The standard bearers

The ad industry has had a tough year – all too apparent in the drop in entries to this year’s IPA business advertising awards. But it has meant that the independents, often overshadowed by the major players, had a greater share of the limeligh

Traditionally, the business advertising sector suffers from a poor image compared with its consumer counterpart. So, in the words of Bruce Haines, chairman of Leagas Delaney and president of the IPA, this year’s IPA Business to Business Advertising Awards “..aim to redress that balance by recognising and rewarding the excellent work being created.”

This year’s event took place on Tuesday November 13 at the IPA’s offices in London. The number of entries was down on previous years. This is partly because for the first time the competition was limited to IPA member agencies only, and is also partly a reflection of the TMT (telecoms-media-technology) fallout and general nervousness in the business community, which has led to a tightening of advertising belts since the beginning of last year. However, this has meant that the smaller agencies, perhaps more attuned to the sound of creaking leather, were particularly well represented this year.

The bigger they are…

Several of the less well-known names in advertising were up against the mighty multinationals. This led to some intriguing David and Goliath contests. The Integrated Business Campaign of the Year, for example, involved Newcastle-based independent agency Different (shortlisted for the work with Iveco Ford) being pitched against some of the London-based giants.

Set up just over two years ago, Different is clearly trying hard to live up to its moniker. Having already won a clutch of gongs, including North East Advertising and Design Agency of the Year, the Newcastle outfit swept aside the UK’s finest by walking off with the Integrated Business Campaign award as well as The Economist Gold Award for the outstanding business campaign of 2001.

Different joint creative director and agency co-founder Chris Rickaby says: ” We chose a very radical approach to Iveco Ford’s brief, which sought to strengthen the client’s relationship with its core market.” Different created a hapless Seventies throw-back band called Evolution and its long suffering roadie who stays with the band only because of his obsession with their Ford Iveco Cargo Tector tour truck.

Multi-media scope

The campaign involved producing a ten-minute mini-movie on CD-Rom, using the format to deliver product information in an engaging way. It was used for the customer launch and then later for a direct mail campaign and face-to-face presentations.

According to Rickaby, the campaign generated a return on investment of 1,400 per cent. The client loved it and so did the judges. Chairman of the judges Axel Chaldecott, of HHCL & Partners, says he is pleased to see a new agency compete successfully against the larger, established agencies, adding: “It was an exceptional piece of work. Well produced and a fresh approach for the business-to-business arena.”

Majors’ impact

In the end, it turned out to be the only major surprise of the night. Despite some highly praised entries from the agency minnows, the rest of the evening belonged to the big boys.

Ogilvy Primary Contact collected an impressive three awards and narrowly failed to make it a clean sweep in some categories, thanks mainly to outstanding entries by Citigate Albert Frank in the Business Advertising Campaign of the Year (Finance and Business Services) and by joint winners Bates UK and Cogent, which shared honours in the Business Advertising Campaign of the Year (Industrial and Business Products).

The Bates UK team trounced the competition in the One-off Ad of the Year (Industrial and Business Products) category for its work on behalf of its client, Thames Water. The ad, aimed at MPs and Westminster politicians, was designed to make a very specific audience understand that Thames Water was more than a regional utility.

Working with a limited budget, the approach enabled the client to gain a political audience where previously it had failed.

It was the simplicity of the piece that appealed to the judges. “This is a classically executed piece, portraying a great fact in a great way,” says Chaldecott.

Despite the emergence of some fresh and original talent outside Soho, 2001 will not go down as a vintage year for business advertising. When a judging panel that comprised many of advertising’s top creative directors felt unable to announce winners in several categories, alarm bells should ring throughout the industry.

Commenting on the overall standard of the 58 entries that were submitted, spokesman for the judges Chaldecott says: “There were some excellent pieces but there is certainly room for improvement. More entries would help to raise the overall standard.”

But that should not detract from the success of the shortlisted agencies, which produced high quality work in difficult economic times.

Clarification: We have been asked to point out that One 2 One is no longer a client of PMI, as suggested in MW September 20, and has had no relationship with PMI, or any of its subsidiaries, for two and a half years.

Chronicling creative work

The IPA Business-to-Business Awards were first established in 1989, set up to recognise the creative work carried out by agencies in this advertising sector. The purpose of the awards is to reward outstanding creativity, integrated communications programmes and provide a benchmark for future business campaigns. This year the judging panel was chaired by Axel Chaldecott of HHCL & Partners, and comprised a jury of leading creative directors.

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