U.K. award show withholds gold

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[London] In a bad omen for blockbuster creative work at the International Advertising Festival later this month, judges at the U.K.'s most prestigious creative award show failed to hand out a single gold prize last week, despite sifting through 21,500 entries from 55 countries.

Saturn's highly touted "Sheet Metal" spot by Omnicom Group's Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, for instance, failed even to get a nomination at the D&AD awards in London. Wieden & Kennedy's lauded U.K. "Cog" spot for Honda broke too late for consideration, but will be eligible at Cannes.

Cannes multicountry judges are traditionally less harsh than their British D&AD counterparts, but the dismal U.K. results may indicate what to expect in the south of France June 16 to 21. Wieden & Kennedy's Dan Wieden, president of Cannes' film and press & outdoor juries, has asked his judges to search out "genuinely fresh work." The D&AD results suggest this could be a tough job.

"There has been a creative lull, but I'm not concerned about it," said Nick Bell, who joins WPP Group's J. Walter Thompson, London, as executive creative director July 1, and is also president-elect of D&AD. "Things will explode again. You can't blame the recession because you don't need money to come up with a good idea."

The U.S. captured seven and the U.K. 22 of the 32 D&AD Silver awards. U.S. winners likely to do well at Cannes, where visually strong ads rule, include Nike's "Angry Chicken" spot by Wieden & Kennedy, featuring an enraged chicken chasing an urban acrobat, and Fox Sports' "Dumpster" by Omnicom's TBWA/Chiat/Day. To show how tough sports fans become, in the latter spot men barely notice being pierced with darts or clobbered with Dumpster lids.

"American ads did well, especially those with the sort of comedy violence that would never be allowed on our TV screens," said Charles Inge, partner at London hotshop Clemmow Hornby Inge and foreman of the D&AD TV and cinema jury.

prospects uncertain

A campaign for John Smith's beer by TBWA, London, was probably the most popular winner among the D&AD crowd, but its distinctly British humor, based around a comedian called Peter Kay, makes its Cannes prospects uncertain.

"It's surprising what does and doesn't get through to an international jury," said Adrian Holmes, chief creative officer, Interpublic Group of Cos.' Lowe & Partners Worldwide, who has judged both Cannes and D&AD. "They tend to go for mad emotion and craziness or cool logic and clever humor, but things can fall at strange fences. Cannes is traditionally seen as Latin vs. Anglo Saxon advertising, and if it's a dead heat, something from Japan will sneak through."

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