Cries of "Whassup?!" were heard in a variety of accents last week throughout Cannes, where the judges awarded the Grand Prix for TV and cinema to the overwhelming favorite at the International Advertising Festival.
The half-dozen spots from DDB Worldwide, Chicago, for Anheuser-Busch's Budweiser beer were so widely popular with festivalgoers that during screenings audience members were still shouting the infectious catchphrase two categories after alcoholic drinks ended.
Although the Budweiser "Whass-up?!" campaign is targeted squarely at middle American beer drinkers who live in a different world geographically and culturally from most Cannes judges and festival attendees, no other commercial was seriously considered for the Grand Prix.
"It was fresh and amusing, and everyone fell in love with it," said one TV judge. "It took about 5 minutes to decide and was almost 100%."
'PEOPLE BEING PEOPLE'
Asked what made the "Whass-up?!" ads successful, DDB Chairman-CEO Keith Reinhard said, "There is a lack of hype, a lack of pretense, and it's just people being people. When you take something out of the language, and reflect if back into the language, you shouldn't be surprised that it catches on like wildfire."
A couple of judges dismissed the Budweiser campaign as unoriginal because it was based on an almost identical short film made by Charles Stone III, who also directed the "Whassup?!" ads. But most judges had no problem with adapting a concept and seamlessly adding a Budweiser dimension.
"One or two judges said something, but we're judging the work, and there was nothing else in the show that came close," the judge said.
"It has universal appeal, it's guys being guys. It's fresh and it's honest and it's funny," said Bob Scarpelli, U.S. chief creative officer for DDB.
The "Whassup?!" campaign epitomized the exceptionally upbeat mood at this year's festival.
Typical of the carefree spirit: Jim Ferguson, a TV judge and president-chief creative officer of Y&R Advertising, New York, said that he returned to his hotel and asked for a 7 a.m. wakeup call, only to be told, "But sir, it's already 6:45 a.m."
After a week of print and poster, media and cyber Lions, the U.S. turned in its best performance in the TV awards, scooping up 26 of 103 TV Lions awarded, including 10 of 24 Gold Lions in addition to the Grand Prix. The U.K. won seven.
The 10 U.S. golds were won by Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco for E-Trade; Fallon, New York, for MTV Networks and Fox/Liberty Networks; Cliff Freeman & Partners, New York, for Budget Rent A Car and Fox Sports Net; Katsin/Loeb, San Francisco, for CyberCash; Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., for Nike, AltaVista Co. and Stamps.com; and director Joe Pytka also for Stamps.com.
The London office of Lowe Lintas & Partners Worldwide won the print and poster Grand Prix, for a U.K. campaign for Whitbread Beer Co.'s Stella Artois.
Lowe's victory was somewhat marred by the embarrassment of having to hand back another press and poster Lion for an Australian ad that never ran. The client, Taronga Zoo, rejected the ad, but the agency entered it and won a bronze.
"I'm just as dismayed about this as the Taronga Zoo client and our agency must be," said Adrian Holmes, chief creative officer of Lowe Lintas. "As a network we have always taken a firm stand against entering fake ads to any creative festival. I guess this zoo campaign is one that slipped through the bars of the cage."
In the print and poster competition, the U.S. won just two of 30 Gold Lions, for a Fallon, Minneapolis, campaign for Sports Illustrated, and for an emotionally wrenching series of ads from the Martin Agency, Richmond, Va., for the Virginia Holocaust Museum.
The big press and poster winners were the U.K., winner of eight golds and the Grand Prix; France with a surprisingly high six golds; and Spain and Brazil with five each.
In other festival action:
• The coveted Agency of the Year award, based on number of Lions won, was Almap BBDO, Sao Paolo, ironically the agency of the creative jury chairman, Marcello Serpa.
• Cyber Lions: Brazil swept the online awards, winning nine of the 29 Cyber Lions and one of two Grand Prix awards. The U.S., last year's big winner, captured six.
One Grand Prix went to the Copenhagen office of Framfab, a huge Scandinavian online agency, for a Nike soccer Web site. The other Grand Prix was awarded to Sao Paulo's AgenciaClick for an exquisitely simple but touching banner ad for the Eye Bank. The ad is in braille, and as the mouse moves over the banner, a tiny finger changes the dots into letters spelling out "Donate corneas."
• Media Lions: The U.K. captured its second Grand Prix with a newspaper ad by Saatchi & Saatchi, London, in the Media Lions competition. The festival awarded 17 Media Lions, including the Grand Prix. Brazil continued to be a big winner with three Media Lions, followed by the U.S. and South Africa with two each. The U.S. Media Lions went to Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, for a Nike commercial, and Young & Rubicam's MediaEdge, New York, for best use of sponsorship on behalf of AT&T Corp.
Saatchi's Grand Prix-winning idea was to raise awareness of multiple sclerosis by showing how the disease scrambles the perception of sufferers. For the Multiple Sclerosis Society ad, Saatchi bought a full page in The Independent in London and scrambled a page of news stories and pictures. On the following page, the real stories and pictures ran.
"The newspaper let the creative people come in the night before, see the news layout and create a scrambled version," said Jack Klues, president of the Media Lions jury and CEO of Starcom Media.
Contributing: Scott Donaton, Andrew Hornery
Copyright June 2000, Crain Communications Inc.