Cheers and Jeers

Jurors and others on whether Cannes entries got what they deserved.

As one delegate to the 50th International Advertising Festival noted, you never know what will do well on “Planet Cannes.”

The spot that received the greatest applause at the June 22 gala honoring the film competition winners was not festival favorite “Cog,” Grand Prix winner “Lamp” or contender “Ear Tennis,” the Xbox ad from Bartle Bogle Hegarty in London. It was the gold-winning Peugot spot “The Sculptor,” out of Euro RSCG Mezzano Costantini Mignani in Milan, Italy, in which a young man reconfigures his car to look like the new 206 model, even using the weight of an elephant to shape the front hood.

The spot, which won the journalists award, was “the biggest idea of the year,” says Marcio Moreira, vice chairman, chief creative officer and director of multinational accounts at McCann-Erickson WorldGroup in New York, who served as jury president in 1989. “It was all about the fantasy of the dream car. The entire commercial is a celebration of the product.”

Jury president Dan Wieden had urged attendees at the final night of the festival to “make it an interactive evening,” encouraging the Palais des Festival crowd to produce its own barometer of the film winners with its trademark catcalls, whistles and cheers. “Express yourselves very openly,” requested the CEO and chief creative officer of Wieden + Kennedy in Portland, Ore.

Indeed, several honorees received hearty derision, with one winner from BBDO Bangkok almost in tears as she accepted her prize for “Belly Button Face.” The bizarre 75-second spot for anti-wrinkle cream Giffarine EQ-10 Skin Care shows a mother whose excessive plastic surgery has left her with a midriff for a face. Also booed were the silver-winning McDonald’s campaign from Vitruvio/Leo Burnett, Madrid, which centers on a promotional giveaway for a clear Coca-Cola glass and even past crowd favorite Stella Artois, whose “Devil’s Island” from Lowe, London, shows the lengths a prisoner goes to hold onto his beloved beer.

“There were a number of golds that had no right or place in the show,” says Mark Tutssel, deputy chief creative officer at Leo Burnett, Chicago, pointing to “Belly Button Face” and “Suckling Pig,” a gold winner for Brazilian shop Neogama BBH in which a roast is so in awe of a GE oven, it drops the fruit in its mouth. “When you put [either of those spots] next to a John Smith [the beer campaign out of TBWA London], ‘Lamp’ or ‘Cog,’ it pales in significance. I personally wouldn’t have awarded those anything. They were very poor.”

“The overall quality was a disappointment,” adds Moreira, arguing that not a single winner matched the caliber of last year’s Grand Prix winner, Nike’s “Tag.”

The winners lacked “depth of emotion,” says Ann Hayden, executive creative director at Young & Rubicam, New York. “There weren’t many things that made me feel differently as a human being. I think you could tell it was a year of some economic stress.”

Wieden’s 22-member jury culled through 4,577 entries to award 21 golds, 25 silvers and 36 bronzes. After lengthy final deliberations, the Ikea spot “Lamp,” from Crispin Porter + Bogusky in Miami, got 15 votes for the Grand Prix, sources say. “At the end of the day, we felt there was a freshness and genuine human insight that had a surprise and honesty that was very refreshing,” says juror Gary Horner, national creative director at DDB Sydney in Australia.

Despite its many fans among the delegation and even the jury, “Cog” lost the top honor due to claims that the two-minute Honda commercial out of Wieden + Kennedy in London was too close in content and execution to a Swiss art short called Der Lauf der Dinge (The Way Things Go). The debate centered on “the question of authenticity,” explains juror Steve Rabosky, chief creative officer at Saatchi & Saatchi in Torrance, Calif.

“I had only seen a few seconds of the film, and to me the similarity was striking and unfortunate,” Rabosky says. “The last thing we wanted to do was to get caught in the issue of originality. For the Grand Prix, we were looking for the work that the jury would agree is a special piece of communication.”

Nonetheless, Rabosky loves the spot. “It’s probably the best car commercial I’ve ever seen,” he says. “I would hire the guys who did it in an instant.”

Horner also cites the “unresolved issues” surrounding “Cog” as the reason it failed to prevail. “There was a debate whether it was too close to the art film, [but] there was no inference that it was lifted,” he says.

Sources said the jury was especially cautious over a potentially controversial issue such as originality because the press and outdoor jury had to toss out its top choice for the Grand Prix in press. That entry, a copy-driven Portuguese campaign for Ferin bookstore out of Leo Burnett, Lisbon, was found to have been “inappropriately entered,” because media was donated, not paid, as festival rules require.

Press and outdoor juror Gary Koepke, co-founder of Modernista! in Boston, compared rewarding advertising that’s not legitimately entered to “awarding an artist for a painting.” The print Grand Prix went instead to the TBWA Paris Playstation ad “Rebirth,” showing a woman giving birth to a grown man.

Wieden declined to comment on “Cog,” as did film juror Richard Russell, senior copywriter at Wieden + Kennedy, London. Talking more generally about the issue of originality, Wieden said even Shakespeare had to “deal with what is original, borrowed or stolen. … Old ideas are given new life and power just by their interpretation.”

After the judging was completed, Wieden explained: “We tended to be very thorough, and we were extremely cautious about making sure we picked legitimate and powerful work. I feel very good with where we are, especially given the constraints of having a two-thirds majority. That means a lot of times the more provocative, more revolutionary spots don’t always get chosen.”

Final deliberations ended at 9 p.m. the Friday before the awards gala. One reason they took so long, said members of the jury, was that for the first time the entries were viewed digitally, allowing spots to be replayed during discussions. “We had the opportunity to see the ads again, which seems like a good idea to me,” said Russell.

While many delegates challenged the jury’s choice for Grand Prix, most agreed that “Lamp” is a notable spot. “I thought Ikea was a bit of a wimpy selection. I’m not sure it was the best commercial of the year,” says Jonathan Cranin, worldwide creative director at McCann-Erickson, New York, whose own preferences were the Nike commercial “Angry Chicken” and Peugeot’s “The Sculptor.” “That said, it was one of those—like Dan Wieden said—rare instances of a truly good business idea married to a good piece of advertising.”

Patrick O’Neill, co-executive creative director at TBWA\Chiat\Day in New York, admits he was surprised to see “Lamp” win over “Cog,” a spot he says “took my breath away.” After first hearing of the Grand Prix choice, he says, “I was like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding.’ Then I thought it was clever and smart strategically. Given the mood everyone is in, it has a warm, clever quirkiness to it. ‘Cog’ is really clever, but maybe too cold to win this year.”

Despite his problems with some of the gold winners, Tutssel says, “Overall, I thought it was a pretty successful show. Ikea is a great spot, with a wonderful strategy and beautifully executed.”

Bruce Bildsten, creative director at Fallon, Minneapolis, also lauded the Grand Prix choice but added, “My favorite was ‘Cog’ because it was bigger, it was more unusual. I thought it was more inventive, and the fact that they had two-minute bloc treated it as an event.” Bildsten, a winner of this year’s new Titanium honor for the agency’s BMW Films campaign, also challenged a few of the jury’s choices. The McDonald’s campaign, he says, left viewers asking, “Where did that come from?”

Closer Look: Lamp

“We tried to make [Ikea] aware that in this country, a lot of people have attachments to inanimate objects and keep them for a long time,” says Crispin Porter + Bogusky art director Mark Taylor about the Miami shop’s pitch for the Ikea business in February 2002. “We were trying to change that with furniture, which I don’t think had been done before.”

The client was initially uncertain. “We set out to start, essentially, a revolution in the furniture category,” says external marketing manager Christian Mathieu. “The more internal question was, ‘Should we be focusing energy on that?’ But at the end of [discussions], it felt good.” Once Ikea execs approved CP+B’s approach, getting the go-ahead for “Lamp” was a cinch. “I loved it right off the bat,” Mathieu says. “It was the [spot] that hit home the … whole ‘Unböring’ strategy of changing furniture culture.”

The agency considered making a dresser the star of the spot, but decided a lamp, which has a head and neck of sorts, “could be most easily anthropomorphized,” explains executive creative director Alex Bogusky.

The concept was, at first, less dramatic. Then “we kind of flopped it and said, ‘Let’s make it really sad,’ ” says Bogusky. Until director Spike Jonze was brought in, the spot was set outside a suburban home. Jonze, of MJZ in Los Angeles, moved the scene to a brownstone—he shot the spot on the Paramount Pictures backlot in L.A.—and added rain to heighten the melodrama. “He made a small kind of story seem epic,” says Taylor.

For authenticity, the agency found a non-actor to serve as the spot’s unsentimental Swede, whom they recruited via the Swedish Consulate in Los Angeles.

The creative team, which also included associate creative director Paul Keister, art director Steve Mapp and copywriter Ari Merkin, knew they had a winner as they shot the spot. “It seemed like an almost magical experience,” says Taylor. “Everything came together perfectly.” But Bogusky says the prospect of awards—along with the Grand Prix, “Lamp” won the Grand Clio and honors at the AICP Show, the Andy Awards and the ADC Awards—was not top of mind: “We don’t think about that kind of stuff. We thought it would do well with consumers.”