Cannes predictions: Will 2004 be the year of the hoax?

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Hoaxes are always an obsession at the International Advertising Festival in Cannes-usually in the form of ghost ads that threaten to usurp some other agency's (or country's) rightful glory. This year, however, Cannes jurors will be asked to consider another type of hoax in the form of a pair of viral marketing campaigns. Wieden + Kennedy/New York's lauded "Beta 7" effort for Sega's NFL ESPN Football will enter the festival as one of the most-honored campaigns of the year-having won a Gold medal from the Art Directors Club, a Silver Andy (as well as a special prize for innovation), Gold Pencils at both the One Show and the One Show Interactive awards, and a One Show prize for Exceptional Innovation in Marketing. Meanwhile, another much talked about viral campaign-Mini's "Robot" hoax, from Crispin Porter + Bogusky-will make its awards show debut at the festival. One need only recall the controversy that surrounded BMW Films at the festival in 2002 to wonder what the international jurors are going to do with these things. Are they media ideas? Maybe. Are they cyber? Well, they're online, but they're (intentionally) not pretty and they don't use Flash. Interactive? As experiences, both projects are really more than interactive. Instead, they coax users into an imaginary world that is not obviously imaginary. In any case, these are two of the biggest ideas of the year, and one or both of them should win Gold Lions-or perhaps the new Titanium Lion-and if they don't, it will only demonstrate how ill-equipped shows are for handling truly innovative work. Here are a few other campaigns that seem like shoo-ins for Gold.

Harvey Nichols "Sale" The press Grand Prix is nearly impossible to predict, but I'll go out on a limb for this campaign from DDB/London for fashion boutique Harvey Nichols. These executions, which announce an upcoming sale by showing items being stretched to their limits as (out of frame) patrons fight over them, won a Gold Pencil at the One Show and earned the only Yellow Pencil for press advertising at the D&AD. Should be a Gold Lion, at least, and perhaps the Grand Prix.

MTV "Watch & Learn" This interstitial branding campaign, from freelance art director Matt Vescovo and New York animation studio Hornet, has been this year's sleeper hit. Based on Vescovo's "Instructoart" concept-in which everyday matters like the "3-Second Rule" are demonstrated in diagram form-this campaign has won everywhere. It has received a Gold from the Art Directors Club, a Gold Pencil at the One Show and a Yellow Pencil at the D&AD. A Gold Lion can't be far behind.

Adidas "Vertical Football" Of all the categories at the festival, Outdoor has the clearest favorite. Adidas' "Vertical Football"-which was created by TBWA/Japan and 180 Amsterdam-featured actual soccer players, fastened by bungee cords, going at it high above the streets of Tokyo. Nothing will compete with this for the Outdoor Grand Prix. Already it has earned a special innovation award at the One Show, a Grand Clio and the Best of Outdoor award at the Asia Pacific Advertising Festival.

PS2 "Ratchet & Klank" TBWA/Chiat/Day's second round of commercials for the PS2 title Ratchet & Klank-directed by Bob Industries' Dayton/Faris following Noam Murro's original executions (which were inexplicably snubbed by last year's shows)-has been getting much respect this season. The effort, which features gadgets from the game deployed in the real world, has won a Gold from the Art Directors Club, a Gold Pencil at the One Show, and a Silver nomination from the D&AD. Expect this campaign to bring home a Gold Lion.

PS2 "Mountain" So far, Honda's "Cog" commercial from Wieden + Kennedy/London has dominated this year's award season. However, it's not eligible for Cannes, having collected its much-deserved Gold Lion in 2003. What, then, will win the Film Grand Prix? For my money, it's got to be Frank Budgen's epic "Mountain" for PS2, set to the offbeat strains of a Shirley Temple gospel tune. This hasn't won that many awards this year. It only earned a Silver Pencil at the One Show, for example. But from a D&AD jury that was very stingy, the spot earned four Craft Pencils-two more than "Cog" - for direction, cinematography, effects and music. What else is there?

Others to Watch We would have expected TBWA/Chiat/Day's colorful and iconic campaign for the Apple iPod to have done better in this year's shows. Although the television effort was honored by the Art Directors Club and the Clios, it was a no-show at the One Show. Could still pick up a Lion. ... Cliff Freeman & Partners' locked-camera masterpiece, "Role Reversal" for Value City-in which a mother is dragged out of the store kicking and screaming by her children-has received a few notices at the Andys and the One Show, and could sneak into the Lions at Cannes. ... Keep an eye on the FedEx commercial "Career Maker" from BBDO/New York.. It hasn't been a fixture this season, but it picked up a Gold Pencil at the One Show as a single and a Silver as part of a campaign. ... Only one PSA has emerged as a consistent winner this season: the American Legacy Foundation's "1200" campaign from Arnold Worldwide and Crispin Porter + Bogusky. It should earn a Gold Lion in Film.

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