Pardon our French, but, oui, it is time for the Cannes International Advertising Festival, where the industry's global elites converge to dress in black T-shirts and not watch mostly dreadful commercials from the world over.
A few will haunt the screening rooms of the Palais des Festival. More will greet the dawn at the Hotel Martinez bar, that Babel cum Babylon, where tongues intermingle in more ways than one. But they all will see the Grand Prix go to BMP DDB, London, for the VW Polo.
In its second year, this brilliant campaign uses documentary-style footage of mundane events to capture people's stunned reaction at ads promoting the Polo's low price. The best of the new work shows two workers striking up banal conversation as they fasten padding to a utility pole. Only when they leave do we know what they're up to. There's a Polo poster on an adjacent wall, and a pedestrian amazed by the car's price walks headlong into the pole.
Though this continuing campaign copped a Gold Lion a year ago, it deserves to go all the way in '98. Anyway, nothing else does.
If Donald Gunn's annual reel of Cannes predictions is a reliable indicator -- and it always is -- Polo is the best work in by far the best category in a generally unremarkable creative year. Gunn has become legendary for his Cannes picks, but this year the pickin's are slim. Half of his top 50 don't belong there.
Ah, but there are highlights: Kellogg Co.'s Special K cereal ( Leo Burnett Co., Toronto) wittily disavowing the body-obsessiveness that the brand had itself exploited for years; Batchelor's Super Noodles (Mother, London) featuring two single guys speaking of women's disgusting habits while hilariously displaying their own; Volvo (Forsman & Bodenfors, Gothenburg, Sweden) about a teacher puzzled by the crayon-drawing style of her pupil; Toyota Corolla (New Deal DDB, Oslo) about a head-turning woman and a head-turning car; Nando's spicy chicken (Whybin TBWA, Melbourne) vividly, vulgarly showing via a blown-out sandwich board just how hot the product is.
Tylos Tea (Moradpour Leo Burnett, Moscow) gently lampoons English ultrapoliteness and Russian coarseness. The BBC (Leagas Delaney, London) offers a magnificent, star-studded musical montage promoting its broadcasts. And PTT Performa Gasoline (Leo Burnett, Bangkok) does a Godzilla send-up dense with very clever sight gags.
These will all take Lions. And, from the U.S., so will Miller Lite "Pro Wrestlers" and "Arm" ( Fallon McElligott, Minneapolis); Anheuser-Busch's Budweiser lizards ( Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco); M&M/Mars' Snickers "Eternity" ( BBDO Worldwide, New York); Nike Skateboarding "Running" and "Tennis" (Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore.); Weather Channel "Faces" (TBWA Chiat/Day, New York); and Nissan Motor Corp. USA "Chair" (TBWA Chiat/Day, Venice, Calif.).
Notably absent from Gunn's reel are spots from DDB France, Paris, depicting a Lamborghini driver and a motorcycle racing team in tears after being passed by a VW minivan; a poignant, beautiful (albeit arguably mawkish) spot about a Down's syndrome-afflicted teen-ager and his brother for Nabisco Biscuit Co.'s Oreo cookies from Pragma FCB, Buenos Aires; and the usual, hilarious Centraal Beheer insurance spot from DDB Needham, Amsterdam.
Au bon pain, s'il vous plait, such an oversight! But the jury will do the right thing. And if the jury won't, the Martinez will.