Two bizarre, irreverent commercials for Italian jeans marketer Diesel by Paradiset DDB, Stockholm, won the Grand Prix for TV and cinema at the International Advertising Festival. The victory is the first Grand Prix in more than 20 years for an ad agency from Scandinavia, rapidly becoming a hot creative region.
News surfaced around the time of the selection, however, that Diesel is leaving Paradiset DDB after talking to other shops. It's said that Diesel wants to move to more product-oriented advertising.
An executive close to DDB Needham Worldwide said the agency has been expecting the move.
Speculation that Diesel was moving to Euro RSCG could not be confirmed at press time.
U.K., U.S. ALSO WIN
The festival's other Grand Prix winner, in the print and poster competition announced earlier last week, was a Mercedes-Benz ad from Leo Burnett Co.'s London office.
The U.S. won 28 of the 97 Lions awarded, including five out of 21 Gold Lions. The U.S. Golds went to Transport and fashion: Mercedes-Benz won the print Grand Prix, while Levi's withdrew from the contest.
Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, for Polaroid Corp. spots "Architect" and "Dog & Cat"; Cliff Freeman & Partners, New York, for "Over the Counter" for Little Caesar Enterprises; DDB Needham Worldwide, Dallas, for "Mosquito" for E. McIlhenny Sons Corp.'s Tabasco sauce; Carmichael Lynch, Minneapolis, for Harley-Davidson's "Birds"; and BBDO Worldwide, New York, for a Visa spot called "Bob" that starred former presidential candidate Bob Dole.
For the first time, a U.S. agency, BBDO, was named Agency of the Year, with Goodby a close contender. The award is based on the number of ads that made the shortlist and won Lions for an agency in a single country.
BBDO and Goodby were the biggest U.S. award winners, with seven and four Lions, respectively. Only the U.K. had more Gold Lions, with nine.
In the U.S. however, DDB Needham announced it had won the most awards since, with its recent DM-9 acquisition in Brazil, it captured 15 total.
U.K.'S TANGO RUNNER-UP
The U.K. provided the other serious contender for the Grand Prix, a spot called "Saint George" by HHCL & Partners, London, for a soft drink called Tango, from Britvic Soft Drinks.
In the spot, a nationalistic U.K. Tango executive is so incensed by a letter from a Frenchman named Sebastian criticizing Tango's black currant flavor that he strips to his shorts to challenge him to a boxing match.
That commercial and the two winning Diesel spots, "5 a.m. Mono Village" and "Little Rock," were close initially, but after a group discussion Diesel won.
Judges said the tongue-in-cheek, high-profile international Diesel campaign did more for the brand than the Tango ad. In "Little Rock," a handsome young man in impeccable Diesel jeans kisses his wife and baby goodbye before a duel with a grubby, despicable man who kicks dogs. In typical Diesel fashion, the bad guy shoots the hero dead -- to enthusiastic applause from the Cannes audience at screenings.
One popular commercial, a spot from Foote, Cone & Belding, San Francisco, for Levi Strauss & Co. called "Voodoo," was abruptly withdrawn from the shortlist.
The move came after judges challenged the agency to prove the Levi's 501 spot had ever run.
LEVI'S NEEDED PROOF
A festival official called Geoffrey Thompson, FCB's exec VP-worldwide creative director, at his hotel in Cannes and asked if he could produce proof the commercial had ever run anywhere.
"I called San Francisco and [FCB's] general manager was on vacation and the whole Levi's team was out on a shoot," Mr. Thompson said. Unable to get immediate written proof to France, he asked the festival to withdraw the spot to avoid controversy.
In the commercial, a jilted lover is enraged when her boyfriend dumps her for a blonde and appeals to a voodoo practitioner. Quick cuts alternate between mutilation of the voodoo doll, the boyfriend trying to fondle the other girl despite stabs of pain, and a young black boy tap-dancing to a staccato beat.
The boyfriend is saved from a last brutal stab by his 501s' steel-button fly.
Although the spot tested well, Levi's became concerned viewers might consider the use of the tap dancer racist, Mr. Thompson said.
Jury president Bo Ronnberg, president-creative director of Ronnberg McCann, Stockholm, took as his judging motto, "Creative with a purpose."
Going into the last day of judging June 27, the number of Gold Lions slated to be awarded was on the low side, prompting Roger Hatchuel, owner of the Cannes festival, to admonish judges.
SIMPLE SPOTS DO BEST
"We're seeing some incredible, incredible film production techniques with no idea behind them. And we're seeing simple spots with big ideas."
The winning Burnett print ad for Mercedes-Benz was called "Skidmarks." Ironically, Burnett had to resign the account in October at the insistence of another international car client, Fiat.
Entries in the press and poster competition soared to 6,651 this year, up 37% from 1996, surpassing the older and better established TV and cinema portion of the festival.
TV and cinema had only 4,500 entries, slightly up from last year.
Most of the print growth is due to heightened spending by the Brazilians, who entered 991 ads, up from 374 last year, in the print and poster contest. The U.S. and U.K. entered 650 and 645 ads, respectively.
With one of every seven print entries, the Brazilians managed to win 18 print Lions, including five golds, although the U.K. always sweeps the print competition.
U.K. CAPTURES 31 PRINT LIONS
This year, the U.K. had 14 golds out of the 31 Lions it won for print, including the Grand Prix.
One of the biggest delegations to Cannes came from China, with more than 300 people sitting raptly through hours of screenings in an effort to learn more about advertising.
For the first time, the Advertiser of the Year award went to an Asian marketing executive, Koko Ado, president of Nissin Food Products Co. of Japan.
Ironically, and embarrassingly, after winning Lions in each of the last five years for its instant-noodle products, no Nissin advertising made the shortlist for awards this year.
Contributing: Scott Donaton, Laura Petrecca.
Copyright June 1997, Crain Communications Inc.