It's not every advertising award scheme that can stake a claim to have played a part in the birth of a whole new advertising agency. The Annas can - and in their very first year, at that.
At the inaugural ceremony held at the Mall Galleries on 25 January 2005, the top Winner of Winners award went to Lowe London's creative team of Jason Lawes and Sam Cartmell for their "Granny Smith" ad for Tesco. This was very pleasing for the pair - but you could have forgiven them for having other things on their minds when they stepped up to accept their award.
The pair were heavily involved in the launch of Frank Lowe's new venture, The Red Brick Road. Their £25,000 Annas prize money was used to help get the agency off the ground.
Lawes says he's slightly embarrassed at not following in the supposed industry tradition of spending winnings, any winnings, on "loose cars and fast women". Previous generations of ad men may have been able to justify certain legendary tendencies toward excess. Lawes says he just wants to produce legendary advertising.
"Hopefully, with a lot of hard work and the wind in the right direction, we can do some work that becomes famous," he says.
Funded by the UK's major national newspapers, the Annas (Awards for National Newspaper Advertising) were created by the Newspaper Marketing Agency to shine a spotlight on the best newspaper ads, and to inspire agencies and advertisers to perform new feats of creative brilliance.
As well as the Winner of Winners award, there were three craft skills awards (for Copywriting, Art Direction and Typography) presented on the night by the host, Jack Dee.
"We thought the awards were fantastic, but we would say that because we won," the other half of the Winner of Winners creative team, Cartmell, says. "We thought the whole thing was really refreshing. For instance, the fact that your work is selected by the judging panel, not entered in the way that it's entered in most other awards."
Cartmell is the copywriting half of the team - and he has that most dubious of writing pedigrees, having previously been a journalist. He worked on local papers and The Sun briefly, before heading out to Hong Kong, where he acquired his copywriting skills. Back in London, he was offered a job by Ammirati Puris Lintas in 1997 at pretty much the same time as Lawes joined. Lawes had arrived there by a more traditional route - getting his start in the agency world at Bates Dorland, where he worked in the despatch department after art college.
Since teaming up there - staying on as APL merged with Lowe - the pair have won D&AD, Eurobest, Creative Circle, and British Television Advertising Awards. They've even won a Campaign Media Award for their work on Peperami.
Both Cartmell and Lawes believe that awards such as the Annas play an important part in focusing attention on craft skills, which is especially important at a time when there's an increasing temptation to go for quick-fix solutions aimed at digital media.
Cartmell adds that awards like this can be food for thought where clients are concerned, too. He says: "Clients don't have the same focus on advertising awards as agencies do, but about half-a-dozen of them attended and they enjoyed the evening."
The art director Mark Reddy and copy-writer Dean Webb won the Typography award for their "Harvard" ad for American Airlines while at McCann Erickson. They split the cash with Gary Todd, McCann's typographer.
Of all the winners, though, Reddy, now at Bartle Bogle Hegarty, has easily the most impressive (and eccentric) answer when asked what he spent his prize money on. He bought a ukulele. No, really. But it was no ordinary ukulele. Reddy bought a Johnny "Ukulele Ace" Marvin airplane-bridge uke from the late 20s or early 30s.
Marvin was a celebrated recording star of the era, with hits such as the unforgettable Oh, How She Could Play the Ukulele; he endorsed a line of tenor ukes produced by the Standard company. Reddy acquired the instrument from the celebrated Australian comedy magician (and ukulele collector) Chuck Fayne, who had bought it from a busker in Hobart, Tasmania.
For Webb, the win came at a fortuitous time - he was about to go freelance. "It sounds naughty, but the cash helped pay the mortgage for a month while I watched the World Cup," he says.
Webb was impressed with the Annas, not just because he was one of the winners last year, but because of the way they are constructed. "They're different because you don't get to enter - the awards people come and find you."
Webb also says that the Annas are also helping to keep the momentum behind a renaissance of creativity in the national press medium. A couple of years ago, industry commentators were talking - with justification - about the death of the copywriter. Now, Webb says, people are appreciating the power of the written word once more; they understand that ads have to be lovingly crafted and structured.
He says: "As a dyed-in-the-wool copywriter, I love language and I think our American Airlines work has shown you can have an ad that features long copy which looks beautiful, too."
Alan Wilson and Diccon Driver at Lowe London took the Art Direction award for a Stella Artois execution, called "high street".
The pair met at Leeds College of Art and Design in the early 90s. They've effectively been a team ever since, working first at a succession of regional agencies. Before joining Lowe, the pair worked at Harrison Troughton Wunderman and Walsh Trott Chick Smith.
They've picked up an impressive haul of awards for their work for Stella Artois down the years - and followed the Annas triumph with a bronze at Cannes in the summer of 2006.
Neither were particularly inspired to go shopping by their windfall - Wilson merely paid off some of his credit card bill, while Driver, who's clearly even more astute when it comes to money matters, paid back a sum of money that his father had loaned him.
Driver, though, says he's a fan of the Anna awards. "The attraction is the calibre of the judges," he says. "That, rather than the prize, is what appeals. "
Driver is a passionate advocate for creative excellence in national newspapers - and he continues to believe it's a stimulating medium to be in. Nor does he believe the growth in the importance of digital media has bumped press down the pecking order in the eyes of creative departments.
"I know the fashionable place to be these days is probably digital, but I still think press is a more interesting medium," he says. In fact, he reckons that craft skills in the press medium are as healthy as they've ever been.
"Perhaps it's a case of fashions coming and going - but recently there have been lots of examples of ads which play to a greater range of traditional press advertising virtues."
Ben Tollett, a copywriter, and Emer Stamp, an art director, now at DDB London, won the Copywriting award for their "Cath Kidston" ad for Millets when they were at Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy - but confess that they let the prize money seep anonymously into their bank balances.
Not that they aren't partial to the kudos that comes with awards - right from the start of their partnership (they teamed up six years ago at Leagas Delaney), they began producing award-winning work for Harrods and Adidas. They then moved to MCBD, where, alongside their notable press work for Millets, the high point was the creation of the Travelocity campaign, which starred Alan Whicker.
Their total haul in their career so far includes the IPA Grand Prix, golds and silvers at Campaign Press and "a page or two" in D&AD.
WHO WON WHAT IN 2006?
POUNDS 25,000 WINNER OF WINNERS AWARD
Best national newspaper ad of 2005
Jason Lawes and Sam Cartmell, Lowe London (since moved to The Red Brick
"Granny Smith" for Tesco
POUNDS 5,000 CRAFT SKILLS PRIZES
Emer Stamp and Ben Tollett, Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy (since moved
"Cath Kidston" for Millets
Alan Wilson and Diccon Driver, Lowe London
"high street" for Stella Artois
Mark Reddy and Dean Webb, McCann Erickson
"Harvard" for American Airlines