Collins: I loved that fact we weren't still looking at traditional mediums. This year we have seen a great variety of campaigns that use a more alternative approach in the media mix.
DeCourcy : I think we have a long way to go before we're really using technology in marketing. My disappointment was that we're still only judging the things that resemble traditional ads in their format— microsites, gags, ad-ons to TV campaigns. I'm excited for the day when we see digital work that doesn't fit the "campaign" structure but just really effectively markets to a brand's audience in a new way.
Reilly : I think people are trying hard to make great things. That is all you can ask for. And clients are feeling the pressure now too. So maybe it is the perfect time to be in advertising. Uncertainty will hopefully result in more innovation.
Bayala : I see something that I guess is pretty obvious: it's getting harder and harder to come up with ideas in conventional formats that are great, simply because there have been too many spots, too many ways of approaching similar problems in the same conventional ways.
Maybe because of that I value more than ever "classic" spots like Skittles or Cadbury "Gorilla." I love Skittles because it works within conventional restrictions in a refreshing, funny, smart way. And I love Cadbury because it makes you feel that what you see is more than a spot, it's an excuse for sponsored entertainment. Then I see a very refreshing approach of agencies coming up with projects that are much more ambitious than advertising solutions.The Tap Project for me is the best example of that. It's a paradigm of how great brand work can be applied to huge issues. And I don't think I value this because it's a charity idea. I love it because it's a brilliant idea. I felt the same about the Xbox (Halo 3) Museum project. Simple, ambitious, smart. I think there is a wave of "counter-agencies" trying not to do what clients want, but what people, public, can feel relevant, interesting, refreshing and especially, valuable.
Helm : It's exciting for a lot of reasons. The baseline is higher. Craft, competence—there's a lot of it out there. Everyone has permission to make wonderful work. It's not the exception anymore, it's mainstream— P&G and JCPenney leading the way in being artful, trusting clients. As the nature of the show confirms—ideas first—it's an open, experimental time, full of innovation. Twenty-year-olds are taking over again. Old people like me have to reinvent or die. It's an awesome time.
Bruce : As for the work: there is a lot of good. Some really good. And very little great. Which is a lot like life. So no big surprises there. I think being a bit naive is the best way to approach a problem. Because sometimes when you think you know it all, the solution that sits right before you, screaming and jumping up and down, is often overlooked. It's that simple. And that excruciatingly difficult.
Vonk : This is the best time for pure creativity in our industry, ever. More than ever, clients need smart, holistic solutions and most are ready to look at virtually anything that will lead to success. A complete flip from maybe two years ago. Process is out the window; the old tried and true is more often a recipe for invisibility. There's a big appetite for experimenting and taking "risks." Those who are attached to traditional advertising are either getting over it or moving quickly towards irrelevance.
Did any particular areas stand out?
Decourcy : The TV. As an industry we still do inspired film. From "Gorilla" to the "Kill the Gun," Tide "Interview," Skittles, the work for the Helen Bamber Foundation—all established film as an enduring communicative medium.
Eastwood : It's funny, everyone keeps saying that TV is dead, but the best of the TV spots are still amongst the most engaging ideas I saw. Who cares whether I watch the spot online or on a TV screen? A great TV commercial still commands attention.
Vonk : Beyond the non-traditional ideas, the integrated campaigns towered over most singular ideas. When a big idea is blown out, pushed into every possible consumer touch point, it takes on a whole new life, Halo 3 being a prime example of that. In general, for me, the more unexpected the idea the better. I loved stuff like the Be Kind, Rewind website where the thought was we've got to re-do the internet by hand because we accidentally erased it, and the stunning, interactive music video by Arcade Fire.
What inspired you most?
Reilly : Things from other countries. It is much more exciting to see work that is grounded in a simple, brilliant idea versus being based on the nuances of a certain culture. The pure idea is always the most inspiring to me.
Helm : I got to give an award to the frigging iPhone. Wow. It will be remembered as the Model T of the new world, the first step toward the inevitable: the internet in every person's pocket. Things are changing faster than I remember, ever, possibilities exploding. Nobody knows where it's going.
Tait : I was really excited to see the Radiohead In Rainbows release being recognized. I think it's right and proper that we should be recognizing an innovation that's both a marketing thing and a business thing. We need to keep looking out for things that behave and act differently, rather than just talk differently. I think Tap is similar. It's an idea that's much bigger than just communication. As a creative industry we should be championing these things and showing that we're about creative business, not just creative advertising.
Vonk : I'm most impressed by ideas that can have far greater impact than traditional communications. A Tap Project, Kwik-E-Mart makeover of 7-11s, and of course the iPhone will be remembered for years for genius level problem solving. I think ideas living in traditional media pale by comparison to these and others; the Tate Tracks project, the 15 Below project make even an outstanding TV spot or print campaign feel small. But having said that, I could watch "Wind" and Tide "Interview" 100 times and love them every time.
Graf : Halo kicked ass. And the sheer lunacy of the lizard tile spot. That was awesome and it made a nice point about the importance of replacing ceiling tiles. I was also on the Uniqlo website for an hour. I like campaigns and brand ideas. Halo was great. Apple seems to know what they're doing. Every time a PC/MAC spot is on, I'll watch it. And iTunes and Apple.com are the greatest things ever invented.
What, if anything, did you see too much of?
Collins : A big brand campaign entered in "integrated," only using a series of TV spots, is not working integrated. I must say this scares the shit out of me that our industry still perceives it that way.
Decourcy : Microsites.
Bayala : What makes me a bit tired? The obsession today for covering everything through a big idea; this 360 degree trend in which everybody feels a concept should be present in every possible media tool. Some concepts and business issues require big integrated efforts, [but] there are really interesting brands like Innocent, Camper, Uniqlo and American Apparel that work in a much more subtle way using non-invasive ways of communication. I love brands like that. And I think smart consumers do too. The Western world is definitely tired of empty consumerism. We need corporations to recognize us as people and also value the environment and think about what we REALLY need. Respect is the beginning of any creative and real communication.
Eastwood : I'm getting a little tired of the interactive website built around the notion of a fictitious story. That gag's been done. Let's move on. It's time to use our brains and invent the next big thing for interactive. Tate Tracks is a stunning example of getting it right.
Tait : I think that there's still a tendency for the industry to reward interactive/website work for things that simply look amazing. I think there's a bunch of really creative things happening in the online space that are much more powerful than the things I see winning awards. But because they don't look so cool they can get ignored. I think the industry is much more technique-focused than the people we're trying to communicate with. Again from a personal point of view it's great to see that there's a lot more integrated work going on. But it's pretty disheartening to see that a lot of what's being considered integrated is still a couple of hero TV spots with a bit of tacked-on interactive.
What set the winners apart?
Collins : I guess all of these campaigns broke a few rules. For me they illustrate a different way of tackling a communication obstacle using new uncharted methods of thinking. Hopefully they represent new milestones in our industry.
Fackrell : "Play-doh," Skittles and "Gorilla" stood out for me in film for the simple reason they were compelling, flawlessly produced and in my opinion great advertising, whether they were viewed on on TV, on YouTube, or on Adcritic. And, more importantly, talked about outside of marketing and advertising circles. Proof to me that great ideas demolish media structures and their little boxes. So, in that respect, things haven't changed very much have they? The Halo campaign was stunning and its weird emotional pull made even me want to race out and get a copy. I loved that each piece of communication built on the story, creating a subtle, creeping narrative.
Reichenthal : Halo 3. Seems like a lot of video game advertising is the same. Lots of screen shots of the game, or a quick gag followed by lots of screen shots of the game. This is so much different from anything else in the category. It concentrates on the story behind the game, almost more like a movie preview than a video game ad. The way they served it up—with the little models of the characters—was just the completely opposite way that anyone else would have done it. The online component, where you are able to navigate through the model, was really interesting and something that I'm sure lots of Halo fans took advantage of. Just great.
Reilly : I could watch them a hundred times and still smile afterwards.
Eastwood : Apart from iPhone, Tap and Skittles, which probably received my highest scores, I was really impressed by the reinvention of JCPenney. The whole campaign is incredibly strong and a great example of how good old fashioned advertising can change the fortunes of a brand. Nike "Leave Nothing" still makes jealous.
Tait : The Skittles spots were just nice little stories well told. Which is always going to be something that we need. McD Salads was a really nice way of combining media and message. Whereas The Simpsons Movie launch just brilliantly understands the way that interesting stuff propagates on the web.
Vonk : The iPhone has to come out on top in a contest like this. It's a design/technology turning point that will go down in history—a huge idea that changed how millions of people communicate, to boil it right down. Nothing that looks like an ad, no matter how well liked, can say it had this kind of global impact this year. The traditional ads that won (just under half) stand out for freshness and excellence of execution. But for me they're bon bons among the bigger ideas that took on solving big problems. I'll bet next year's winners list will have fewer TV spots as our industry puts an ever-greater premium on tackling our clients problems by whatever means we can dream up.
What does brand creativity have to do now?
Graf : It has to do the same thing it has always had to do: make stuff people want to watch or read or click or whatever.
Reilly : Use it to inspire real change. In tougher times, certain brands have the opportunity to provide hope in people's lives.
Helm : I don't know. As a giant-headed John Jay once told me, during a terrible dream, "You just got to be yourself, man."
Tait : We should be looking at building creative business ideas, not just creative advertising ideas.
Vonk : Screw the "brief."I see that piece of paper as a giant speed bump between the agency and a great idea. Just tell us the problem and let us have at it. Even if the client is asking for a TV spot, the creative process should begin with staring at the problem holistically. Agencies have to stop behaving like ad agencies. We can be seen as our clients' best possible problem solvers, for any creative solution they may need. Then there's the need to be proactive. Most clients have opportunities and problems that haven't even occurred to them but could be brought forward by the agency, always with a solution attached.
Collins : Find new ground; break a few more rules and don't worry about being different. Last year we started doing this and it made a huge impact on how we look at the way we advertise, it has even creating theories about a "tipping point" in the industry. I'm looking forward to see how these trends take form and develop over the next few years.
Big thanks go out to all our judges.
Check out more of the 2008 Creativity Award winners.