Handicapping Cannes

Who will leave with Lions at the International Advertising Festival?

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What might make this year's International Advertising Festival interesting is a lack of frontrunners. Who knows what goes on among awards show juries, but so far this year the various panels haven't agreed on much. Volkswagen won Best of Show at the Andy Awards; MINI was the star of the One Show; Nike Presto got its due from the Art Directors Club; and Ikea captured the Grand Clio. The D&AD, meanwhile, failed to present a Gold award for the first time since 1995. Predicting Lions in such an environment is a tricky business, but here some campaigns that are likely to strike Gold.

Volkswagen "Squares"
Volkswagen "Squares"
This spot, from Arnold Worldwide and director Malcolm Venville, will definitely win a Gold Lion, either by itself or as part of last year's campaign for the Beetle, which includes the musical number "Bubble Boy" and the meditative "Chain Reaction." "Squares" is backed by the strongest concept, however, as we see a montage of square objects juxtaposed with the decidedly unsquare Beetle. That makes it VW's strongest contender.

Volkswagen "Squares"
MTV Latin America "I Watched MTV Once"
This is the non-U.S. campaign that will have American handwringers doing just that after it scoops up a Lion or two or, God forbid, the Grand Prix. It will be Club 18-30 all over again! This Latin American effort, from la comunidad in Miami and Buenos Aires, wouldn't stay on the air 24 hours in the U.S., although it did get the best response from the One Show audience last month, where it won a passel of Pencils. One spot, "Baby" -- in which a nursing child makes a move on his mother's other breast -- also won the broadcast Grand Prix at FIAP. Other spots in the campaign include one in which a boy turns on porn so his mother won't catch him watching MTV, and another in which an elderly man becomes a celebrity because he farts Britney Spears' "Baby One More Time." There must be a Gold Lion in there somewhere.

Fox Sports "Antifreeze"
Fox Sports "The More You Watch"
Can Fox Sports possibly win a Gold Lion three years in a row with work featuring cringe-making slapstick violence? It can and it will. Whatever you want to say about the decline of violence in commercials, Fox Sports has stayed the course. And this campaign, from TBWAChiatDaySan Francisco -- in which watching hockey makes guys ridiculously tough -- has been the awards season's common denominator, winning two Andys, two Gold Pencils at the One Show and two Silvers at D&AD. It's probably not Grand Prix material, but it will rate a Gold Lion.

John Smith's "Babies"
John Smith's "No Nonsense"
This comic campaign featuring comedian Peter Kay is an English favorite, and was the only British campaign to win a Silver Pencil -- as a campaign -- at the D&ADs. The gem is a spot in which a bloke relates how his daughter asked where him babies came from and then details the graphically frank answer he gave her, driving home the beer's "No nonsense" tagline. This will win Gold, either singly or as a campaign.

Nike "Angry Chicken"
Nike "Angry Chicken"
This spot feels like it broke ages ago. It began airing just after last year's Festival, where Wieden + Kennedy and Nike earned the Film Grand Prix for "Tag." No Grand Prix this year, but "Angry Chicken," with its bizarre plot, gratuitous dubbing and mesmerizing acrobatics -- which have already earned honors from the Art Directors Club and D&AD -- will demand attention and score Gold as perhaps the boldest commercial of the year.

MINI "Ride"
Crispin Porter + Bogusky won two Media Lions last year for its innovative launch campaign for Mini. This year, the tiny car will cruise into the festival with more work and 16 One Show Pencils. The difficult thing here is to predict what categories Mini's Lions will come from. Certainly a Media Lion is not out of the question, and the campaign's elaborate installations will surely contend for the Outdoor Grand Prix. Of course, this year's festival will feature the presentation of the new Titanium Lion for innovation. Unless the jury decides to use it to make up for slighting BMW Films last year, that award is Mini's to lose.

Honda "Cog"
In a year without frontrunners, only this spot has stood out as completely unique. It also managed to create an international buzz and become something of a viral phenomenon - both good omens when heading to Cannes. With its exquisite marriage of concept and execution, comparing "Cog" to any other Lion contenders is like comparing apples to oranges. The Film jury will hit the town early on Friday after quick deliberations. This won't even be close.

What, you might ask, happened to "Sheet Metal," Goodby, Silverstein's street ballet for Saturn. Creativity named it Spot of the Year, but it's had a strange awards season since then. It won Gold from the Art Directors Club, but didn't even merit a Pencil at the One Show. It was one of the more discussed spots in the U.S. this year, and people have strong opinions about it, one way or another. How it will fare before an international jury is hard to tell. … Crispin Porter + Bogusky's work for Ikea, particularly the Spike Jonze-directed "Lamp," has also had an uneven year, winning Gold from the Art Directors Club and this year's Grand Clio, but failing to score Gold at the One Show. More importantly, the brand's global creative is such that it's hard to have even the best Ikea ad in Cannes. It will be interesting to see how the work does -- and how the Swedish judges react to the cruel mockery of their accents. … One of the more unexpected successes of the season has been Publicis & Hal Riney's Sprint PCS campaign, which was one of only three efforts to win a Silver at D&AD. The campaign isn't so well respected domestically, because, frankly, it started out so bad. But it's gotten better as the misunderstandings that Sprint claims to prevent have gotten more absurd, with herds of dachshunds and a muscled soap opera star invading people's homes. The D&AD judges apparently saw that. Will the Cannes jurors as well?

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