Giving their best shot

This year’s Epica grand prix highlighted the increasing globalisation of the industry as it struggles to meet the demands of those it serves.

Just to add to the cosmopolitan flavour, the Dutch agency’s creative director is American, the copywriter Italian and the art director English. The ad was shot by a Swedish director in New Zealand and stars an All Black celebrity, Jonah Lomu. The fish, of which more later, apparently came from Fiji.

Proof, then, that not only is advertising creativity, like the clients it serves, undergoing “globalisation” but, even more curiously, the end product can occasionally be a success.

Well, up to a point. The ad had much to recommend it: it was sharply directed and intriguingly plotted. Lomu, who happens to be loitering around a New Zealand port, spots a stranded grouper fish on the pavement at last gasp. He leaps into action, cradles it in his arms and, by way of a series of Herculean feats – passing through a carwash at full spin; barging a moving van out of the way as if it were made of balsa wood – he puts the fish, just like a try, back in the ocean seconds before it would have expired. And the point? Well, apart from great entertainment and frequent shots of branded trainers, it’s all a bit soppy and “new age”. Adidas, apparently, makes you a better human being. Try telling that to the French authorities, who have just fined Adidas for uncompetitive practices.

The sad fact is, the Adidas commercial had little real competition to deny it its pedestal. Decidedly, this was not a vintage year for European advertising. There were, it is true, some nicely crafted ads. One of them was the runner-up to the Epica d’Or – a French TV ad, called “Daddy”, for Bic disposable razors by BDDP@TBWA Paris. It was a simple, classic idea. A man shaves, walks into the bedroom, kisses his infant daughter goodnight. She, unable to see him and half-asleep, murmurs : “Goodnight, Mummy”. A perfect, economical encapsulation of one of the shaving sectors three Cs: closeness of shave.

As a matter of fact, it was a pretty good year all round for French agencies. They took home, for the second year running, more category winners than anyone else: ten, against the UK’s and Holland’s eight and Sweden’s seven. Among the more memorable Gallic examples was the TV campaign for Brandt washing machines and ovens, by CLM/BBDO. Each execution was featured an outburst of psychotic violence perpetrated by the exasperated female of the household on the existing white goods unit. Graphic stuff, but not the sort of thing that would have passed muster with the Independent Television Commission over here in England.

Similarly idiomatic were the slyly humorous spots for Le Parisien newspaper, by Euro RSCG Paris. The winning execution, “Door Mat”, has a distinguished-looking professional man exiting from a lift on the way to his apartment. He wrinkles his nose in disgust, checks his shoe, gets out his keys, turns to the flat door and wipes his shoes vigorously on the mat outside, then turns at the last moment to his own apartment door which is in fact adjacent. The catchline? “It’s better to read Le Parisien than to meet one.”

Other highlights included a fine display of the knife-thrower’s art, in “Knife”, a TV ad made for Frionor Frozen Fish by BBDO Myres, Oslo; and an affable full-size talking elk in a commercial for Billinge Cheese, again by BBDO – this time the Gothenburg, Sweden office. As is frequently the case, DDB came up trumps with VW, winning both the print awards in automobiles (France) and automotive and accessories categories (Turkey). Another stalwart, Sony PlayStation – handled by TBWA London – scooped the print prize in the recreation and leisure category with “In the blood”, which featured the well-known computer console symbols as blood corpuscles. There was also some surreal wildlife (the wildebeest theme, you might call it) in winning work from WCRS for the Land Rover Freelander and Armando Testa (Turin) for Pirelli P6000 tyres.

But originality? Not much this year, with the possible exception of the “ambient” stick-on advertising from Mother for Britart.com online art sales.

The competition statistics sum the situation up accurately. There were more entries than ever before – at 6,268 a nine per cent increase on last year; and more countries – 39 – entered. But the number of finalists – that is those achieving a qualifying mark from the jury members, who uniquely are journalists and not creatives – was down from 379 to 337.

Better luck next year.

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