Sony's 'Balls' Spot Is an Early Favorite at Cannes

Used Air Cannons to Rain Colored Spheres Down San Francisco Streets

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LONDON ( -- In a record year for entries at most major awards shows, judges at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival will sift through 24,862 entries -- up 12.5% from last year. It's always hard to predict what the mixture of personalities, nationalities, late nights and rose will lead to, but a few non-U.S. contenders already stand out as potential prizewinners.
Sony Europe's "Balls" by Fallon, London -- in which 250,000 brightly colored balls bounce through the streets of San Francisco -- is the first spot on everyone's lips. Kate Stanners, executive creative director at Saatchi & Saatchi London, said, "It's a universally lovely film to watch. Especially at Cannes, simple things stand out."

Spot also drove sales
"Balls" promotes Sony's Bravia TV, with the tagline "Color like no other." The different-colored bouncing balls cascading through the city to a soundtrack called "Heart Beat" by Jose Gonzalez had San Francisco residents uploading making-of-the-ad videos months before Fallon's spot was on air. The Bravia sold out across Europe and ads had to be pulled for a while until supply caught up. Sony's share of the LCD TV market went up 6%.

John Norman, executive creative director at Wieden & Kennedy, Amsterdam, likes Honda's "Impossible Dream" spot "because it puts the notion of the dream ahead of the car." But "Balls," he said, "is my favorite spot of the year."

"Impossible Dream" features a man using Honda vehicles through the ages, culminating in a spectacular ascent from a waterfall in a hot-air balloon. It's set to a rousing soundtrack of a song by the same name performed by Andy Williams.

Matthew Bull, chief creative officer of Lowe Worldwide, also predicts success for "Balls," which he describes as "all-compelling." But he thinks that the spot could miss out on the film Grand Prix because it's difficult to explain why it's so good. "Balls" has already done well at awards shows around the world, including the most prestigious U.K. and U.S. shows, D&AD and The One Show. But for an increasing number of ads, Cannes is the first awards outing of the year and the judges will be looking at work they haven't seen before.

Australian challenge
"A lot of people now aim for Cannes and get their stuff out just in time to enter," Ms. Stanners said. This is certainly the timing strategy for Unilever's Sure/Rexona "Incredible Women" spot, which agency Lowe Worldwide is hoping will replicate the Gold Lion-winning success of the same brand's "Stunt City" commercial last year. DDB London, traditionally strong in print, has a Marmite campaign that is expected to continue this success in 2006. But overall, the U.K-U.S. work may be challenged by Australia this year. The Antipodeans have come up with some strong, universal ideas that are likely to do well with the international judges. And the Brazilians shouldn't be counted out. This year Brazil is the second-biggest country at Cannes, after the U.S., by number of entries, and is sending some stunning TV, print and online entries from agencies such as Almap BBDO and Neogama BBH.

In particular, an Australian spot by George Patterson & Partners, Sydney, will amuse and entertain the judges. "Big Ad" for Carlton Draught beer parodies the grandiose tendencies of old ads using hundreds of people to create a smiling face. In "Big Ad" two armies march toward each other singing to Carmina Burana's "O Fortuna." The irreverent lyrics proclaim, "It's a big ad ... expensive ad ... this ad better sell some bloody beer."

Seen from the air, the two armies form a glass of Carlton Draught and a human body. The glass is lifted to the mouth and we see the beer (in the shape of yellow-clad soldiers) flowing into the figure's stomach.

Carlton Draught's spot was released online two weeks before its TV debut. In that time it was sent to more than 1 million people in 132 countries.

Unilever's Lynx Jet
One other Australian campaign is already being touted as a potential Titanium Lion winner. Unilever created its own airline, Lynx Jet -- featuring scantily clad stewardesses and raunchy in-flight entertainment -- to promote the Lynx deodorant line in Australia. The campaign, by Lowe Hunt, Draft and Universal McCann, spans TV, radio, Web, print, posters, viral, mobile and live events.

The results speak for themselves. The campaign drove market share to a record-breaking 84.2% in Australia, and three-month sales targets were met in six weeks.
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