Diesel's "Mono Village" spot gets the Grand Prix? This is what the film jury considered the best TV commercial in the world last year? Perhaps Tejo Hollander, the Dutch judge, brought chunks of hash for everyone to enjoy during the final session. Or maybe they just got a snootful of some bad wine the night before. It doesn't really matter, the jury has spoken. Diesel it is. The kind of clever, insightful work that makes advertising people proud to be part of the industry, right?
O&M's Rick Boyko shrugs it off. When he came to Cannes as a mere delegate, he recalls, "I used to look at the shortlist and say, 'How did that get up there?' " Now that he's done his jury stint, he knows. "It's not political," he says of the judging process. "The real difference is frame of reference. This is just the work that people know and like. It's like me arguing for Polaroid or 'Got Milk?' or 'Toys.' This is the work that I know, that I think is really good."
Indeed, you have to remember, says both Boyko and DDB Needham's Bob Scarpelli, the other American film judge in Cannes, that Europeans love this Diesel stuff. And, as Scarpelli points out, "It's built that brand." But while Boyko and presumably the rest of the U.S. contingent thought that Levi's "Doctors" was a better apparel commercial-or, for that matter, that the English "St. George" spot for Black Currant Tango was the better choice for a Grand Prix-it didn't really matter. Diesel took the top prize by a vote of 17 to 6.
Curiously, while the judges flipped for Diesel's demented version of anti-advertising, the Miller Lite work from Fallon fell about as flat as day-old beer. The TV didn't even make the shortlist. Neither did the Levi's "Elevator Fantasy" spot. And of course, the Levi's "Voodoo" commercial got disqualified when the agency was unable to provide substantiation that it had run (the dispute arose late in the week, and documentation simply could not be obtained in time). Another big surprise was how the judges were unimpressed by Nissan's "Toys" spot, which, given its rock 'n' roll feel and its total lack of car shots, product info and other such marketing detritus, was seen as a sure-fire winner, perhaps even a candidate for Grand Prix. "They sort of said, 'What's that all about?' " Scarpelli says. He and Boyko were eventually able to prod the jury to give the spot a Bronze, but after the first go-round it was a loser.
And so the week went. The print show, which is gaining importance and credibility everywhere in the world but here in the U.S., it seems, again focused on strong visuals that are short on copy. Fallon's Bob Barrie, the U.S. print judge, was impressed by what he saw. Cruising through the shortlist gallery (every shortlisted ad was on exhibit for most of the week), he said there were only 20 or so he would have tossed.
Finally, as usual, there's the scene to contend with. The mild-mannered Barrie's take on it was pretty funny. "There's always been this impression that it's a boondoggle, and it's that, certainly, but it's a whole lot more," he says diplomatically. Yes, there are seminars aplenty and the Saatchi New Talent Showcase and the Young Creative Competition and lots of other diversions. Still, there's a big element of the festival that's "kind of like, 'Let's see who can drink the most champagne,' " says Scarpelli. "But there's also this great buzz of activity, with lots of people talking about ideas and critiquing the work. It's a real celebration of what we do."
Now that all the metal has been peddled, who came out on top? What is the pre-eminent American award-winning agency this year? Which agency not only won the most awards but also put on the best performance in the more demanding competitions?
Using a highly subjective set of criteria, we've come up with what we call the Creativity Awards Index. We analyzed the winners lists from Cannes, the One Show, the New York Art Directors Club, the International Andy Awards and the Clios. The list of shows selected was designed to give us a reliable, credible sample of both the larger for-profit shows and the smaller creative-club sponsored competitions. We then assigned various point values to Best of Show, Gold and Silver prizes, but did not include Bronze winners, as their sheer numbers tend to discount their value. In addition, we put the shows themselves on a sliding scale, assigning higher values to those shows we consider more stingy in their judging. Finally, when agencies came close in their respective point totals, we looked at what won. Consideration was given for winning awards for more than one client, as well as for honors bestowed on entirely new work over merely new executions of existing campaigns. That said, guess who came out first?
1) Goodby, Silverstein & Partners
Trounced No. 2 Wieden & Kennedy, scoring almost twice what W&K did in our index. Also had the widest range of winning work: Bell, Budweiser, Polaroid, HP, the Milk Board, Umbro and Norwegian Cruise Lines. A kick-ass performance.
2) Wieden & Kennedy
Powered again by ESPN and Nike, W&K placed a strong No. 2 largely on the strength of solid showings in the One Show and the New York Art Directors Club awards.
Those funny Ortho radio spots helped push David Lubars' gang to No. 3 (it won Best of Show at the Andys), along with print work for L.A. Cellular and Pioneer. Edged their East Coast cousin by just a few points.
4) BBDO/New York
While they were Cannes' agency of the year, they didn't bring home the Gold the way they have in the past, particularly for Pepsi. Still, the HBO Jane Goodall spot, along with the Snickers "Chefs" and "Batman" spots, helped keep them near the top.
5) TBWA Chiat/Day/Venice
Although tied with Freeman in the Awards Index point total, we pushed the Chiat gang up a notch based on the strength of Nissan's "Toys" spot, which, while it won a slew of awards in the U.S., almost came away from Cannes empty-handed.
6) Cliff Freeman & Partners
More great Sauza print, more funny Little Caesars, no Prodigy to speak of (unless you count that Matt Vescovo kid). Still a good showing from these perennial all-stars.
7) Hunt Adkins
They cleaned up with those funny print ads for Dublin Productions, but c'mon, a commercials production company? Nevertheless, their work for VH-1 and Rohol combined to make them the highest-rated Minneapolis agency in our rankings.
8) Hill Holliday
They put their John Hancock all over some shows, including taking Best of Show at the Clios with this poetic campaign.
9) Fallon McElligott
A strange mix of winners, few of them Gold, got FM into the Top 10. TV for BMW and Miller, print for Nikon and Jim Beam and radio for McDonald's (it was entered by the production company and won a Gold Clio) scored well, but there were no blockbusters from everyone's favorite agency of the year.
10) FCB/San Francisco
Is there a doctor in the house? How about a pool boy? Maybe a couple of crazy love-struck kids to ride in an elevator? Ad Age's 1996 Agency of the Year rounds