In the week we were judging this year’s BTAA, knowing I’d be
goggling at over 1,000 commercials, a couple of people offered
commiserations along the lines of, ’Poor you, what an ordeal’, etc. And
it is true that I emerged blinking from the viewing theatre at the end
of each day as pallid and as pop-eyed as Gollum, muttering, ’Ah,
Perhaps I am as sad and as sick as Tolkien’s ghoul because, actually, I
found watching commercials all day long a pleasure and a privilege.
It helped, of course, that the films we saw represented the top 10 per
cent of all those aired in the year.
Only a handful looked like a wilful waste of the entry fees.
Our job was to whittle that 10 per cent down to the top 1 per cent. Then
down to the top 0.001 per cent for the golds and silvers. Not easy,
given that the jurors came from three distinct areas within our
That’s what separates BTAA from other awards ’do’s’. Clients comprise
one-third of the jury. Production companies and agency creatives make up
the other two-thirds. You’d imagine getting people with such different
perspectives to agree on anything, let alone on what is outstanding
advertising, would be nigh impossible - but, amazingly, it wasn’t.
Clients can and do recognise brilliant work. But where creative people
can sometimes judge work in a vacuum, as advertising art, the clients on
the jury wanted to bring us back to earth, raising issues of branding
and of communications objectives.
That being said, it was revealing that only a couple of films polarised
opinion. The VW Polo ’Self Defence’ commercial excited some radically
different views, and debate about the Levi’s ’’Sta-Prest’ ads was also
vigorous. The campaign hadn’t made it to the short-list, but the jury
insisted on bringing it back and, pleasingly, even gave it an arrow.
’Good on yer,’ I wanted to say to my jurors about this wonderfully
off-the-wall work, but I bit my tongue. As the chairman, you’re meant to
be dignified and diffident, rather than noisily enthusiastic. Yet there
was much to be enthusiastic about. Looking at the 1,200 commercials
submitted, we got to peer right into the heart of our industry. It seems
to me to be in pretty good nick. As evidence of this overall
healthiness, please note the gold award winners came from a broad
spectrum of categories.
On the other hand, with the notable exception of Guinness’s ’Swimblack’,
the beer and drinks category was surprisingly threadbare. There were no
entries whatsoever in household appliances. And the corporate category,
though it did throw up a gold, had few films of real quality.
At the end of it all, we had five commercials up for the Big One - the
What this tells you is that there was no one single film which, right
from the start, everyone knew would do the business. In 1995, even
before the judges had met, it was almost certain Levi’s ’Drugstore’
would be voted best commercial of the year. In 1997, Blackcurrant Tango
’St. George’ had success written all over it. This year, though several
jurors had started off confidently predicting who would win the ultimate
prize, they were all wrong. That being said, they wound up being pretty
close to unanimous when it came to the Grand Prix.
When you see the award winners, I hope you’ll agree that there are some
remarkable talents strutting our stage. Writers and art directors, whose
scripts are given polish by some outstanding directors, supported by
some of the best technicians in the world. Being able to honour the
brightest and best in our industry is an honour for me and my jury.