Cannes: West Coast Shops Shine

CANNES, France—Agencies from the West Coast made more than their share of noise at the 48th International Ad ver tising Festival here last week, with Butler, Shine & Stern, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, Secret Weapon Marketing and WongDoody winning four of the six U.S. gold Lions. A Fox Sports campaign from Cliff Freeman and Partners won the Grand Prix.

The Freeman work won the top prize over the John West Salmon “Bear” spot from Leo Burnett, London, in what was considered a “unified” decision by the jury. Freeman also won a gold for another Fox Sports campaign.

The darkly comic Grand Prix winner uses cheap-looking video to poke fun at broadcasts of arcane sports from places like Turkey and India. Ads were tagged, “Sports from the only region you care about—yours.”

“It has originality and clarity,” said Michael Lee of Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer/Euro RSCG, one of 22 film jurors. Despite its slightly xenophobic humor, the campaign was considered insightful and universally appealing.

“That’s the power of humor,” said jury president Bob Isherwood of Saatchi & Saatchi. Powerful, in deed—Fox Sports won top honors at every major awards show this season.

After a second round of voting Friday, the Freeman work edged out Burnett’s much-favored “Bear” spot by a vote of 14-8. Using very British, Monty Python-esque humor, “Bear” shows a fisherman wrestling streamside with a bear to get the “freshest” product imaginable.

The final hours of judging were not nearly as contentious as in past years, according to all reports. “It was a clean fight. No racial harassment, no passionate speeches, no banging of tables and not the slightest bit of debate,” said Lee.

West Coast shops winning gold were: WongDoody, Los Angeles, for the “You have to be there” campaign for the L.A. Dodgers; Goodby, San Francisco, for the Pacific Bell spots “Neighborhood” and “Cops,” showing the ugly frenzy of a community of “Web hogs”; Butler, Shine & Stern in Saus alito, Calif., for a San Francisco Jazz Festival spot with two African-Americans listening to jazz in a car but switching to hip-hop for passersby; and Secret Weapon in Santa Monica, Calif., for the Jack in the Box “Doctor” spot in which a marketing exec presents an ad showing a doctor making outrageous health-benefit claims.

The two other U.S. golds went to Arnold in Boston, for Volkswagen’s “Ransom” spot, in which a Passat owner is mistaken for a rich guy and kidnapped; and Cliff Freeman, for the Fox Sports campaign starring white basketball-playing wannabes.

A top U.S. hopeful, Nike’s “Free style” spot from Wieden + Kennedy, Portland, Ore., barely made the shortlist (see sidebar). And Budweiser, which won last year’s Grand Prix with “Whassup?” took only a bronze, for the preppy-themed “What are you doing?” parody from Goodby.

In a year that was considered creatively lackluster, the U.S. also won four silvers and five bronzes. In total, 24 golds, 19 silvers and 27 bronzes were awarded out of 6,117 entries. “Is there anything that’s industry-changing or category-defining? No,” said juror Dennis Ryan of J. Walter Thompson, Chicago. “But overall it was a good reel.”

F/Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi, São Paulo, Brazil, was named Agency of the Year, based on total points from awards, including spots on the shortlist. The Palme d’Or for production companies went to @radical.media, New York.