What wasn't lacking: skinny-ass French babes, clients and good TV work. Despite the low expectations going into the festival, there were a number of bright spots among the creative, um, divisions. And if you're celebrating film, which we very much were at this festival, there was much to celebrate.
"Mountain" may have scaled the greatest hardware heights, but if audience appreciation was measured and scored, "Shadow, " a sweet spot from JWT/Buenos Aires, would have won the day at Cannes. The spot was first glimpsed at the Saatchi & Saatchi New Directors Showcase, where it was the most warmly received film on a solid reel. It appeared again as a Gold Lion winner on Gala night. Perhaps in another year it would have been deemed too sentimental, but this, as jurors acknowledged, was the year of humanity in ads, and as a slice of humanity this film couldn't be beat. The spot centers on a young boy who devises a way to capture a plane's shadow in a box. His conviction that he possesses the plane is, of course, is ignored by the adult world until an Aerolineas Argentina pilot comes calling to ask for the its return. The gentle magic realism of the film, something that can go so horribly awry in the wrong hands, was a refreshing pause for the client-weary Cannes crowd. The director was Javier Blanco from Compania Cinematografica in Buenos Aires. Blanco had been a theater actor and director before moving into spots and, as is demonstrated in "Shadow," he's a performance specialist. Look for U.S. representation activity soon-the company says they are "working on it."
Other highlights: BBH/London's Lynx effort "Getting Dressed." The humanity theme seeped even into the macho world of Lynx, resulting in this spot, which manages to convey the core Lynx message and be sweetly sexy at the same time. The spot, directed by Ringan Ledwidge, features young lovers retrieving bits of their clothing that form a trail of lust from the bed back to the grocery aisle. It was a killer because it didn't try to be too cool (and the casting: the girl was gorgeous but looked like someone who lives in the same universe as a sandwich. Revelation!).
DDB Brazil's "Heart Attack," for Bonjour Paris French School, which gives a rundown of the dietary, drinking and sexual habits of other nations as they relate to lifespan and concludes that it's speaking English that is hazardous to one's health. It was a well-timed zing, and the North Americans took it with a laugh.
And a note on "Mountain." The spot has certainly taken some heat for not measuring up to the Grand Prix standard, whatever that is. And it's a polarizing ad. For every viewer who finds the piling-on scenes uncomfortable, there is another for whom those scenes convey something key about using the product (and call it generalizing, but there seem to be more Americans in the former category and more Europeans in the latter). One late-30-something Euro creative's remarks to me on this ad best sum up why it is this spot works for the people it's supposed to work for: "I've never liked videogames and that spot makes me want to play!"