Twenty-one, they say, is the year when you grow up; learn to see the world in a different light and act accordingly. There was certainly an element of that in the 21st Epica awards, which mark creative achievement in advertising and are unique in being judged by specialist journalists rather than the people who create the ads themselves.
For a start, we ceremoniously had to put aside the idea of TV advertising being the unquestioned pinnacle of creative achievement. It is now just one of four top prizes, known as Epica d’Or. The others recognise achievement in print, posters and, increasingly important, the internet. The new joint honours system was fortunate in another respect. It relegated the increasingly abysmal output from print to consideration in only one of four categories (formerly, it was one of two). Creatives seem barely capable of producing decent examples of the genre these days, probably because all their energies are bent towards cracking the internet.
Luckily we were able to come up with a striking and visually coherent winner in this medium. The prize went to France 24, a new international news channel that tries to balance the Anglo-Saxon perspective of BBC World and CNN with a Gallic view of the world. The press campaign, produced by Paris start-up Marcel, features different interactive forces stylised as the cogs and pulleys of an engine. For example, “Finance” meshes the Pentagon, the Twin Towers, George Bush, Saddam Hussein, bullets, tanks, soldiers, oil pumps, barrels of oil, money, voting booths and so on.
Winner of the Epica d’Or (Outdoor) was a poster series for Pepsi called Dare for More. The campaign, devised by BBDO Dusseldorf, made effective use of the Pepsi logo to illustrate three different kinds of extreme sporting activity in which the individual is dwarfed by the magnificence of an awesome landscape. A band of red lies on the top (illustrating sky or mountain range); on the bottom is blue (representing the sea, a cliff face or valley); and in the middle is the strong white curve of snow, clouds or ocean spray. No pack shot, only the strapline: strong, confident branding built around a simple, effective idea.
As usual, however, most of the best ideas revolved around the film (TV and cinema) entries. The new Guinness ad (“Tipping Point” from AMV.BBDO) won its category but failed to make the final cut. Though beautifully constructed and engaging, it was deemed too derivative: among other things, it seemed an homage to Honda’s “Cog” a few years back. There was an authentically spooky offering from Jung von Matt in the media category (“Sunday Roast” for 13th Street, a dedicated horror movie channel); and some nice stuff in retail from Interflora (“Anniversary”, a neat inversion in which the grieving widow visiting her late husband’s cemetery receives the flowers herself – from beyond the grave: Walker, Zurich; ad shot by Anthony Minghella).
But in line with a recent trend, the most serious creative competition came from the motors category – though not from the category winner. Chrysler Voyager’s “It is Mine”, the winner in question (Contrapunto, Madrid) depended too much – in my opinion if no one else’s – on a predictable gag and stacked up weakly against some of the other category finalists. These included DDB Amsterdam’s “Keep it Clean” VW Touareg 4×4 work and the Skoda Fabia “Cake” campaign produced by Fallon London.
No matter for Fallon, because the eventual Grand Prix film winner was another, better-known, offering from the same agency: the much-fancied Cadbury’s Dairy Milk Chocolate “Gorilla”. The film Epica d’Or is no doubt the first of a long list of prizes that Gorilla will be picking up and just goes to show that good advertising does not need to be logical. Though the Cadbury pack-shot is clear enough, it is sheer emotional exuberance that drives the ad from beginning to end. In the first week of release alone, Gorilla notched up about 500,000 UK viewings on YouTube, according to Metro. It was made by the same director, Argentinian Juan Cabral, who has also been responsible for Sony “Balls” and “Paint”.
No one would claim that the winner of the Interactive Epica d’Or was on quite the same level of artistry as Gorilla. Diesel Intimate Underwear “Heidies” – brought to us by Farfar, Stockholm – was essentially a voyeuristic romp which parodied reality TV. Here is the plot: two oversexed Swedish nymphs, the Heidies, kidnap Juan, a salesman who happens to be toting the prototype examples of the new Diesel Intimate underwear collection. They lock him up in a hotel room where, under 24/7 webcam surveillance which interacts with a chatroom on the Diesel website, we are able to watch him cavorting with the two nymphs – by now scantily clad in the aforementioned lingerie. He is not protesting too much at being a hostage. No surprise that this interactive campaign clocked up some of the most-viewed clips on YouTube and that the Heidies achieved their 15mbs of fame on a zero media budget. Perfect for the target audience.
Now for a few Epica Euro statistics. The 2007 Epicas were unusual for featuring a storming performance by Germany. Germany is habitually an enthusiastic entrant but punches under its weight. On this occasion, however, it was the most successful country, with 14 winners and 86 finalists. For the first time, Britain was down the scale of achievement: third – behind Sweden – with eight winners and 48 finalists. Jung von Matt was the most successful agency, with 12 awards, followed by DDB Amsterdam with ten awards. DDB remained the most successful agency network for the third year running, with 11 winners from six countries. The competition was expanded to include EMEA, with the result that there was a winner from South Africa for the first time. Entries totalled 5,642 ads, an increase of about 3% on the previous year.