I was on the Promotions and Activation jury at Cannes this year. I was particularly interested to judge ideas whose centre of gravity was not TV. Ideas whose approaches to clients' problems were more diverse, inventive and surprising.
The work I've been asked to evaluate in this column is predominantly TV and print. Nothing wrong with TV and print - their demise has been overstated by many industry commentators - but are UK brands missing out on bigger and broader opportunities?
A TV ad for the Renault Megane (4) contrasts the sun and fun enjoyed by the people of Menton, France with the drab existence of their counterparts in Gisburn, Lancashire and, directing us online, invites us to discover whether a (French) car can change a town.
Online, an inhabitant of Menton attempts to inject "joie de vivre" and the Megane into Gisburn. The campaign is charming but I question who, other than a Campaign reviewer, will be sufficiently motivated by the premise of the TV commercial to follow through online. Contenting itself, meanwhile, with the purpose of directing us online, the TV ad is unremarkable and unpersuasive in itself and so the campaign, I fear, runs the risk of falling between two stalls. I hope I'm wrong.
The ambition of the Robinsons (1) Fruit Shoots campaign feels more realistic. An energetic TV commercial introduces the "Juice Crew", youngsters each of whom has his or her own "juice" - skateboarding, breakdancing, yo-yoing. The idea is to associate healthy juices with healthy pursuits and I imagine the prospects of persuading a young audience to visit a website to discover more about these young heroes and how to get involved in activities themselves are equally healthy.
From Nissan (5), what is described as a digital campaign. In fact, it's a three-minute online film in which graffiti artists create a mural supposedly to tell the story of the crossover range's "Urbanproof" credentials. To underscore the question I asked at the top of the column and by way of extreme contrast with this work, I urge you to take a look at the brilliant Promo and Activation double-gold-Lion-winning "nothing soft gets in" campaign from Australia for the Toyota 4WD range. All the winners are at canneslions.com.
In order to associate Sky Broadband (3) with film, a media company has brokered a series of sponsorship idents for broadcast on movie channels. In the time-lengths available, the agency has striven manfully but given media freedom to make the association in the most effective way possible, what would it have been capable of? The answer is we'll never know but, for an example of how to break the shackles and make a broadband provider famous, take a look at the Promo and Activation bronze Lion-winning "Orcon and Iggy Pop" campaign for Orcon Broadband.
Despite being hand-painted on to walls and crafted in turn-of-the-century style to highlight the heritage of Anchor (2) butter, these posters might work a little harder if they told us something more revelatory than that Anchor butter is made by cows.
Cadbury (6) is the "official treat provider of the London 2012 Olympic Games" and, in this capacity, is looking to stimulate "the spirit of play" in the run-up. Consequently, a TV ad features teams of striped and spotted fish competing to burst seaweed balloons.
It's not the nicely crafted ad I question or the website it directs you to, more the strategy. "Joy" I buy as a proposition for chocolate.
The link with "the spirit of play" I find less credible than for, say, Robinsons' healthy Fruit Shoots.
Gatorade. No, not a seventh campaign sent by Campaign, but take the time to look under Promo and Activation Grand Prix and see what an agency achieved for a centre-ground, mass-market brand when it refused to accept a brief to make an ad and, instead, by creating an inspired testimonial for the product, captured a nation's imagination and started a movement.
PLANNER - Ivan Pollard, partner, Naked Communications
When I was a kid, I did a paper round. Up at six every morning, rain or shine, on my Raleigh bike and off around the posh houses delivering broadsheets and tabloids. I delivered papers for the newsagent; he gave me 75p that I then used to buy Cadbury chocolate, Coke and a copy of Animal Life from the self-same newsagent. Brilliant. It taught me about business and gave me a lifelong appreciation of chocolate. Which is a good place to start - through the eyes of a 14-year-old paperboy ...
Cadbury's (6) "gorilla" was great. Brilliant content but nothing to make me spend my money. "Glass and a Half Full" Productions? Maybe it means something like "delivering unexpected little moments of joy". I get the idea - make a "big" film, capture our attention, then we'll keep it going online, on Facebook, in banter. This time, "spots v stripes" gives me something to do as well. I almost like the ad - even though it is a bit kiddy - and now Gary Twynam can chat to girls using the chocolate bar: "Hey, Susie, you like spots or stripes?" Say it with the right tone of voice and Susie Moray thinks he knows something she doesn't. Get online and there is more to fuel the chat and lots of fun to be had - little moments of joy. It doesn't get better than that.
Or maybe it does. I like the Robinsons (1) work from Bartle Bogle Hegarty. It looks fun, it got me wanting to join in ("bounce juggling", "body beat boxing"?) and the "Skillicious" show online is watchable. That kid "Boots" can do things with a football that I can only dream of. If you want me to spend time with the brand, this is great, but if you want me to remember the brand, I want something that ties the skills to the drink a bit stronger.
On the same theme, a foxy Red Riding Hood, a guy with a big chopper and an old dog in bed are all things that 14-year-old boys can make jokes out of but I would have to work pretty hard - and watch a lot of Channel 4 - to string all these idents together to get to the punchline and attach it to Sky Broadband (3). I just don't have that sort of attention span for things that aren't interesting to me.
But cars are interesting. I love my Raleigh bike but imagine how fast my paper round would be in a car. The Renault Megane (4) ad is great. Lancashire vs the Cote d'Azur. Maybe we should have their cars and they can have our weather, then we'll see just how much "joie de vivre" they have left. Nice film, though, and good enough to get me to go online where I laughed out loud at the 12 minutes of content. It certainly is a different approach to selling a car: correlating ownership directly to fertility. In "transmedia theory" (if there is such a poncey thing), the story has to get richer as you experience it in different places, not just continue. This work does that.
As opposed to the Nissan (5) stuff. When I was 14, I saw a piece of work called Merda d'Artista by Piero Manzoni. Thirty years later, I still remember it and, recently, a 30g can of his poop sold for $80,000. Art with no purpose seems to have great value but three minutes of performance art for Nissan is like Manzoni's work without the tin. Ordinary and completely forgettable.
Finally, the Anchor (2) ads. They actually do look like something that was around when I was a kid. They were fresh then - and maybe they are again. It would be easy to criticise them as being old-fashioned but go online and see how much buzz there is about these painted billboards and you will see how the old and the new both have a place in this modern communications eco-system. Let's hope the same is true for people too.
Project: Juice Crew
Client: Christina Richardson, senior brand manager, Robinsons Fruit
Brief: Build on the "skills" platform and increase children's
participation in new and exciting skills
Agency: Bartle Bogle Hegarty
Writers/art directors: Harry Orton, Robin Warman
Director: Alex Turner
Production company: Infinity
Exposure: National TV, online
Project: Made by cows since 1886
Clients: Mike Walker, senior brand manager; Kate Richards, brand
Brief: Reposition Anchor as Britain's oldest butter brand
Agency: CHI & Partners
Creative team: Matt Collier, Wayne Robinson
Designers: Dan Beckett, Suzie Hydon
Illustrator: Paul Slater
Exposure: National outdoor
3. SKY BROADBAND
Project: Little Red Riding Hood
Clients: Barry Skolnick, creative director; Lucian Smithers, director,
brand comms; Zoe Hughes, marketing manager, Sky
Brief: Deliver the campaign thought of "broadband happily ever after"
Writers/art directors: Thom Glover, Eoin McLaughlin
Director: Peter Lydon
Production company: 76 Ltd
4. RENAULT MEGANE
Client: Phil York, marketing director, Renault UK
Brief: Position the Megane as "anti-bland"
Agencies: Publicis London, Publicis Modem
Writers: Ed Robinson, Matt Lancod
Art directors: Paul Belford, Dave Hillyard, Robert Amstell, Christian
Director: Henry-Alex Rubin
Production company: Smuggler
Exposure: National TV, press, online
Project: Journey to Urbanproof
Client: Gareth Dunsmore, digital manager Europe, Nissan
Brief: Depict the history of the Nissan crossover range and its "journey
Agencies: DNA, Digitas, VivaKi
Writer: Max Vinall
Art director: Yasushi Zonno
Project: Spots v stripes: fish
Writer/art director: Augusto Sola
Director: Nick Gordon
Production company: Academy Films
Exposure: TV, outdoor, online