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
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
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
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
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
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).