CLOSE-UP: LIVE ISSUE - Adland must convince clients of the power of ad production

Two senior industry figures debate the winning ads at the 2003 BTA Craft Awards.

RUSSELL RAMSEY, creative director, Bartle Bogle Hegarty

There's never been a better time to be making TV commercials. Great directors, great editors and great sound designers are all at our disposal, backed up by the latest technology. Led by the usual suspects - Frank Budgen, Danny Kleinman, etc - and the newer boys such as Nicholai Fusilig and Nick Gordon, the UK is producing some of the most well-crafted ads in the world.

The thing that unites these people is their passion for their craft and their obsession with detail. They know that a great ad has to have great everything. From framing and composition to sound and graphics. That's why the best directors surround themselves with the best people. We have a duty to give them interesting and entertaining scripts that allow them to contribute to full effect.

Strong, simple ideas that allow the director room to manoeuvre. We need to allow the editor the freedom to pace things properly without forcing in extra, unnecessary shots. Titles and graphics need to be free from over-restricted corporate guidelines. When film people are given the right script, they can deliver in spade-loads. See Nike "stickman frisbee", Xbox "ear tennis" and Honda "cog" for details.

All these ads use sophisticated post-production and it's this area that has moved on the most in recent years. Computer-generated images have had a major impact on commercials production. Anything is possible. Men behaving like fish (Johnnie Walker), fish behaving like cars (Audi).

Honda "cog" couldn't have been made even a few years ago. An apparently one-take ad made up of dozens of complex components. But these ads don't just stop at clever computer jiggery-pokery, every other detail has been considered and perfected. The film stock, the grading, the sound, the character of voiceover. Care and attention are what it's all about.

Great TV production isn't just about the big-budget jobs. Of course it's great to see the likes of Guinness "surfer" when they come along, but low-budget films can deliver just as much interest and entertainment. What about the brilliant John Smith's ads from last year, four people sitting in a curry house?

The Radio 1 Xtra "street music" ad is beautifully put together, filmed in an unglamorous location, it's all the fresher for it and has a soundtrack that only someone who cares deeply about these things could have mastered.

Not having big budgets requires us to think harder and be more inventive. Braver choices of directors, deeper searches for music, finding people who are on their way up and have a passion for film.

Most clients think that money spent on media is money well spent and money spent on production is at best a necessary evil and at worst wasted.

We need to make every penny count but also convince them that the value they get from fantastically produced commercials is more than worthwhile.

STEPHEN GASH, joint managing director, Large Corp

Craft? A black art or something so obvious it leaps out of the screen and knocks you between the eyes.

A bit of both probably. Looking at the winners of this year's British Television Advertising Craft Awards - all of the specialist skills of which the industry is so rightly proud are alive and kicking.

If asked whether the ads that went to the podium last week would have been good enough to win in previous years, then the answer - from where I'm sat at least - is a resounding "yes". The winners gained unanimous approval from the audience (try saying that about D&AD or Cannes) and are a tribute to people who perhaps don't get the recognition they deserve.

The list of finalists was almost self-selecting. Anyone who's worth even half their salt in this business should know quality when they see it - and the Craft Awards made sure this quality was recognised.

And guess what? We are already looking at the finalists for next year. Frank Budgen's TBWA PlayStation2 spot, Ivan Zacharias' new Honda "little thing's that work" ad for Wieden & Kennedy - you just know they'll be collecting shiny things for the next 12 months. An appearance at the Craft Awards 2004? Dead cert.

So far so good ... But if I do have a worry about "craft", it is this. Last week's heroes won craft awards because (as it so accurately says on the tin) they were exactly that - crafted. And crafting something takes time.

If you were to ask anyone concerned with any of the winning ads (and, to save you the bother, I have), they all enjoyed a sensible amount of prep time.

Craft isn't a line in a budget. It's not a bolt-on element that turns up at the shoot on the day. It's an ingredient that the director (and the team of people he or she brings together on the job) can add to a production given sufficient time.

Mark Denton didn't just put "Bad Barnet" on the A-to-Z for Brylcreem, he brought the whole damned place alive through the ideas he generated for elements outside the spot itself. And Nick Gordon's Radio 1 Xtra promo took a great idea and added layers of interest not just through collaboration with the team but also with his heads of department (not least through astonishing sound design).

If the production process is condensed into five days from script to shoot, don't expect too much "craft". But give the director as much lead time as possible and they in turn will try and draw on all the expertise they can access in an effort to add something special to every aspect of the commercial.


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