Garfield's AdReview

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Sit down and try to breathe normally.

It appears-if the annual predictions reel compiled by Leo Burnett Co. means anything (and it always does)-that the 2004 Cannes Lions Advertising Festival will be infected with good advertising.

Not just funny, cool, extravagantly produced advertising. Good advertising. Good, clever, strategy-based advertising likely to generate sales for the client.

You OK? Try putting your head between your knees.

We'll get to the Grand Prix prediction presently, but let's first marvel at this outbreak of sanity: of the 50 commercials handicapped by Burnett, 15 of them announce a compelling product benefit, and seven actually employ a legitimate USP. Three of those happen to come from Thailand, so maybe the infection is isolated, but epidemiology is in our favor.

Thai Mobile (Leo Burnett, Bangkok) flogging its relative affordability, talks about the alternative to SMS messaging: an exhausted carrier pigeon. A Brazilian spot for Lycra stockings (DM9DDB, Sao Paulo) shows a bank robber with head hosiery so sheer everybody in the bank calls him by name. An Australian Olympus camera spot ( Saatchi & Saatchi, Sydney) features a safari tourist panicked by a charging lion, although the lion is far away, enlarged to menacing proportions by the 10x telephoto.

HSBC bank in the U.K. ( Lowe, London) uses a Chinese business-dinner misunderstanding over a repulsive eel entree to emphasize the importance of understanding diverse cultures. Soken, a Thai brand of DVD player (Euro RSCG, Bangkok) shows a guy talking about seeing "Kill Bill Part One" on video. But he keeps stuttering ... because his inferior DVD player skips. Unif Green Tea, also Thai, shows the battle between caterpillars and farmers for the tea plants' top leaves ( BBDO, Bangkok). And, in a bit of cinema verite from Puerto Rico, Procter & Gamble's Ace detergent (Leo Burnett, San Juan) catches a woman sniffing a pair of men's drawers on her neighbor's clothesline-not because she's kinky but because they smell so fresh.

There are, of course, many ways to spin a cat. Many of the Cannes entries are brilliant minus any hard sell. Sony PS2 Ratchet & Clank ( TBWA, New York) comes to mind. But it appears that the cult of mindless showing off may finally be in some sort of remission, and if so we can all rejoice.

We can also savor the five top contenders for Grand Prix. An ad for the U.K. directory assistance number 118 (WCRS, London) hilariously sends up of last's year's Honda "Cog" chain-reaction video. A U.K. spot for Sony PlayStation2 (TBWA, London) digitally creates a mountain of humanity to astonishing effect. Nike (Wieden & Kennedy, New York and Amsterdam) offers the year's best one-two punch: an outsize game of "Musical Chairs" and the magical "What if," in which various superstars are seen in action ... in the wrong sports.

Our best guess for the Grand Prix, though, is for Apple iPod (TBWA, Los Angeles). The colorful "Hip Hop" silhouettes are not only striking, they're a rare example of advertising-as-USP, in which the Day-Glo images are synonymous with the unique product they represent. It's a towering achievement in art direction. So you can stand up now...

...and applaud.

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