Dutch agencies did extremely well in the 1994 Epica awards, with campaigns that featured footballers bursting out of murals and sharks swimming through tarmac. The UK, which scored well last year with 22 winners, put in a poor show – technical

SBHD: Dutch agencies did extremely well in the 1994 Epica awards, with campaigns that featured footballers bursting out of murals and sharks swimming through tarmac. The UK, which scored well last year with 22 winners, put in a poor show – technically, it had 11 winners, but failed to secure the Epica d’Or, which went to Wieden & Kennedy Amsterdam.

SBHD: Stuart Smith, one of the judges, takes a look at some of the winning entries

Epica 94 – the eighth – ended in a remarkable penalty shoot-out for the Prix d’Or – the top prize in the European advertising awards which, uniquely, are judged by journalists rather than creatives.

For more than two hours the jury of 24, from Britain to Russia, Italy to Norway, was locked in an elemental divide over the creative styles of North and South, Nike and Barilla, Wieden & Kennedy Amsterdam and BRW & Partners of Milan.

By the narrowest of margins, Nike and Wieden won with “The Wall” – a powerful paen to the World Cup, and implicitly, Nike’s own global involvement in it.

The blurb faithfully reflects the exciting flavour of the ad – for those who haven’t had the privilege of seeing it. “The ball begins its meteoric global journey in Paris as Eric Cantona comes alive off his wall painting, beats a tackle and aims a strong right-footed pass, accompanied by exploding bricks and mortar, to Schultz in Berlin. Schultz controls the ball on his chest, beats two tackles and passes to Maldini in Milan. The Maldini mural heads it on to Ian Wright in London who takes it on the volley with an explosive overhead kick that sends the ball soaring over London Bridge all the way across the Atlantic Ocean to Rio where Romario heads to Bebeto, then to Campos, in Mexico City, whose diving save does not prevent the spectacular destruction of an illuminated Nike logo on the wall.” A nice little humorous touch, this last, emphasising Nike’s confidence in the power of its brand.

What The Wall exuded in energy, clarity of message and skilful post-production, the Barilla ad for digestive biscuits complemented with its persuasive cinematic charm. Imagine, it suggested, the freshness of the countryside brought into the town, the canals of Venice filled with rippling corn fields – all beautifully shot la Visconti. Finally, however, it lacked the rounded, finishing power of the other contender. What, for example, was the Van Gogh daub of cornfields doing in San Marco Square?

It was a bumper year for Holland. Besides the Epica d’Or, it picked up ten category winners, the first time another country has effectively challenged the UK for leadership in the awards. Technically, the UK had 11 winners, but without the Epica d’Or it could be deemed to lose on points. It was a dismal, if enigmatic, showing compared with last year when the UK walked off with 22 winners. To what extent the reversal in fortunes should be ascribed to Dutch creative mettle or flagging British talent is difficult to gauge. Probably a bit of both. At all events, the number of British entries were down, which may reflect a certain degree of UK agency self-censorship at the moment.

Top performing UK agency was BMP DDB Needham, with two winners, which tied it in pole position with Wieden, BRW, Advico/Young & Rubicam (Zurich), Lintas (Amsterdam), Ogilvy & Mather (Amsterdam) and Opera/RLC (Paris). The best performing networks were DDB and Y&R, with winners in four countries apiece.

Winner of the Kodak Pro Prize, for the most effective photography, was O&M Amsterdam’s print ad for the Ford Probe. It wasn’t a bad ad either, eschewing a product shot in favour of a shark fin skimming predatorily through the tarmac of a motorway. The image is right on target.

Overall, the number of Epica entries rose slightly, from 3,859 in 1993 to 3,877; 517 companies from 28 countries took part, compared with 502 across 26 last year.

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