Nothing Else Even Comes Close

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The Chinese delegation stayed home, out of SARS concerns. Excellent move. There will be so little worthy work displayed at the Cannes International Advertising Festival that
'Cog,' an extravagant Rube Goldberg device composed entirely out of Honda car parts.
'Sheet Metal,' a surprisingly beautiful look at people going about their automotive lives, minus the automobiles.
we're in no big hurry to get to the Riviera ourselves.

In fact, we're feeling a little feverish. Might be a touch of monkeypox coming on.

Two top contenders
Anyway, why shlep to France? Not for the suspense. The Grand Prix at Cannes will go either to "Sheet Metal," the Saturn commercial from Goodby Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, or "Cog," the two-minute Honda spot from Wieden & Kennedy, London. They are far and away the two best commercials made in the world in the past 12 months. One is a witty and surprisingly beautiful look at people going about their automotive lives, minus only the automobiles. The other is real-time photography of an extravagant Rube Goldberg device, composed entirely out of Honda car parts.

You can't take your eyes off of either spot, and each one is a dramatic demonstration of its brand's overarching message. (Saturn: built around people. Honda: it just works.) Advertising, in other words, vs. just showing off.

Nothing else
Nothing else among the 5,000-plus film entries has even a glimmer of hope. Nike has "Streaker," from Wieden, London, but Nike won't win again. And Reebok has the gut-busting "Terry Tate, Office Linebacker," but that's just comedy, not advertising.

There may be some sentiment for the latest laugh-out-loud calamity spot from Result DDB, Amsterdam, for Centraal Beheer Insurance. This one has some New York racketeers buying a champion European horse, only to discover in the big race that it's a fancy-dancing Lipizzaner stallion. Hilarious. But even allowing for a split vote on the two car spots, the bazillionth "uh oh" idea will never snare a Grand Prix.

Bold predictions
You may ask on what basis does Ad Review make such a bold and authoritative prediction. Well, there are the 1,000 or so spots from around the globe we've been forced to look at all year long, not 10% of which we'd even have sent into production, much less an awards show. And, of course, there is the annual Leo Burnett Cannes Predictions Reel, which culls 50 favorites from festivals the world over and each year manages to encompass the lion's share of the Lions awarded.

Sadly, this year the reel -- like the general output of advertising worldwide -- was

disheartening to watch. Many of the commercials are simply terrible.

But some aren't, so let's look at some sure-fire gold Lions:

> Ikea (Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Miami) A sad little lamp is taken to the curb with the trash, its neck bent, its head hanging pathetically. The music is bleak and sentimental. We find ourselves pitying the poor lamp -- until the voice-over reminds us that it's just a lamp and there's much nicer stuff to replace it with at Ikea.

> Sinaf (Brazil Comunicacao Carioca, Sao Paulo) Family members toss a loved one in the air repeatedly, singling "For he's a jolly good fellow." Turns out, he's dead -- but was well-insured by Sinaf.

> Safex (Faulds, London) A frightened bloke is at the urologist, having the nitty gritty details of a vasectomy explained. Male viewers everywhere do a groin cringe. The solution: Safex condoms.

> Bridgestone ( BBDO, Bangkok) A bit vulgar, but weirdly brilliant nonetheless. A dog finds his bitch making love to another mutt and tries to commit suicide by walking in traffic. Alas, he's saved by fast-braking Bridgestone tires.

> California Map & Travel (Colby & Partners, Santa Monica) We'll believe this is a real spot when we see the media budget, but it sure is funny: A guy innocently approaches a woman for directions only to get maced and Tasered. See, there's an easier way to find your way.

> COI/Road Safety (Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, London) On split screen, two messages come at us at once -- neither of which we can quite make out. Separately, one says cell-phone users have more car accidents. The other says it's difficult to concentrate on two things at the same time.

> California Milk Processors Board ( Goodby) Among the best "Got Milk" spots. A creepy clairvoyant kid foresees tragedy on the way to a birthday party. There he warns everybody not to eat the chocolate cake. Sure enough, the hostess is out of milk.

Those are the good ones. The 5,000 losers I'll leave to your imagination. Surely there is no threat among them to the two magnificent car spots, and the smart money is on "Cog."

Some backlash
There may be some backlash from its length (who else gets 120-seconds to play with?) And the fact that Dan Wieden is jury president could work against it, because he must recuse himself from the discussion. But in the end, how can this not win the Grand Prix?

Whispers about it's similarity to a short film are silly. Did somebody else disassemble a car to make Rube Goldberg machine? Of course not. This is the rare commercial that keeps the viewer glued to the screen, showing after showing, while making an eloquent point about the product. And in the U.K., where Honda is an also-ran, "Cog" just has worked, putting the brand front and center for the first time.

There's no other choice. If you happen to disagree, a pox on your house.

No, wait. If it'll save us the trip, put it on ours.