TOP PERFORMERS OF 1998: CAMPAIGN OF THE YEAR - VW POLO/BMP DDB took its already outstanding work for the Polo to a higher plane with subtle and witty executions that achieved standout in TV, press and outdoor

Amid 1998’s mounting insecurity about the standard of British advertising creativity against the rest of the world’s, there were a number of fine campaigns; two or three that will stand the test of time and one truly magnificent campaign - our 1998 winner, Volkswagen Polo.

Amid 1998’s mounting insecurity about the standard of British

advertising creativity against the rest of the world’s, there were a

number of fine campaigns; two or three that will stand the test of time

and one truly magnificent campaign - our 1998 winner, Volkswagen


As in recent years, Polo was not the only work by BMP DDB for VW that

proved a contender: the continuing excellence of the Passat ’obsession’

work forced its way into contention. But Polo saw off serious

competition from ’fcuk’, One2One and Nike to take the prize.

What most impressed us was the Polo campaign’s excellence across

different media and BMP’s ability to take the already outstanding output

of the previous year onto a still higher plane.

For some of us, the ’tai-chi’ TV spot was the ad of the year. The

evening class going through its paces in a gym hall merits repeat

viewing while the viewer pieces together exactly what is going on.

’Tai-chi’ is one of the few ads on air that can stop us dead in the

middle of a break. It’s a more than worthy successor to last year’s

’small’ commercial.

If being stopped in our tracks is increasingly rare during TV breaks, it

is extraordinarily so in the press. That is why ’self-protection’,

’protected species’, the out-of-focus wedding couple with the price of a

Polo in sharp contrast on a bus-side behind them and all the other

executions are regarded as being industry-leading.

In the outdoor medium, too, ’swear-box’ and the bubble-wrapped bus

shelters were among the most innovative work of the year.

It helps that the Polo is a fine car. VW’s only problem appears to be

that the advertising works too well and can cause a backlog of


VW’s overall market share last year rose from 5.5 per cent to 6.7 per

cent (source: SMMT).

Of the three other serious contenders, two - One2One and French

Connection - were unqualified sales success stories. Nike is less easy

to decipher.

How quickly we forget, but the first half of 1998 was all about the

anticipation of the World Cup. Nike’s campaign featuring the Brazilian

football team proved another memorable milestone in Wieden & Kennedy’s

long history of outstanding work for the brand.

The ad featuring the entire team displaying their virtuoso tricks before

an airport terminal full of delighted passengers was the commercial of

the year, displaying a joy and confidence rarely seen in ads today.

The theme was picked up by the series of commercials set on a beach as

several of the world’s top players fooled around and displayed a love

for the game that was sometimes lacking during the tournament


The direction across the whole campaign was impeccable and the

soundtracks to both the airport and beach ads proved to be the icing on

the cake.

It’s just hard to separate the advertising from the continuing negative

publicity surrounding Nike’s sales fortunes.

This is not an accusation one could level at One2One. The six

commercials that aired during the year, while lacking the unique sparkle

of Polo or Nike, formed a remarkably consistent body of work that has

succeeded in transforming the image and fortunes of the client’s


Ian Wright’s One2One with Martin Luther King and Chris Evans’ with John

Lennon were the highlights of a year that included ’Trevor 2 Frank’,

’scoop’, ’Manawa’ and ’Stuart’ with varying degrees of executional


In this second year of excellent work from Bartle Bogle Hegarty, ’who

would you most like to have a One2One with?’ has passed into the

vernacular and there is an air of confidence around the brand that was

previously lacking.

As well as reducing the churn rate of customers, raising employee

confidence and helping One2One raise a pounds 1.6 billion loan to

develop its network, the advertising helped One2One increase its

customer base by more than one million, a jump of 150 per cent on the

previous year. It’s all the more remarkable given how dreadful the

previous ads were.

French Connection had not advertised in years before ’fcuk’. This

campaign was the most controversial of all those considered. It seems

that while consumers love it and buy into it, the industry hates it.

Despite being the most genuinely noticeable poster campaign, ’fcuk’ has

not won any major awards and missed out entirely at the IPA

Effectiveness Awards, which was bizarre.

The one man who has absolutely no doubts about the campaign is the

French Connection boss, Stephen Marks. Unveiling record profits, Marks

paid direct tribute to the advertising and vowed to support TBWA GGT

Simons Palmer’s ongoing run-ins with the Advertising Standards


The ad industry’s disdain for the campaign is doubly curious given that

the work is an example of integration in its purest sense: seen the ads,

bought the T-shirts, carried them home in the plastic bags, boosted the

client’s bottom line, improved the image of the chain. What more could

’fcuk’ do?

Other campaigns we’d like to mention include TBWA’s outstanding Sony

Playstation work, BMP’s work for Sony batteries and camcorders, Mother’s

Lilt work for Coca-Cola and its Super Noodles campaign, the in-house

campaign for the Gap, the St Luke’s advertising for the Euro and HHCL &

Partners’ return to form with Egg. But VW Polo was streets ahead.

Previous winners: VW ’affordability’ (1997); Conservative Party (1996);

Miller Pilsner (1995); Wonderbra (1994); Boddingtons (1993).

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