THE BRITISH TELEVISION ADVERTISING AWARDS 2000: SILVER ANNIVERSARY - BTAA: 25 years of the best British ads

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the British Television Advertising Awards, Peter Bigg, the indefatigable organiser of the event, floated the scheme of inviting the chairmen of each of the juries since 1976 to meet to select their ten or so all-time greats out of all the gold winners, including this year’s.

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the British Television

Advertising Awards, Peter Bigg, the indefatigable organiser of the

event, floated the scheme of inviting the chairmen of each of the juries

since 1976 to meet to select their ten or so all-time greats out of all

the gold winners, including this year’s.



This was obviously an absurd, even crackpot, notion. Some of the

chairmen, especially from the earliest years, were bound to have passed

on to The Great Agency in The Sky (where every client has VW’s taste and

Procter & Gamble’s budget), or be untraceably counting their wads from

lucrative sell-offs while languidly sunning themselves on Caribbean

beaches.



But no! Research proved that every last chairman remained defiantly

extant - there must be something in the air in creative departments -

and were mostly still working in advertising. Furthermore, they all

loved the idea and wanted to take part.



In the event, on one of last month’s nastiest days, 18 of the most

hallowed names in the creative lexicon made it without much discernible

difficulty up the stairs to Bartle Bogle Hegarty’s elegant boardroom,

amid the largely incurious gaze of BBH’s seemingly 16-year-old staff. In

date order of their chairmanship, they were: Ronnie Kirkwood (1977), Len

Weinreich (1978), Chris Wilkins (1981), Richard Barker (1982), Andrew

Rutherford (1984), John Webster (1985), Alfredo Marcantonio (1987), Dave

Trott (1988), Barbara Nokes (1989), John Salmon (1990), Tony Cox (1991),

John Hegarty (1993), Jeremy Sinclair (1994), Adrian Holmes (1995),

Andrew Cracknell (1997), James Lowther (1998), Patrick Collister (1999)

and Robert Campbell (2000).



The ones unable to come were Barry Day (1976), Norman Berry (1979), Bill

Taylor (1980), Allen Thomas (1983), Don Arlett (1986), Paul Arden (1992)

and Tim Delaney (1996).



Martin Boase, the founder of BMP, presided urbanely (of course) but

briskly over the debate as chairman of the BTAA organisation, and Peter

Levelle, who dreamed up the awards all those years ago, kept a benign

eye on the proceedings. Yours truly was engaged, at no expense whatever,

to write it up. Peter Bigg did all the work. Twenty-five years’ worth of

gold winners - 175 commercials - were screened; the silvers were

listed.



With such a gathering, mutiny was not only inevitable but eagerly

awaited.



It began with a mass refusal to pick the best of the best only from the

golds. Rather satisfyingly, in the true creative tradition, this

produced the outstanding inconsistency of the day: Levi’s ’Laundrette’

scored the joint highest marks even though in its year (1986) it had

rated only a silver, having been overshadowed by the ’Russia’ commercial

for the same brand.



Despite an earnest appeal by Boase at the outset, the jury members also

declined to confine themselves to voting for just ten of the commercials

shown or listed. The number they eventually arrived at was the decidedly

unnewsworthy 16. (Can you see The Sun screaming: ’Ad stars name the top

16 commercials of 25 years’?)



But what a fantastic 16. From the daring and imaginative complexity of

the Benson & Hedges ’Swimming Pool’, to the deceptive simplicity and

utter persuasiveness of ’Points of View,’ all focused single-mindedly on

a brilliant idea and (even in the oldest commercials) well-nigh flawless

execution.



None of them looked dated. The hilarious ones ( for instance, Carling

’Dambusters’, Heineken ’Majorca’, Hamlet ’Photobooth’, John Smith’s ’Two

Words’, Lego ’Kipper’) still raised loud laughs among these notoriously

flinty judges.



The principal agency honours were shared by Collett Dickenson Pearce and

BMP, each of which was represented four times in the 16. No other agency

scored more than once.



And what of the debate itself? Your reporter, a veteran of such Campaign

headlines as ’Masius staff flee gun terror’ (yes, honestly) and ’Agency

chairman in street brawl’, fully expected to be able to add ’Creative

casualty toll mounts’ to his tally, but it was all dreadfully

well-behaved.



Mutual respect and admiration ruled the day, occasionally even to a

rather touching extent.



One shadow, however, did loom: the fear of being categorised as old

farts if the chosen commercials were mostly from the year dot. It’s

undeniable that there’s scant representation of recent work.



There is only one from this year (Guinness ’Surfer’), and the 90s scored

only three (Carling ’Dambusters’ 1990, Tango ’Orangeman’ 1992 and The

Economist ’Kissinger’ 1997).



The golden age of British advertising was evidently the 80s, with no

fewer than ten examples on the list. Looking back on such classic

campaigns as John Smith’s, Hamlet, Benson & Hedges and Heineken, it’s

hard to disagree.



Perhaps the truth is that the 80s were the golden age of British

clients; let’s hope the first decade of the new millennium will produce

a revival of the breed of confident and adventurous marketing directors

who trust their agencies.



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