‘Ironic British wit’ beats US

British agencies and production companies triumphed at the 44th International Advertising Festival in Cannes last week – but it did little to ease their dissatisfaction with the event.

In the annual showdown with US agencies, the British came out on top with nine gold lions to the US’s five in the film section, and 13 golds to the Americans’ six in print and poster.

Leo Burnett, London, won the print and poster Grand Prix with its “Skidmarks” ad for Mercedes, but Blackcurrant Tango’s “St George” was narrowly pipped for the film Grand Prix by the Diesel jeans campaign from Stockholm agency Paradiset DDB. This, despite Paradiset having recently lost the account.

The agency of the year title went to BBDO of the US and the Palme d’Or (for the top production company) went to the US company Propaganda, with the UK’s Paul Weiland Film Company in second place. Client of the year was Koki Ando, which is behind the Nissin Cup Noodles campaign in Japan.

With nine of the 21 film golds and 13 of the 38 print golds, along with numerous silvers and bronze lions, UK agencies reasserted their world-leading creativity, quashing suggestions that other nations are catching up.

British complaints at the cost of participating in the event grew louder this year, with film entries approaching 400 a single entry. The British Creative Directors Forum, led by Tim Delaney, is to talk with agency chief executives in an effort to exert pressure on the festival organisers.

However, Charles Sciberras of the festival responded: “I don’t report to Tim Delaney… we have the rest of the world to think about as well.”

The general theme among award-winning work was humour, with a growing tendency to appreciate the more ironic wit typical of UK work (and also the Diesel campaign). The Americans’ comparatively poor showing was attributed in one report to the problems US agencies have in getting sufficient sex into their work. Conservative clients were blamed for the lack of bare breasts and penis jokes that pepper many award-winning ads.

The top honours were shared among British agencies, with BMP DDB and Abbott Mead Vickers. BBDO excelling by taking two film golds apiece. BMP also picked up a print gold. It was a quiet year for Bartle Bogle Hegarty, the agency which has racked up the highest number of awards in recent years. It took two golds in print and poster for Levi’s, but only a bronze in the film lions.

Ogilvy & Mather won more gold for its Guinness “not everything in black and white makes sense” campaign, despite continued doubts over the client’s enthusiasm for the work. As with several other major international agencies, O&M used the festival to draw together a worldwide meeting of its leading staff.

Festival entries rose to 4,500 in film and 6,551 in print and poster. The increasing global mix saw 350 Chinese delegates fly in – although they won nothing. But there were first awards for work from Colombia and Kyrgyzstan.

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