Feature

Cannes: Craigen on judging TV, Cinema

For me the trick, secret, call it what you will, behind judging television work is that when I first look at a script, I am looking for potential.

Will what I see on this piece of paper lead to a great TV commercial?

In print, possibly the purest form of an idea, the idea is there, bang in front of your eyes. What you see is what you get (I'm not trying to knock still photographers here, they obviously have a very important role to play).

In TV, it's more complicated. The script is just the starting point.

What may not actually seem like a great idea on paper can make for a great television commercial.

Take Sony "balls" for instance. It isn't a great "idea" as such, but it's a bloody brilliant TV commercial. A beautiful celebration of colour. But do you remember the press ads? It was the same idea, you know.

For me the brilliance of the Sony "balls" commercial is the vision taken by everyone involved.

The vision of the creative who wrote it, the vision of the creative director who approved it and, of course, the vision of the client who bought it.

All these people saw something special on a piece of paper.

And this script should be an ever evolving piece of paper. In fact, the TV script, first approved can often be a very different animal to the script discussed at the pre-prod (or even the pre- pre- pre- pre- pre- pre-prod, come to think of it ...).

Of course, with the amount of people involved in making a television commercial, it's hardly surprising the script changes so much.

And sometimes, not for the better.

It's my job, throughout this whole collaborative process, to make sure we never lose sight of the original idea or insight. That we don't get too starry eyed with a director. That we know which are the right battles to fight and when it is right to compromise.

Judging television is not a one-day affair. Judging televison can last for many months, from the idea, to pre-production, to the shoot itself, to the editing suite and so on.

It's what makes it so much fun. And so frightening.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS ... VW GOLF

I've chosen Night Drive, our latest commercial for the Volkswagen Golf, as an example of the "evolving script". What started off as one of a number of loose ideas presented to VW on the generic brief of "the Golf is a driver's car," turned out, in my mind anyway, to be one of the finest VW commercials I've ever been involved with.

A lot of the credit should go to Catherine Woolfe, the VW client, who a few weeks after first seeing it, decided it was still one of the more interesting ideas she had seen and could we re-look at it.

The original script was based on the observation that anyone who lives in the city only seems to drive their cars in rush hour, but what if you were to go out in the middle of the night, when the roads are empty and really experience the freedom of driving? On paper it was fine, but not great.

It was only when Sam and Shish, the creative team, came back with a Richard Burton reading of Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas as the soundtrack that I knew we had the makings of something special. It created a feeling that really brought the idea on paper to life. It transformed it.

With the director Noam Murro on board, the script went through further changes. Out went the narrative element to the ad (the original script had the driver leaving his house at the start of the ad and returning at the end) and the location changed to Los Angeles, the ultimate driving city and a nice juxtaposition to the poem about a Welsh town. All we needed to be careful about was that we made a film about night driving, not about the city at night.

It's a commercial I never tire of watching, that happily dragged me away from the pool on holiday to view the 19th re-cut. A commercial I hope you like as much I do. A commercial that started life as ok.

- Jeremy Craigen joined DDB London in 1990 from Bates Dorland. As a copywriter, he worked on a number of accounts, winning awards for work on Volkswagen, Budweiser, Sony, American Airlines and Optrex. In 2002, he was made creative director and in 2005, he was promoted to executive creative director.