Opinion: Perspective - Big Awards show celebrating creativity is crucial

It's no surprise that Laurence Green should be the man to put his finger on it.

As the chairman of our Big Awards jury and as one of the sharpest thinkers in the business, he's nailed a fundamental truth about the advertising industry's work over the past 12 months: great advertising is not about choosing one media channel at the expense of another.

Television work, when it's good, is still really bloody good. All things digital are still a repository for innovation and exciting creative advances. And the media in between trundle on without being able to offer inspiring new creative possibilities or surprising us with amazingly fresh new thinking. But the best agencies and the best clients are mixing and matching from an ever-expanding communications palette; siloed thinking is well and truly on its knees.

So it's brilliant to see a nicely traditional TV campaign - VCCP's work for comparethemarket.com - seamlessly integrating a digital element (both real and spoof) and taking the top TV prize.

And it's testament to the TV jury that a truly popular, populist creative idea such as Aleksandr the meerkat should triumph above more artsy work.

Aleksandr is exciting because he has made the ultimate transition from advertising into the real world: advertising as popular culture. That doesn't happen very often any more, mostly because it's harder than ever to find a large enough media community that will collectively engage with your work. It's proof of the residual power of television when harnessed to the opportunities of the web and the kooky brilliance of the meerkat idea that Aleksandr has achieved that.

But even though I must admit that classy work such as DDB's Wallace and Gromit ads for Harvey Nichols or its Marmite campaign don't thrill me in the same way as AKQA's eco:Drive for Fiat, it's tremendously reassuring to see great work still being produced in all media, not just the bookends of TV and digital. In fact, it's not just reassuring, it's absolutely vital to recognise and celebrate the fact that creative standards are as high as ever across the board, despite all the serious financial pressures at play.

Of course, there are plenty of people quick to dismiss advertising awards as ego-boosting froth that has little to do with the job of selling products and services. Tosh. Although effectiveness is only a bit-player in our Big Awards, all of the winners have made a positive contribution to the health of the brands they serve and these sort of creative awards set a bar for the whole industry (clients and agencies) to try to better.

Better creative work is good for the advertising industry (still the first place clients come for transformational, creatively led big ideas) and good for ad-cynical, media-overloaded consumers who demand to be "entertained" if they're to give brands some attention. Celebrating and rewarding creative excellence has, in truth, never been more important.

I was on holiday when Bartle Bogle Hegarty announced that it was having to make 40 redundancies. At the time (from my sun lounger) I was conflicted over my belief that the agency is one of the best-run and best all-round agencies in town and my feeling that the agency had made a major mistake, having asked staff to take unpaid leave to avert job losses only to announce several months later that job losses were inevitable.

To be honest, I felt let down by an agency I've always held in the highest possible regard. And I don't even work there.

Now over the past few weeks, I've seen a steady flow of good people leaving BBH (Mick Mahoney being the latest, defecting to Euro RSCG this week).

If you need an example of the high cost the recession is extracting from the advertising industry, look at BBH. But please don't bet against the agency turning it around and reasserting its usual stature.


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