THE ONE SHOW WINNERS: At the One Show, the US’s premier advertising award ceremony, the winners don’t pull their punch lines. These ads are raucous, sick and very funny - and make London look a wee bit tame, Nick Cohen says

The One Show. 6 May 1999, Lincoln Center, New York City.

The One Show. 6 May 1999, Lincoln Center, New York City.

Many years ago, when I was just starting out, I remember something David

Abbott said at one of those D&AD lectures that always stuck with me:

’When someone is sitting at home watching television, your ad is a rude

intrusion into their life. The least you can do is be nice’ ... or

something like that.

With that in mind, I wonder what Mr Abbott was thinking as he graced us

with his presence at this year’s One Show awards ceremony. Defenceless

gerbils being shot out of grenade launchers, innocent children being

savaged by wild dogs ( Freeman & Partners), frail old

age pensioners being used as slaves (Fox Sports/Cliff Freeman),

teenagers accidentally killing their parents (Rear seatbelts/Abbott Mead

Vickers BBDO), and phone sex hookers offering to ’suck your hot, wet,

throbbing cock, big boy’ (Condom/Saatchi & Saatchi, Cape Town).

Pretty raucous stuff, compared to your typical well-argued,

intelligently written, tastefully crafted double-page spread in the

Sunday supplements.

This is the One Show we’re at, right? The pre-eminent industry award

show in America. The gold standard for all that’s great in


La creme de la creme. The biggy. Did I perchance wander into the wrong

part of the hallowed hallways of New York City’s Lincoln Center? More

significantly, has the phrase, ’Let me suck your hot, wet, throbbing

cock, big boy’, ever been uttered on the stage of the Lincoln


OK, OK ... I exaggerate. It wasn’t all like that. There were very polite

campaigns for VW, the ’surprisingly ordinary prices’ stuff (BMP DDB

London), lots of tastefully art directed ads selling Swiss Army Knives

(Mullen), gently inspiring posters for the Tate Gallery (TBWA GGT Simons

Palmer), even one of those classic Economist ads (AMV) that make you

feel semi-intelligent because you get the joke (’preciate it Dave).

There was also an intriguing TV campaign touting Nike, featuring an

array of bizarre fitness training techniques (snow boarders jumping off

of skyscrapers, footballers being chased by blood-thirsty dogs etc) and

a slightly droll but hilarious campaign for Miller Beer that glamorises

beer guts and takes the piss out of the French all at the same time

(both Wieden & Kennedy, Portland).

But even with all this relatively ’nice’ work, why did I fall asleep

that night with the image of terrified toddlers, in tears because had forcefully tattooed its logo on their foreheads? Is this

a good thing?

Should we be worried? Should Cliff Freeman be immediately closed down,

and the principals publicly flogged?

I dunno. I did find it all pretty funny. A bit of a hoot. I also think

this mutant flavour of work is understandable. With so many new

companies emerging, fuelled largely by the e-commerce gold rush, it

seems that the rule of thumb right now, at least here in America, is

’whatever it takes, generate awareness and buzz’. It all makes for a

very vibrant advertising scene.

Come on London. You’re getting a little bland in your old age.

Nick Cohen is co-chairman and executive creative director at Mad Dogs &

Englishmen, New York. He started his career ’properly’ at Mavity Gilmore

Jaume in London in 1983 where his best-known work was the Mauritius


He moved to New York in 1987 and worked briefly at Ogilvy & Mather

before joining Chiat Day. He founded Mad Dogs in 1991. The agency has

won awards for various clients including The Village Voice, The

Economist, Nickelodeon, Wired, Out Magazine, Shelter Clothing, Friends

of Animals and MTV Networks.


As these spots unfold we are led to believe that we are watching public

service announcements for people suffering from tragic illness or major

disabilities ... but no, in fact, the man courageously using his feet to

change a baby’s diaper is actually in perfect health. He just needs his

hands to scan the latest news on Fox Sport’s website. Very sick. Very

funny. Voted Best of Show.

Client: Fox Sports

Agency: Cliff Freeman & Partners, New York

Titles: feet, kids, old man


Ahhhh ... a sentimental ode to Uncle Bill Bernbach. Say no more. What

strikes me as odd about this ad is that the unabashed honesty seems so

undramatically normal these days. I guess the whole world is a lot more

savvy to marketing techniques.

Client: Volkswagen of America

Agency: Arnold Communications, Boston Title 0-60


Very unglamorous lighting. Close up and slightly raw photography.

We see an overweight, middle-aged man digging a knife into a big sloppy

jar of mayonnaise ... A laid-back, authoritative voiceover comments,

’It’s hard to respect the French when you had to bail ’em out of two big

ones ... but you’ve got to hand it to them ... for the mayonnaise ...

Thanks, Pierre.’ Miller cleverly succeeded in making eating unhealthy

food, guzzling beer and being a big, fat slob highly aspirational.

(Fuckin’ eh!)

Client: Miller Brewing Co

Agency: Wieden & Kennedy, Portland

Title: mayonnaise


A spoof of one of those home shopping cable channels. We see a kitsch

ceramic monkey on a surf board as the current item for sale. A young

caller is on the phone line, giggling and coughing ... he sounds very

stoned. He’s just ordered 15 of these ceramic monkeys and wants to get

some more. A title card comes up pronouncing that pot can be an

expensive habit. (I hate to say this, but I would quite like to own at

least one of them surfin’ monkeys ... maybe they should have chosen a

different object.)

Client: Partnership for a Drug-free America

Agency: Team One Advertising

Title: surfing monkey


’What are you getting ready for?’ is supered at the culmination of each

of these spots, dramatising far-fetched training methods. Brilliantly

filmed and edited, this mammoth campaign was the work of ten different

writers and art directors, which made each commercial very unique and

un-cookie cutterish.

Client: Nike

Agency Wieden & Kennedy, Portland

Titles: jumper, kordell, rejection, meat, bulls, marathon man


Art directed to mirror billboards for Marlboro Cigarettes.

Client: California Department of Health Services

Agency: Asher & Partners, Los Angeles

Title: I miss my lung, Bob


The copy at the end of each ad reads: ’Please send all complaints to’ The intention of this campaign is to generate mass

awareness of the name by creating shocking, despicable


Live gerbils being fired from grenade launchers ... a kids soccer team

being torn apart by ferocious dogs ... toddlers in a day care centre

being permanently tattooed with logos. (I almost forgot to

mention that sells computer hardware and software online.)


Agency: Cliff Freeman & Partners, New York

Titles: cannon, band, forehead


t was really funny watching the One Show audience react to this

Wonderbra ad. There was a three-second delay before the ball


Then massive laughter and applause. Magic!

Client: Playtex

Agency: TBWA Hunt Lascaris, Johannesburg

Title: feet.