; Drum and Chemistry.

TfL spent roughly £50 million in London this year, split across more than 20 different initiatives. The big-ticket campaigns have embraced improving travel in the capital, from promoting safer travel at night and more considerate behaviour on public transport, to attempting to make the roads safer - including work aimed at reducing motorcycle deaths and teen road accidents.

But, alongside this, TfL is also willing to spend money tackling arguably smaller issues, including persuading people to recycle their freesheet newspapers, reporting suspicious activity, promoting cultural events and helping people to be smarter about the way they drive.

However, volume is irrelevant without quality and effectiveness. And given the nature of the London community, every message needs to be accessible across media.

But first, TfL was extremely busy on the TV side of things this year, with six big-budget TV ads. The biggest and most effective (yet cheapest to make) was the "moonwalking bear" - an ad shrouded in notoriety and controversy because of the fact that it is based directly on an awareness test created by Dr Daniel J Simons in 1999 for the University of Illinois Visual Cognition Lab.

Whether it was a case of copying or intelligent use of a good idea, the ad was remarkably successful. Despite having only limited TV and cinema airings, the ad was viewed more than ten million times online (and this despite it being removed from YouTube for a time during the initial furore over the copyright issue) and 58,000 people visited www.dothetest.com.

And the campaign is still working. In the past couple of weeks, since the launch of the ad's follow-up, "whodunnit?", there have been tens of thousands more views for "moonwalking bear". The ad also won a gold at Cannes in the Public Service TV category and was shortlisted for a Cyber Lion.

M&C also tried its hand at a groundbreaking TfL ad by creating a three-minute film, directed by Mike Figgis, the acclaimed director of Leaving Las Vegas, promoting considerate behaviour on public transport. The ad was filmed in one three-minute take and shows four separate strands of the same story all shown on the screen at the same time - a daunting task to say the least. As with many TfL ads, it's difficult to place results because the aim is often to change attitudes, not improve sales - but research showed that 77 per cent of 18- to 34-year-olds who had seen the ad recognised that their actions might impact on others.

One campaign that can be measured is the Cabwise work aimed at promoting safer travel at night. Following the launch of the harrowing film that sees a woman driven to a secluded car-park by an unlicensed cab driver, the use of illegal cabs has dropped by half. The campaign was awarded a bronze award at this year's IPA Effectiveness Awards.

Almost every TfL campaign has a digital element - whether it be the "debutantes" work for Teen Road Safety or the Sky Sports-sponsored London Freewheel, aimed at encouraging more people to cycle.

The former, created by Drum, went far beyond digital, however, and really hammered home TfL's eagerness to reach its audience through any means necessary. The work was a tie-up with Channel 4's T4, where a group of teenagers were paired up with a famous mentor, such as the photographer Rankin, and encouraged to make a TV programme. The results were aired on Bebo.

The only real downside in 2008 for TfL was the outcome of the London mayoral election, as Ken Livingstone, a big supporter of the operation, was replaced by Boris Johnson, who promised to cut the TfL budget and put more money into tackling crime. That's the trouble with London: it has a lot of problems.

Volkswagen In what can only be described as a disastrous year for the car market, with sales plummeting and the big three - General Motors, Ford and Chrysler - requiring $25 billion in loans from the US government, VW has bucked the trend and managed to achieve growth for a number of its marques.

Its success this year is a testament to the power of enduring relationships: after 40 years of partnership with DDB, the client/agency bond is as strong as ever, and VW's unfaltering trust in its agency's abilities is evidenced by a body of strong TV, print and online campaigns.

With a wealth of humorous, intelligent advertising in their collective archive, it is always going to be hard for DDB to maintain the momentum, but with campaigns such as "enjoy the everyday" for the Golf and "dog" for the Polo, the agency was on top form, and achieved impressive sales figures to boot. When "dog" launched in March, it led to the highest-ever footfall into retailers for the current Polo - even higher than when the marque launched. It boosted sales by 1.26 per cent - the second-highest increase in its retail segment (in which only four brands experienced growth) - for the year ending September 2008. The ad also achieved a sizeable online following, with more than 1.5 million hits on YouTube.

"Enjoy the everyday", a spot featuring quickly interspersed images and sounds from inside a Golf, also led to an impressive sales increase of 1.19 per cent, again the second-highest in its retail segment for the same period. DDB also ensured VW got the most out of its sponsorship deals with independent cinemas and Channel 4's documentaries, producing humorous indents for both that led to a significant brand awareness uplift among TV and cinema viewers.

Meanwhile, the new brand website, created by Tribal DDB, with its vastly improved functionality, contributed to a 7.8 per cent rise in visitors, a 14.1 per cent increase in test-drive requests and a substantial 59.4 per cent jump in brochure requests.

BBC Despite the BBC being an unusual contender for Advertiser of the Year, as it does not spend money on media, the broadcaster has had an exceptional creative year.

In 2008, the Corporation needed to stop questions over its future as a publicly funded body; it decided to fight back creatively. Working with the roster agencies Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R, Fallon and Red Bee Media, the BBC set out to regain the public's trust, which had diminished in 2007 following cut-backs and mistakes.

Across the year, the broadcaster deployed great ad campaigns to launch its BBC iPlayer and BBC HD, to celebrate its coverage of this summer's Beijing Olympics and Euro 2008, and to generate buzz around controversial programmes such as those during BBC Two's White Season.

In all cases it saw record results. So much so that, in a recent YouGov survey, the BBC was named as the UK's second-strongest brand behind Amazon.

Recent winners: Heinz (2007); Marks & Spencer (2006); Channel 4 (2005); The Independent (2004); Sky (2003)

TRANSPORT FOR LONDON'S 2008

February: Three-minute film to promote considerate travel behaviour, directed by Mike Figgis and created by M&C Saatchi, breaks.

March: WCRS's "moonwalking bear" launches, to a mixture of acclaim and controversy over its similarity to an American awareness test created by the University of Illinois.

May: Boris Johnson voted in as London Mayor and pledges to cut TfL's budget.

June: "Moonwalking bear" wins gold at Cannes in the Public Service TV category and is shortlisted for a Cyber Lion.

November: Cabwise wins bronze at the IPA Effectiveness Awards. The campaign results in the use of illegal cabs being cut by 50 per cent. "Whodunnit?", the follow-up to "moonwalking bear", launches.