EUROPE: Stealing the Show

This year’s Epica awards were dominated by Germany, which scooped 13 outright winners. But that is not to say other countries didn’t make an impact

This was Germany’s year as far as the Epica Awards were concerned. In year 15 of these creative advertising awards – which uniquely are judged by the august representatives of Europe’s major trade magazines – for the first time German ad agencies scooped the largest number of category winners and finalists. And by a large margin, too – 13 outright winners compared with next-ranking Britain’s nine; 79 awards in total against France’s 48 and Britain’s 40. No great surprise, then, to find the top three agencies overall were Springer & Jacoby (Hamburg), Jung von Matt (Hamburg and Munich) and Scholz & Friends (Berlin and Hamburg).

Certain cynics may point to the fact that Germany had more entries than anyone else, which it did; or that this was a bad, atypical year, sullied by the events of September 11 (which caused entries to drop for the first time in the awards’ history). But they can’t have it both ways. In answer to the first point, Germany also topped the entries last year, but its performance was not as good. In answer to the second, not true: the quality of many (non-German) winners was far superior to last year’s. So let nothing detract from that triumph.

Predictably, perhaps, the German agencies scored highly in the automotive categories. Saatchi & Saatchi Frankfurt’s “The Fan” pulled off a (rare) joint winner with Portugal’s Strat (the Puddle, also featuring Audi as client) in the car film category. The fan in question is an Elvis lookalike who discovers that modern cars simply don’t vibrate enough to make his model King mascot rock – a tribute to Audi’s smooth engineering. The ad created an astonishing and unexpected merchandising spin-off in Germany, where viewers clamoured in their thousands for the diminutive pelvis-gyrating Elvis models.

Also noteworthy was Jung von Matt’s commercial for the BMW C1 motorbike, which cleverly spoofed an executive car ad until the reveal in the last few frames – where the headlights apparently split – shows us a luxury bike, not the mega-expensive car we thought we were in for. This classic, if rather understated, piece of advertising was a serious contender for the supreme award of the competition, the Epica d’Or.

Elsewhere, Kolle Rebbe’s work for Gauloises cigarettes- a category winner called “Rendez-vous” – scored on a number of dimensions. A cinema ad that used an unusual storyboard technique, it managed to combine whimsical humour (some of it aimed at the German national character) with a quintessential “Frenchness for foreigners”, skilfully harnessing the product’s values.

As ever, however, British craft skills were in evidence, and British humour commanded a premium. Abbott Mead Vickers.BBDO carted off the film award for dairy products, with the “Designer” commercial for Utterly Butterly. Lowe Lintas picked up one of the alcoholic drink categories, with the Heineken “Blackmail” series, starring Paul Daniels and other national irritants.

McCann-Erickson Manchester won in the toiletries and healthcare sector with its curious cast-of-thousands-dressed-up-as-furry-spermatozoa commercials for Durex Condoms (another instance of the “men in outlandish costumes” trend first identified by TBWA London’s chairman and creative director Trevor Beattie last year). And Lowe Lintas got a gong for its latest Reebok film execution, “Sofa”.

But the up-and-coming star was clearly Mother. It reached pole position in the non-alcoholic category with the “Emergency” execution for Dr Pepper; scooped beauty products with its Organics shampoo commercials – and most importantly, walked off with the top prize in the competition, the Epica d’Or.

The creative success of the agency’s launch campaign for QTV, a satellite rock music channel carried by Sky Digital, lay in the inimitable wannabe character of The Danster.

This irrepressible, pretentious Walter Mitty creature, who appears in a series of vignette executions, is one of life’s glorious failures. He’s Kurt Cobain, but can’t even smash up his guitar properly; he boasts to a taxi driver of living life on the edge, but panics the minute he realises his seat-belt is undone; he tries to sign an autograph for an adoring groupie, only to discover she’s a waitress serving him with a bill. You get the picture: the perfect audience profile for “Q Television. Thousands who’ve made it for the millions who haven’t.”

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