Feature

Production Company of the Year 2016: Academy

From the energy of Usain Bolt's Virgin Media spot to the originality of 'Ready to speak up' for Boots No7, Academy was at the forefront of UK creativity this year.

Production Company of the Year 2016: Academy

Academy reclaims Campaign’s Production Company of the Year crown that it won in 2014. It may not have stolen the spotlight during the blockbuster Christmas season, but throughout the year its work demonstrated the brilliance of UK creativity. 

The best film to come out of Academy was Virgin Media’s "9.58 seconds", which was shortlisted for Campaign of the Year and made it into the top ten TV ads. Directed by Seb Edwards, the spot is an ambitious mash-up of mini-films each lasting 9.58 seconds – the time of Usain Bolt’s record-breaking 100m sprint. The joyous and energetic scenes of Bolt dancing, training and playing were among the most memorable in advertising this year. 

Edwards was also behind HP’s Christmas ad about a musician using technology to share the gift of rock ’n’ roll with his hearing-impaired brother. 

Edwards is just one example of the impressive talent on Academy’s roster. The company helped launch the careers of top directors including Jonathan Glazer, whose idents for Channel 4’s 2015 rebrand won at Cannes and D&AD this year. Glazer shot a Google Android spot in 2016, in which a professional pianist plays a Beethoven sonata on both normal and hacked pianos. The ad, which ran on TV in the US and online in the UK, again showed off the master craftsman’s considerable skillset. 

Another jewel in Academy’s crown is Danish director Martin de Thurah, who garnered international acclaim after his short film for Under Armour, "Rule yourself" featuring Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, won the 2016 Cannes Film Craft Grand Prix. 

Closer to home, Jeff Labbe oversaw a colourful spot for Boots No7 about the role of make-up in women’s lives, starring feminist writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The beautifully shot film made headlines for its original take on cosmetics advertising. Labbe was also responsible for two cinematic tales for HSBC about childhood dreams that take unexpected turns. "Audrey" and "Chung" struck an emotional chord similar to the bank’s celebrated "Lift" ad. 

Ikea’s story about a son lighting the path home for his mother was another highlight in UK advertising this year. Directed by Frédéric Planchon, it was a poignant addition to the retailer’s stellar marketing portfolio. 

In a lighter vein, Academy produced the debut spot for Paddy Power’s "Vive la bantz" campaign, showing a horde of Scots singing about failing to qualify for the Euro 2016 tournament. The ad was directed by Oscar-nominated director Peter Cattaneo, best known for The Full Monty

Si & Ad handled a film in O2’s relaunch campaign, "Goslings", about a man being followed by a flock of geese. And with energy rivalling Virgin Media’s Bolt ad, Cannes Grand Prix-winning director Wally Pfister made a blood-thumping film for Lucozade in which a London housing estate was taken over by people exercising. 

Other notable work includes Birds Eye’s first TV ad in five years, shot by Marcus Söderlund, and a visual feast for Glenfiddich exploring extremes of the human mind directed by Ben Tricklebank. 

In all of these films, Academy’s consistent craft shone through, helping it stand out in a competitive field. 

Rattling Stick 

Celebrating its tenth anniversary in 2016, Rattling Stick was in close contention for Production Company of the Year with work that received global recognition. 

Industry heavy-hitter Ringan Ledwidge directed Nike Football’s "The switch", a short film about Cristiano Ronaldo swapping bodies with a ball boy. It has attracted more than 100 million views online and was the most-shared Euro 2016 ad. Ledwidge’s "The duel" for Audi in the US was another achievement. Once again, he has proved why he is a consistent presence on Campaign’s list of top ten directors.

Sara Dunlop also deserves credit for accomplishments including a stirring spot for Barnardo’s. 

New signing Gabe Turner made waves with the hilarious return of Samsung’s "School of…" campaign starring Jack Whitehall for the Rio Olympics. And in their first full year at Rattling Stick, directing collective Traktor showed their mettle with unique spots for TK Maxx, Virgin Media and Paddy Power. 

Blink 

It would be remiss of Campaign not to mention Blink, whose star Dougal Wilson is number one on our 2016 directors list. Wilson scored the biggest job in advertising again in the form of John Lewis’ Christmas ad, which this year told the story of a trampolining dog called Buster. Even more impressive, though, was the direction he brought to Channel 4’s "We’re the superhumans" for the Paralympics – our Campaign of the Year. 

Those gems alone would be enough for Blink to be shortlisted, but the company also produced a funny satirical ad for Virgin Atlantic, directed by The Bobbsey Twins from Homicide, as well as the powerful "Listen to your selfie" for the NSPCC. 

Somesuch

Campaign’s 2015 Production Company of the Year had another strong showing. Nick Gordon had a busy year with work ranging from the cinematic "Sophie’s journey" for Esso to Costa’s comedic depiction of a life coach to Hollywood homages for Volkswagen. 

Audi’s "Everyday extremes", directed by Daniel Wolfe, was one of the most creative car ads in recent memory, showing a drive through a department store. Steve Rogers, meanwhile, turned an ad for microwaveable burgers into a dark and intriguing film for Rustlers. Hostelworld’s ad spoofing the antics of celebrities staying in hostels was also memorable. 

Recent winners: Somesuch (2015); Academy (2014); Rattling Stick (2013); Blink (2012); Blink (2011)

Annual 2016 edition