Creative judges: Ross Neil, deputy executive creative director at VCCP London; Dayoung Yun, creative director at VMLY&R and Dave Billing, executive creative director at Fold7
Three top creatives have selected the three top audio ads of 2022 - and now we’re asking you to cast your vote and choose a winner before 2023 rings in at midnight on December 31st.
Dave Billing, executive creative director at Fold7, Ross Neil, deputy executive creative director at VCCP London and Dayoung Yun, creative director at VMLY&R whittled the commercials down to three from a shortlist of 10 that Radiocentre picked from more than 40 entries to the new award, launched with Campaign last month.
Now it’s your turn.You may be tempted to vote for your mates but we’d also like you to consider scripting, production, creative execution, memorability and resonance. As did our judges (more of that below).
Have a listen and vote for your favourite…
The new Audio Ad of the Year Award is free-to-enter and celebrates creativity in audio advertising as well as championing the teams behind the winning work.
The UK commercial radio industry is experiencing record highs in listening hours and continues to grow its share over the BBC. With greater advertising opportunities for brands than ever before, “"We know from our history with creative awards like the Aerials that celebrating stand out audio inspires teams to be more ambitious with their creative,” says Radiocentre client director Lucy Barrett. “In turn this makes advertising more effective and enjoyable to hear.”
Hear from the judges
There’s a widespread misconception that radio is somehow a simplistic medium, a poor cousin to AV. I like to think that it’s just more naked. It’s a communications channel standing proudly in its birthday suit, minus the shiny threads. And that makes it extraordinarily powerful, and extraordinarily difficult to create for.
Without the distraction technique that is moving image, the consumer’s brain zeroes in on a radio ad like a lion picking out a lonely antelope on an empty plain – one false move, and it’s over. Everything has to work so hard to survive.
It starts, of course, with a great idea that can communicate even to the most distracted listener. Sound design that puts you straight in the scene without becoming the main event. Voice casting that actively engages the ear before the brain files it under “wallpaper”. Pitch-perfect acting. Sharp writing. And so on. It’s merciless.
The judges had a good-natured tussle on a few, but we were unanimous on: Whiskas (quirky voice casting, beautiful sound design, simple idea nicely written); Workspace (brilliantly simple idea, executed cleanly and with a surrealist joy); and Rustlers (it felt like you were sitting next to the pub bore, and that VO choice is pure wonkiness). All beautifully confident creatures, calmly striding naked into the world, not showing the fear that strikes the heart of any creative writing radio.
For me, audio ads are the epitome of creativity. I’m a firm believer that restriction pushes creativity. So, being a limited medium, audio forces creativity in every aspect which is a challenging, yet fun, provocation.
From ideation to craftsmanship, everything counts. For this reason, I love audio ads that truly utilise their tools - voice talent, sound effects and music - to tell the brand story. Even flipping the lack of tools; turning no visuals into an opportunity to enhance that storytelling experience.
All 10 ads ticked these boxes one way or another, but the ones that truly stood out to me were Whiskas and Workspace.
Whiskas, for its great use of SFX, rooted in a great idea and insight. I believe in the first-three-second rule to grab people’s attention, and, in this ad, the opening SFX really hit that note perfectly. It also helped to land the brand name over this attention-grabbing SFX which is as effective as it is entertaining.
Workspace, for cleverly landing its USP, loud and snappy, in the opening while the rest of storytelling effortlessly flows thereafter. The script writing in this ad used the lack of visuals in the audio ad medium to its advantage by painting the picture of the scene in people’s head. It’s entertaining and personal to each listener which enhances the humour.
I love audio, it sneaks under the radar when you’re doing other things. It always surprises me when I realise how many brands and campaigns I know from just driving around with the radio on. It's more like osmosis than being blasted in the face with a full frontal campaign assault. Which is fine by me. It's like the Aesop fable of the sun and wind; sometimes it's soft persuasion that works best.
It’s quite telling that in this year’s shortlist we don’t have any worthy, purpose-filled, tortured pieces. Everyone has played the funny card. No one wants a tragedy during a depression, after all.
The most successful ones of this crop are the ones that paint pictures, that take me to a place and a scenario. They show me rather than tell me, which is hard to do considering it’s audio, and telling is one of its strongest components. So it really has been a pleasure listening to a rather jovial suite of work, from purring cats to court cases, and all the way to men fighting seagulls off their chips. Long live the convivial audio ad and soft smiles it delivers.
Still not voted? Looking for some creative guidance? Or perhaps just nosey to know how our creative heads came to their collective decision?
It wasn’t a unanimous decision from the get-go but there was immediate and strong consensus on the merits of all the three top ads. We dropped in on the conversation that flowed in a shared doc between our three judges.
Here’s what the creative judges said…But what do you think?
Hi Dayoung and Dave, hope you’re both well.
Rustlers Pub. I’m not a football fan in any way but I just love the picture that this ad paints in terms of the company we keep while watching fixtures. I think we can all relate to this. I think it's always a fine line when trying to bring to life “annoying”, the danger is it just sounds annoying, but the casting and performance of the boring chap chewing your ear off is just brilliant. And very funny.
Whiskas. I just love the story that this tells, the idea that a purring cat is actually declaring its undying love for its owner based purely on what it's being fed. On a basic level, satisfying sounds and noises are always a pleasure to hear and a purring cat is just one of those deeply satisfying sounds. Again, I think the casting of the cat's voice is brilliant. This is one of those things that could be so easy to get wrong, but a deep baritone, almost stage actor delivery is spot on.
Workspace. It’s a lovely little story of liberation; if you had the space to do whatever you want, what would you do with it? I just love the idea that, given the airspace, they have decided of all the things that they could hear, they wanted the sound of a desperate man and his futile efforts to chase seagulls away from his chips. The production of this is great too, you can really see the scene.
Hope that’s a helpful start.
Hey Ross, thanks for making a start on this. Some are definitely more enjoyable than others.
I liked both the Rustlers ads, not least for the slightly eccentric choice of VO but mostly because of the nicely unhinged and joyous execution. If I’m being harsh I can’t quite see the slam dunk connection to the product - it’s not a beer after all - but hey, let’s park that. I actually liked the Trafalgar Sq execution too, because who doesn’t like a flying toupee gag and talking about the British weather. So yeah I think “pub” deserves a nod but putting its label mate on the table too.
Whiskas - yeah. It’s nice. I could have enjoyed even more of that weird blur between VO guy’s voice and the cat’s purr, that was the best bit. But it’s nicely recorded, again voice talent has been thought about properly, it has standout. So I’m seconding this.
Workspace is strong (and the ECD there is my old colleague, so actually I’m fighting an urge not to like it - ha!). Very simple execution, the takeout is clean and it manages to be creative with it. So this has my vote too.
If I could float one more, and TBH I would probably need to be persuaded that it was top 3, it’s Maltesers. Took me a few listens to “get” it, which isn’t the greatest sign, but the joke is sweet and the acting is strong. I’ll let Dayoung chip in to see if this gets another thumbs up.
Hi Ross & Dave, Thank you so much for your feedback above. I always loved radio ads, so this is a nice change from other award shows.
I like all the work mentioned above, and I have to say my favourite 3 are: Maltesers, Whiskas, and Workspace. And if I can add one more would be McDonalds. It hits their key USP in a humorous way. The reason I didn’t pick Rustlers ads is similar to Dave’s point above (I had to google what it is after listening to the ad, ha), and also the fact that you hear the name of brand until so late in the spot - which I find not best practice for such short attention span audience for media like radio.
Maltesers - can I dare say, I relate to this? (I don’t have “silver hair” nor “golden teeth”, “natural gas” hahah) but I got the joke right away, and obviously they’ve been building this brand platform for awhile now, and the honest chat over Maltesers worked really well on radio. The execution felt considered and the script felt an authentic convo and funny (uncomfortably, ha) but also hints to our current energy crisis…
Whiskas - great use of SFX, but agree with Dave, the execution could’ve been better. Great idea and insight though. Love how the opening SFX sounds like a motorbike. And how they mention the brand name over this attention grabbing SFX within the first three seconds of the ad is beautiful.
Workspace - Clevely and unapologetically land their USP loud and snappy in the opening, and then let the fun begin. Lovely formula. The only thing I wish they'd considered is the ending USP message to carry that fun a bit, so instead of just listing; “so whether it’s your workspace, workshop, or studio…” - there is an opportunity to hint back to the joke of how Workspace designed their radio ad space. But overall, it is a lovely and memorable radio ad.
McDonalds - I know this ad could quickly be annoying, but I couldn’t stop laughing at the opening SFX, and VO talent of mum. And the joke following. Just thought worth giving it a mention. But not my top 3. (Also it doesn’t mention the product/brand til end)
Thank you!! Hope this is helpful,
Tricky one! Whiskas and Workspace we're unanimous on. Guess the decision becomes, "Rustlers" (me & Ross like different executions of same campaign) and Maltesers, (me and Dayoung like).
I am the only factor in common. Does that give me the deciding vote? :-)
Ooooh, yes its down to you Dave! Just to say that I didn't select Maltesers as it just felt like it was asking too much of the listener to lean in and 'get'. Were as Rustlers just presented the listener with a scenario.
Over to you Dave, haha.
Oh man, this is a toughie. No pressure.
I totally hear you on the lean in comment on Maltesers. I had to listen to it the most to understand it. Which is not a good sign. Shame, well acted.
Let's go Rustlers Pub. Dayoung, will you ever forgive us?
haha of course, Rustlers Pub is good ad. I won't be shaving my silver hair off over this choice.
Ha. Good, I wouldn't want that on my conscience.