As I sit down to write this, the news is full of stories of the
British failure to be represented at Cannes, the film festival that is
not the advertising one.
The reason I mention this is to raise the issue of awards and their
relevance to our industry. It seems the problem at Cannes is the British
inability to make "meaningful" films as opposed to commercially
successful ones. Does one preclude the other?
This, of course, is the big question of advertising awards. In fact, one
could say the Holy Grail of advertising is to link creativity to brand
success. If we accept, as Mr Bernbach once pointed out, that persuasion
is an art not a science, then the success generated by our creativity
must be a consideration in selecting awards.
As the US is the largest advertising market in the world, it is surely
there that this question becomes most poignant. Er, well, no.
When you use the word creative in America you have to be very
Creativity to most clients in America means "edgy". I remember a
credentials presentation to the marketing director of a large company.
After I had shown our reel he said: "Hmm, very interesting, all that
creative stuff went out in the 60s." There's not a lot you can say to
that apart from goodbye.
In fact, in surveys conducted by the 4As (America's IPA) when they ask
clients what they look for in their agency, creativity comes in at about
number three. So, as I'm in the process of making broad sweeping
statements, it would be fair to say creativity (edginess) in America
exists at the margins.
The American heartland, the place occupied by those big consumer brands,
is not renowned for its "creativity". It relies on presence. Presence
backed by millions of dollars. In America, big isn't just good. Big is
right. This is the dilemma for "creative" agencies in the US. As they
grow, as they take on bigger pieces of business, how do they maintain
Of course, there are exceptions.
Volkswagen has consistently challenged the supremacy of the American car
giants with its witty, daring ads.
Nike has entered the mainstream with "edgy" work, mainly because its
target market is primarily youthful. One has to admire this brand. For
the past 15 years it has stood at the cutting edge, building a global
phenomenon. Despite recent hiccups it's still a truly remarkable
success. But ultimately, America is a country run by corporations. After
all, they've just put their man in the White House. And most
corporations don't like edgy, it's dangerous.
Of course there is change afoot.
Procter & Gamble announced it's looking at its advertising model to see
how it can make it work more creatively.
But ultimately, as you flip through the One Show winners, the funny,
daring, distinctive thinking is on the outside looking in. Yes, Fox
Sports is great, I wish I had done it. But ultimately it only lives on
Fox. It stays in its corner talking to its people.
Advertising that exists at the margins by and large only affects the
For a brand to become an icon it must develop fame. Fame only occurs
when you talk to a broad audience. And, of course, to create fame you
need ideas and, in America Inc, ideas are dangerous. So let's stick with
a technique. After all, nobody ever objected to a blue filter.
With the continuing fragmentation of media, will the big corporations be
forced to be more creative? Will the advent of TiVo force advertisers to
rethink their outmoded advertising principals? Change, we hope, is
The only problem, is you won't see a lot of it at this year's One
To return to the point I started with, awards have to be not only about
creativity, but creativity that builds brand success that generates
That's the ultimate reward. Just as at Cannes, surely the answer is to
produce commercially successful films that have integrity and
Gold: Outdoor (single)
Agency: Fallon London
This thought left me a little cold. No doubt fans of Geldof - "I don't
like Mondays" - will be roaring in the aisle. Sadly I was never much of
a fan. Ultimately this is a fashion statement, your competition is
Swatch. It doesn't cut it for me.
Gold: Consumer TV over 30"
Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi London
Nicely played out little scenario on how to handle your dealings with
your boss. And, naturally, if you get it wrong Monster will sort out an
alternative. Is it a great brand-building idea? Does it differentiate
the brand? Does it work into other media? Should it have been awarded a
Gold: Magazine colour (single)
Title: Lettuce Girl
Client: Volkswagen of America
Agency: Arnold Worldwide Boston
This is my favourite campaign by far. A real lesson in brand-building.
By hardly showing the product I'm made to search it out. Yes, I know
I've seen similar ideas before, but this is so right for the new Beetle.
Gold: Newspaper over 600 lines (single)
Title: Start /finish
Agency: Black Sheep Singapore
How much longer, you think, can Nike go on capturing the essence of
sport, especially now that, for all intents and purposes, it's a fashion
brand. Also, maintaining the facade of a genuine sports brand when
you're involved in about every sport going must take some doing. This ad
works because it talks absolutely to the fanatical runner.
Gold: Newspaper over 600 lines
Title: MacSomething, Obscure Pale Ale
I think one of the oldest ideas in the book is to take a famous or
familiar pack and rewrite the product name and copy to say something
completely different. Obviously the One Show jury thought it worthy of
another go and, just to be sure, gave it a gold.
Gold: Newspaper 600 lines or less (single)
Title: Reading the paper
Client: Museum of Modern Art
Agency: TBWA/Chiat/Day/Los Angeles
I was very disappointed with this ad. I was under the impression that
people feel quite intimidated by contemporary art. Surely the purpose of
advertising would be to draw them into the experience, not confuse them
even further. Obviously, a very artistic jury.
Gold: Consumer magazine less than a page (single)
Title: Don't Ambulate
Client: The Heritage Dictionary
This is a very smart piece of thinking. Selling dictionaries isn't high
on my agenda of campaigns to do, but this handles it cleverly. Does it
stand out? I'm not sure the art direction grabs me. Do I feel a bit
Waterstones - that's possibly a little unfair. But they did do it so
Gold: Best of Show
Title: Utah, San Antonio, L.A., New York
Client: Fox Sports
Agency: Cliff Freeman & Partners New York
If there's an award for effectiveness it should go to this campaign.
Basketball is increasingly a black sport, played by black stars followed
by black (sorry African American) fans. The brief - reconnect with white
youth - it does so brilliantly. I still marvel at how they did it. If
you saw "the joins" the whole thing would fall apart.