WORLDWIDE ADVERTISING: Shrink to fit - It's been a tough year for ad agencies the world over, with more work, fewer staff and less money. Lisa Campbell talks to creative directors around the world and singles out the creative gems that have still managed to emerge

Budgen perfectly captures the fun and excitement involved in the children's game tag, and includes some beautiful infantile moments, such as the crowd hiding behind lamp-posts and wheelie bins.

At the same time, the ad is confident and will no doubt appeal to the style-conscious target audience. The music, which was commissioned especially for the spot, is particularly notable for the way it augments the action and adds to the ambience.

A hilarious spoof of the musical West Side Story, complete with choreography by the director Fredrik Bond himself. Accompanying the drama is a frenzied soundtrack by Moulin Rouge's Steve Sidwell.

It's a great script from Mother, featuring fat-bellied Super Noodles and his mates doing battle with the wimpish Salad gang. The agency cleverly avoids a crackdown by the watchdogs in that there are no real punches, just ridiculous dance moves.

Ikea has produced cutting-edge or controversial advertising in many markets, but this approach is a first for France.

The daring campaign from its new agency uses the simple tagline "tidy up", which is illustrated with bizarre, embarrassing and even violent scenarios that arise from a lack of Ikea furniture. Directed by the promo director Brian Beletic, the ads appeal to young people and, not surprisingly, have achieved acres of press coverage.

Stink's Zacharias teams with Lowe to unveil the latest campaign for Stella Artois. A doctor is ostracised due to treating those with the plague.

Fearing the doctor is contagious, the villagers refuse to help him and tend the sick ... until the village priest commands the barman to bring him a glass of the golden liquid as an apology.

Excellent camera work and good direction lift this spot.

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These spots show the negative consequences of people avidly watching the Major League Baseball games in October - namely factory workers who have produced a range of faulty goods as a result.

Hence, we see a neighbourhood almost taken out by a nail gun, a store set alight by a leafblower and a speedboat which goes wildly out of control.

Great scripts, direction and casting make these a sure fire award-winner.

One of the stand-out campaigns in Australia is, rather surprisingly, a financial institution.

M&C Saatchi Melbourne, Australia's Agency of the Year, has produced consistently strong work for ANZ bank.

The long-running campaign has featured some clever spots, more in the style of the UK's Volkswagen campaigns than the usual blokey beer-style spots common to the region.

Shot in Norway, this campaign captures comical black moments as individuals miss their SAS flights. 'Mr Larson' follows a poor chap who misses his plane after taking too long to park, arriving back home to find his wife in bed with his boss.

Booze and drugs follow, then the mental asylum's padded cell. 'Mon Amour' sees a delectable lady fall for an old flame after waiting for her beau.

Miss that elusive SAS flight at your peril.

The simple spots demonstrate that the phone company Euskatel provides such cheap local calls, you don't even have to use a phone.

They feature various scenarios involving people on balconies shouting the name Patxi, a common first name in the region.

The campaign has become the Spanish version of "whassup?

with people shouting "Paaaatxxii!

at all hours.

The idea is simple and universal.

Creative directors the world over have the same sorry tale to tell - this year has been one of their toughest. From Warsaw to the west coast of America, clients have been slashing budgets, demanding more tactical work or abandoning advertising all together. Like an old pair of jeans, creative departments have shrunk to fit the new climate, but are now feeling over-stretched.

"There have been redundancies in most agencies, but also within client companies,

Oliver Voss, the creative director at Jung von Matt Germany, says. "The result is that a smaller creative department is taking on board more tasks for the client. But it's more work for less money."

Darek Zatorski, the creative director at Leo Burnett Warsaw, agrees, but claims that this has resulted in the region taking a backwards step in terms of creative standards.

"Sadly, I would say that two, even four years ago, the standard was better,

Zatorski says. "Now, we're working with some of the lowest budgets we've ever had. The bulk of work is also price cuts and promotions rather than the image-building campaigns which allow you to be more creative."

The US, traditionally a strong performer at the creative award shows such as Cannes, has suffered more than most with the double blow of a recession and 11 September. Even Cliff Freeman & Partners, which had such a storming year at Cannes last year with the Fox Sports campaign, has struggled to weather the storm. The agency, like its fellow creative hotshops, Fallon, TBWA/Chiat/Day San Francisco and Wieden & Kennedy Portland, has been forced to make redundancies.

Eric Silver, the creative director of Cliff Freeman & Partners, says: "The US is deathly quiet. Everyone is waiting for spending to return, but the only thing I'm hearing about is more lay-offs. I'm sorry to sound so depressing but it's been a tough year and I've not seen that much that I've thought is incredible."

Most US creatives agree that the Super Bowl, traditionally the time that groundbreaking work is unveiled, was a huge disappointment and a waste of the astronomical media spend. Consequently, many believe that it will be Britain's turn to shine in Cannes this year.

"Creative supremacy hangs in the balance between the UK and the US. Last year, it was definitely the US. This year, work from Britain is fresher and more engaging,

Silver adds.

Among those being singled out for praise is Nike's "tag", which, in some respects, is a US/UK collaboration. It was conceived by Wieden & Kennedy Portland and directed by Frank Budgen.

Tony Barry, a copywriter at Lowe, says: "It's just fantastic. In fact, I think all of Frank's stuff this year is a Cannes contender. Like other Nike campaigns such as "freestyle", "tag

is great for its simplicity and its choreography."

Barry also cites both Levi's "twist

and "odyssey

as among the best work this year. "They're cool, there's no other word for it. They just make you feel good, there's something magical about them,

he says.

Dave Droga, the creative director at Saatchi & Saatchi London, also believes the UK has the edge this year, adding Mother's Super Noodles "face off", Lowe's Reebok "sofa

and Stella's "doctor

to the list. The latter he describes as "an epic, a mini-drama - gripping and beautifully shot".

Mark Tutsell, the former joint creative director at Leo Burnett London and now the executive creative director at the agency's Chicago office, is also a huge fan of the Stella spot. "I applaud work like this because it's a long-running idea and it's difficult to do something really fresh, but this is a brilliant script and the production is a work of art. From the set design, performances, wardrobe, timing, this is perfect stuff."

Although Tutsell concedes that the Super Bowl was a let down and that events in the US have led to "softer

advertising, he points to a US campaign which is making waves across the globe - a Fox Sports campaign created by TBWA/Chiat/Day SF. (see box)

Barry believes the ad stands out because humour is less in evidence compared with last year. However, he believes that this is more of a cyclical factor rather than an indicator of a decline in creative standards. "The climate means that fewer ads are being made, but there are fewer bad ads being made. The good clients and good agencies are still doing great work,

Barry adds.

Tutsell and Droga too are reluctant to point to a severe decline in creativity this year. "There's less work, but the standard is as high as ever,

Tutsell says. While Droga claims that, for some clients, less money means more investment in one dramatic TV ad rather than a thin spread across media.

It's a similar story in Scandinavia where, although fewer ads are being made, standards on the whole have been maintained. "There are fewer brand-building campaigns, so the volume of interesting work has declined, but there's still some good stuff around,

Filip Nilsson, the creative director of Forsman & Bodenfors, says. Notable work includes Ikea Sweden's "tidy up

and the workwear company Fristad's campaign by ANR.BBDO.

Meanwhile in Norway, one of the most outstanding and irreverent ads of the year is for the airline company Flytoget. Created by Leo Burnett Oslo, these are fantastic scripts brilliantly executed by Harald Zwart.

However, it's a different story in Australia. Jonathan Kneebone, the writer/director at The Glue Society, claims: "The most severe recession in Australia appears to be a recession in originality. Generally, the client trend seems to be to focus on the short-term goal rather than investing for the long term.

"As a result, very few campaigns or concepts are required to last longer than a couple of media bursts."

This kind of tactical work has also led to budgets being shaved and it is not unusual for an entire campaign to be turned around in two weeks for about £100,000.

Australia's best work of the year has been for banks, not beer, with M&C Saatchi Melbourne's ANZ work being the most noteworthy. The campaign, which has an honest approach in the style of a VW campaign, has been consistently strong.

New Zealand, by contrast, has gone alternative media mad. "Lacking the budgets to make a splash on TV or in print, pavements, drains, bins and anything that can be painted has been painted with messages for anything from clothes to mortgage advice,

Kneebone says. "Sadly, however, the creative idea does not tend to go beyond the visual pun."

Another ad popular in Australia with industry and public alike is the new TV work for Fox Sports. Malcolm Poynton, the creative director at Saatchi & Saatchi Sydney, agrees that overall adspend is down, but says that this does not reflect the state of the economy which is relatively healthy.

"However, the decline in production budgets does mean that we try to give some of the younger directors a break,

Poynton says.

The same is true of France, according to Olivier Altman, the creative director of BDDP et Fils, who says: "The other trend is the desire by creatives to direct their own commercials and the trend for a provocative approach incorporating different taboos."

Notable work which follows these trends includes Leagas Delaney Paris' "tidy up

spot for Ikea, featuring a child playing with a vibrator; an ad for the laxative Dulcolax by Jean & Montmarin, and a campaign by Enjoy Scher Lafarge for the optician Visual, during which a doctor with bad eyesight mistakenly examines a patient's backside instead of his throat.

Spain has had a tough year, Toni Segarra, the creative director of S.C.P.F, says: "I think that during the first half of the year, the industry sank into a deep depression that we are just coming out of now. I'm afraid that 2001 has been a year of re-adaptation."

"This has prevented development and innovation, so we are basically reproducing schemes from previous years: a certain hyper-realism, a taste for surrealism and some inkling of violence,

Segarra adds.

He believes that the only campaign that has really captured the imagination is an internet ad from a tiny below-the-line Basque agency called Dimension.

The work, for the local phone company Euskaltel, is almost the Spanish version of "whassup?".

"It is very funny, very simple, and has managed to get half of Spain shouting 'Paatxxi!' at all hours,

Segarra says. "It's always impossible to predict Cannes winners, but what is certain is that there's a lot less to choose from this year. The only consolation is that things can only get better.

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