Now, I'm sure Hegarty doesn't mean to compare Bozell's deceptively clever, elegantly subtle snow-burrowing Jeep Cherokee commercial with Spielberg's pious epic, but I get the point. He wanted the work that won to be lofty, high-road stuff that reflected both his and the jury's goal of celebrating the strength of ideas. "The jury felt that the simplicity was something that we should get back to," he says, "and that we should be talking about ideas, not techniques." In short, he means the kind of work that no one would ever have to be embarrassed about. (Try explaining to friends that you went to Cannes, spent a week looking at what passes for marketing strategies from advertisers and their agencies from around the world, and came back with this to announce: the best ad in the world uses tiny cave men chasing dinosaurs to sell soup.)
Admirable as Hegarty's intentions seem, the same can't be said about the Press & Poster Grand Prix winner for Kadu Clothing, in which a gutted shark surrenders a hapless surfer's skeleton from its belly, along with a good-as-new, built-to-last pair of Kadu trunks, for here is a piece of work so outrageous, so guaranteed to offend just about everyone who sees it (outside of its narrow target audience, of course), that it literally leaps off the dock at you.
This was an interesting year at Cannes, for a lot of reasons. There were no major controversies, no wildly unpopular Gold Lion winners, relatively little booing and hissing at the awards ceremonies. The U.S. did particularly well at the same time that Hegarty was exhorting the festival to drop its emphasis on which countries won what. And the youthful presence of the legions of European juniors, traveling under the banner of the Young Hot Dogs, made itself increasingly felt, especially during the Press & Poster awards, when they went nuts over the Kadu ad.
And that was good news to a handful of judges who fought for it, one of whom was Paul Lavoie, president and CD of the Canadian start-tup agency Taxi, who calls it a quintessential Grand Prix winner: a high-profile piece generating intense reactions that clearly calls attention to itself. The ad was created by a twentysomething team (CW Ben Nott and AD Paul Bennell) at a small, now-defunct Australian creative boutique called Andromeda; says FCB/Leber Katz CD Ted Littleford, another P&P judge, its selection reflected the jury's desire to recognize something more conceptual. Adds Lavoie, it was the only ad from the shortlist that the judges kept coming back to, finally winning a narrow decision based largely on its stubborn memorability.
Having spent the better part of four days talking about Kadu, it's no wonder the tamer nature of Jeep resulted in what could only be called polite applause from the delegates. "Jeep was a surprising choice in the other direction," Littleford says-a shared sentiment among numerous delegates, many of whom nonetheless seemed to like the commercial. While several film judges had other favorites-Hegarty's was the Nike Bo Jackson "Boring" spot with the old geezers in the barbershop-Jeep was the one that emerged victorious, chiefly due to its deft simplicity. In this respect, it reminded American film jury member Ted Bell of Y&R of the commercial that got him into advertising in the first place: Volkswagen's legendary snowplow spot. While Bell is quick to point out that Jeep isn't of the same level, "it had a similar purity of thought," he says. (Bell's other potential GP choices included Pepsi's "Summer of Love" Woodstock reunion spot and the one with Shaq and the little tyke on the playground.)
That simplicity ruled the day isn't such a surprise, says Ron Berger of Messner Vetere, who sees the international nature of the Cannes jury as almost dictating a certain kind of work rising to the top. "Simple concepts, simply executed, are what translate in any language," he notes. Another thing that goes over well here, according to Lavoie, is product demonstration, whether it's a nun sticking a penis on a statue with glue or a 4x4 burrowing under the snowdrifts or a pair of shorts that can survive a dunking in gastric juices. Again, he chalks it up to the nature of the jury. "Things that are too culturally specific, like subtle word play in an ad, just don't work."
Berger agrees with the assessment of his partner Tom Messner, who felt that much of what won Lions this year was heavily influenced by the old Doyle Dane Bernbach style, in which ads were "infused with small points that added up to a lot, as opposed to the school of taking a larger position, then using smaller points to support that position. If you looked at what won, it was lots of small points." The Jeep concept, he contends, could work for any four-wheel drive vehicle. "It's an exaggerated position that can't be supported," he remarks, and while adding that this is an implied criticism of the spot, it's also an admission of the kind of work that does well in international competition. Work that's executionally and conceptually simple "doesn't run into barriers," Berger says, "and this is what DDB used to do well-they made commercials that just made people smile." Often the nature of these spots wasn't anything the product could claim as proprietary, "but they added to the sense of brand personality."
For anyone still unsure of the validity of the Jeep spot winning the Grand Prix, its strength became clear as the Gold Lion reel unfolded at the awards ceremony. Donald Gunn, a 20-year veteran of the festival and Leo Burnett's resident Cannes seer, believes the jury would have been hard pressed to pick something else. "There was some talk of Levi's 'Creek' spot from BBH," Gunn says, but that was just another good spot from a strong campaign. Even so, Jeep emerged as something of a wild card among the Gold Lions; Gunn didn't even include it on his Cannes picks reel, although he did include a companion Jeep spot in which a woman driving a Jeep is given directions over a mountain range by a gas station attendant. "In other years it was easier to tip the winner," Gunn admits.
So was this a ho-hum year, then? "Not at all," says Gunn. "This was a solid year." Both juries were strong juries, Gunn observes, and it showed on the shortlists, which were shorter than in past years, even though total entries were up. "The television reel this year is tight, with no silly Lions on it," Gunn adds. "Overall, this was a stronger than average year, based on the U.S. performance."
The focus on this nationalistic tally was an issue for the jury, and Hegarty in particular, all week. At the outset, Hegarty said he felt putting an emphasis on how individual nations did was flawed, and that it detracted from an objective, substantive examination of the quality of the ideas exhibited in the work itself. "I understand the need for some kind of rundown," he admits. "This is, after all, a competition." But he feels it would make more sense to list agencies and what they won, not countries. "After all," he says, "I'm not competing with Spain, I'm competing with Wieden & Kennedy and Saatchi & Saatchi and BMP." Hegarty believes a list of the agencies that have done well would be more interesting for clients as well; it would let them see where their shops stood. "Listing winners by nationality brings out the worst in people," he adds, leading to all sorts of unsavory things like bloc voting and vote trading. In the face of repeated questions about which countries were expected to do well, Hegarty says the jury "steadfastly refused to address questions about this; we saw it as a nonissue." More important than where you're from, he says, is who you work with. "It's the agency and the people that make the difference, not the country. You can change your agency; you can't change your nationality."
Hegarty's advocacy seems ironic, in light of the fact that the festival itself heavily promotes this sort of tally by providing country-by-country figures on shortlisted and Lion-winning entries. Gunn believes Hegarty's desire to move away from such nationalism is a great idea. "I've spoken to jury members before who feel it's their duty to bring home Lions for their countries," he says, "and there are still some judges who see their role that way." And while he agrees that it's easy for a jury president from a dominant country like Great Britain to take this stance, he too understands the appeal of keeping score. "Given human nature, people like to see this," he says. "It's like the World Cup."
Which, of course, was never far from most delegate's minds. Nothing drove home the largely European soul of this festival more than the preoccupation with soccer all week long. Everyone was looking for Brazilian soccer jerseys, which P&P jury president Nizan Guanaes of Brazil's DM9 was rumored to be handing out like cigars.
For Berger, the main appeal of Cannes is not so much the show as the serious air of professionalism surrounding it. "The week you spend in Cannes you spend with people who love creative work, who spend all day in the screening rooms when they could be at the beach, and then spend all night in a bar talking about what they saw," he says. He contrasts this with what he calls a lack of passion for creative work in America, at least as far as people getting together to talk about it is concerned. During his five years as president of the One Club, it was hard to find a collective sense of passion about the business, Berger