Europe's Volcano-Induced Travel Shutdown Strands Ad Execs

From McDonald's Global Meet to D&AD's U.K. Judging, You Can't Get There From Here

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LONDON ( -- Despite beautiful blue skies across the U.K. and most of Europe, an ash cloud from an active Icelandic volcano continues to wreak havoc among grounded ad execs trying desperately to get to crucial client meetings, ad industry awards or just back home.

Ad execs, trying to get to meetings, conferences and awards shows, have been greeted at airports all over Europe with scenes like this.
Ad execs, trying to get to meetings, conferences and awards shows, have been greeted at airports all over Europe with scenes like this. Credit: AP
At McDonald's Corp.'s twice-annual global convention, taking place in Orlando, Fla., this week, only about 20% of the Europeans scheduled to attend have made it to Florida. Patrick Larsimont, London-based regional business director for DDB Europe, is one of those left behind. He's been trapped in Stockholm since last Thursday.

"This has blown a hole in [McDonald's] marketing plans and global initiatives," he said. "All three roster agencies were all due to [debut] work at the convention."

Despite valiant efforts, McDonald's northern European team has learned that it's just not possible to drive from Scandinavia to Orlando. Some execs from that team drove to Munich, failed to get a flight there, hopped in the car and headed to Vienna, couldn't get a flight, then drove back to their starting point in Norway, and are still awaiting news on when flights may be resumed.

Mr. Larsimont has an apartment in Stockholm so he's pretty comfortable, but on a personal level, he's desperate to get home to London. "It's made me realize how fantastic Skype is. My 2-year-old hears the Skype noise and runs to the computer, shouting for me. I've become a virtual daddy -- I'm a ringtone!"

D&AD hit hard
The judging of Britain's most prestigious creative awards show, D&AD, has been severely affected by the lack of transport. Being an island, the U.K. is hit particularly hard by the crisis. The only access to the rest of the world -- cross-channel travel via ferries and the Eurostar train line -- is heavily overbooked.

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Of the 210 judges scheduled to gather for the D&AD process this week in London, almost 30% have been affected by the volcano. That includes not just creatives based in other countries, but a number of London-based judges who went away for an Easter vacation break and now can't get home. However, judging has gone ahead as scheduled, and 42 of the 63 missing judges have been hastily replaced, either by rigging up remote judging using video-conferencing, or calling up reserve judges, including random creatives who never intended to be in London this week but are stranded. Some juries have been reduced in number, although never below a minimum of five judges.

A D&AD spokeswoman said, "Our primary objective is not to compromise our standards. We've not had to cancel any juries and we've been careful who we've asked -- we think the juries will still stand up, and at the end of the week we will publish a full, revised list of juries."

Susan Credle, Chicago-based chief creative officer of Leo Burnett, is among the judges who couldn't make it to London and are using video-conferencing to join the discussions. Damon Collins, Rainey Kelly/ Y&R's executive creative director, has cleared his schedule for the week in order to help out with judging. And a senior art director from Australia who is trapped in London has been drafted on to the outdoor jury.

Other judges have gone to great lengths to get to London, and on time. Two Swedes, who are on the website jury, rented a car and drove from Gothenburg, Sweden, to Calais in France to catch a ferry. They landed on U.K. shores at 5 a.m. and reported for duty at 9 am. Despite these valiant efforts, the D&AD opening dinner, booked for 50 people on Sunday night, turned out to be an intimate evening for seven.

Russ Lidstone, CEO of Euro RSCG London, has a number of shoots scheduled to take place next week, including a series of commercials for Reckitt Benckiser, that may be canceled, although happily "acts of God" are covered by insurance. Another Euro RSCG shoot is planned for Los Angeles early next week.

"In the U.S. there is a lot less sympathy," he said. "Here in Europe, everybody has been affected -- either directly or indirectly -- so there's a lot more understanding."

Another client is already running into supply problems, he said. "We've got a new campaign coming up, but the stock is not able to get to the stores in time because they can't be shipped. It's critical."

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