Cannes 2002: Sex and Style

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What would Cannes be without controversy? This year it came in the form of a series of ads for Club 18-30 from Saatchi & Saatchi/London, featuring twentysomethings at play in scenes that, on closer inspection, reveal orgies of sexual activity. The campaign won this year's Print Grand Prix, but not without some grumbling, even from the jury. Juror Mike Hughes of The Martin Agency expressed his displeasure, and Ogilvy/Toronto co-CD and Press & Poster juror Nancy Vonk observed after the fact that "It was a bit like giving Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me an Oscar." Still, the Print Grand Prix, two other Print Gold Lions and two more in the Film competition - one for a Club 18-30 clip featuring an oversexed dog on a beach prowl - were good enough to land Saatchi's London office Agency of the Year honors.

Eye-rolling was also widespread in reaction to the Festival's first Outdoor Grand Prix winner, a campaign for Oslo Piercing Studio from Leo Burnett, featuring environmental objects that rip through the posters like piercings - an effort that struck many as bush league, despite assurances that the client is the "largest piercing studio in Oslo."

The results of the Film competition, on the other hand, were as satisfying as the Print results were contentious. While this year's jury, headed by Jeff Goodby, awarded just 15 Gold Lions - two fewer than the infamous Frank Lowe jury of 1995 - the best work was stunning. "The top three spots were all better than seven out of the last 10 Grand Prix winners," Goodby observed of this year's contenders, which-as predicted here last month - included Levi's "Odyssey" and Xbox "Champagne," both from BBH/London, and Nike "Tag" from Wieden & Kennedy/Portland. The final vote came down to Nike and Xbox, with Wieden's clip of a whole city involved in a game of tag taking the Festival's top honor. And while the U.S. nabbed the Grand Prix, U.K. agencies won almost twice as many Golds. And two of America's biggest winners - the Grand Prix-winning "Tag" and Gold Lion-winning "Shade Running" - were directed by Britain's Frank Budgen, whose four Gold Lions led London's Gorgeous Enterprises to this year's Palme d'Or for best production company (see p. 26). The visual stylings of Brit directors like Budgen, Daniel Kleinman and Jonathan Glazer commanded the jury's attention this year, as opposed to the broad comedy that has dominated in recent years, leading even Jeff Goodby to the startling admission that "the American oddball mockumentary feel might be waning."

One ascendant strategy, meanwhile, struggled to find a place in Cannes' various categories. Fallon/Minneapolis' BMW Films project was caught in a Catch-22 when it was turned away from the Film competition due to length restrictions, only to be snubbed by the Media Lions jury because some judges felt the campaign wasn't about the medium, but about the films. Fallon ultimately received recognition from the Cyber jury, which awarded the Grand Prix for Best Online Ad, then faced questions from critics charging that the campaign did not advance the cause of interactivity, after all. But this kind of controversy is expected at Cannes; indeed, it's almost welcomed.