British creatives are still setting the gold standard
A view from Jeremy Lee

British creatives are still setting the gold standard

In just a few short weeks, the advertising industry will make like gypsies heading for the Appleby Horse Fair by decamping en masse to the Côte d'Azur as the Cannes Lions caravan rolls into town.

The suitably peripatetic Matthew Charlton, the former chief executive of BETC London and new managing director of Brothers and Sisters, has posited the theory elsewhere that, if current trends continue, we’ll be in "negative Lions equity" in five years’ time. Statistics, Charlton suggests, reveal that the UK will actually have to start handing the trophies back.

It’s a neat enough forecast, I suppose (if rather gloomy and silly) – after all, Charlton is right that UK agencies haven’t exactly been storming the Palais stage in recent years – but one I don’t think accounts for the quality of our creative output at its best. And it is this that was in such rich supply at the British Arrows last week. The fact that a record 618 pieces of work were entered and then eventually whittled down to 16 gold winners seems to show that the industry is actually in pretty rude health – despite the naysayers. Equally, with spots such as Leo Burnett’s brilliant "second chance" for Business in the Community and Jung von Matt’s "chicken" for Mercedes-Benz only picking up bronzes, the competition and standard of entries can be seen to be very tough indeed.

For those of us sick of hearing about the death of the TV spot from those who are enslaved by the self-interest of "new" technology, the list of winners came as a refreshing break.

The industry isn't very good at patting itself on the back but, in this instance, a hearty dab is entirely appropriate

The Bartle Bogle Hegarty executive creative director, Nick Gill, didn’t make an acceptance speech after being presented with the Chairman’s Award. But then he didn’t really need to – the reel of his work over the years speaks far louder than any words from this rather unnecessarily but endearingly modest and humble man.

And while those same voices that are quick to write off the power of audiovisual advertising may add that this is evidence of an old man’s game, Christopher Keatinge and Dan Bennett, the BMB duo who picked up a gold for Best New Creative Team, show that craft skills are still very much alive.

The industry isn’t very good at patting itself on the back but, in this instance, a hearty dab is entirely appropriate. So as you pack your white linen and loafers (or thick worsted jacket, if you’re Charles Vallance), it’s maybe worth reflecting that, whatever ephemerality is in vogue internationally this year, true quality of domestic thought and output is rather more enduring.

Or as the appropriate gypsy proverb says: "It is better to be the head of a mouse than the tail of a lion."