Spending six days locked in dark rooms screening thousands of ads while colleagues frolic on the French Riviera seems more like a punishment than an honor. But for the 44 judges who select the best work in the world, the task is done with pride. Here’s a look at the three American creatives drafted for Cannes duty this year. –Eleftheria Parpis
Senior vice president, senior creative director, BBDO, New York
The first time she attended Cannes in 1995, Donna Weinheim proved a triple threat, winning three Lions–a gold, silver and bronze–for commercials she worked on at two different New York agencies.
Weinheim, who joined BBDO in 1994 after 14 years with Cliff Freeman and Partners, took home a gold Lion for “Inner Tube,” a Pepsi commercial she created at BBDO, and a silver and bronze for Little Caesars’ “Focus Group” and “Singing Baby,” respectively.
In 1995–the year festival jury president Frank Lowe withheld Grand Prix honors–Weinheim’s “Inner Tube,” which showed a boy on a beach sucking so hard on his straw for the last drop of Pepsi that he gets pulled into the bottle, was one of four spots vying for top festival honors.
Despite winning more than 12 Lions in her 20-plus-year career, Weinheim says the real prize in Cannes isn’t the trophies, but the experience. “Winning was icing on the cake. I was inspired just by being around people in the international advertising world who are passionate about their work,” she says. “I was impressed during the award show when they run the winning spot and, within seconds, 2,000 people know what the commercial is. It’s incredible.”
Luckily for Weinheim, who also works on the agency’s HBO and Frito-Lay accounts, her spots were cheered rather than jeered when screened last year. Her bronze Lions for two international Pepsi spots, “Soap on a Rope” and “Queen,” in addition to the agency’s gold win for Visa and silver for Snickers and HBO, helped BBDO’s U.S. network garner Agency of the Year laurels.
What will she be looking for in the film entries? “First and foremost, something different. It can’t be a repeat of things you’ve seen before,” she says. “That’s why I like advertising. You have to constantly reinvent the wheel.”
Executive vice president, chief creative officer, Bozell, Southfield, Mich.
Five years ago, Gary Topolewski was working feverishly on ideas for a Jeep spot to air during the Winter Olympics. Suddenly, one script, scribbled on a piece of loose-leaf paper by art director Andy Ozark, shone as white as the driven snow. A camera tracks a Bugs Bunny-like burrow moving through the snow until it reaches a stop sign. A flashing red light peeks through, and the viewer discovers the object is actually a Jeep.
“It stood out. The simplicity of this was so powerful,” he remembers. “We had a small number of spots that we recommended to the client. This was one you knew was going to be great.” So great it won the Grand Prix at Cannes in 1994. “It was a testament to Detroit, to ourselves and to our client,” he says. “It gave us an international status.”
Though Topolewski had won the Grand Prix, he could not attend the festival that year because he was busy shooting Chrysler’s Eagle campaign. Fortunately, Topolewski was able to bask in the glory of a win in 1995, when another Jeep spot–a Grand Cherokee owner driving over a pile of rocks to enter his driveway–took home a gold.
This year, as a film judge, Topolewski says he’ll be looking for “the unique, the unexpected nothing that overwhelms you with technique. You look for the simplicity of the idea and how it’s communicated.”
Last year, Bozell took home a silver Lion for a Jeep spot showing a man so enthused by his new Jeep, he shouts from the top of a mountain and howls like a wolf. He also earned a bronze Lion for an ad showing three Jeep owners playing Frisbee across a canyon. “Jeep is about the idea that you can do anything, go anywhere,” he says. “If you see it on the hood of your car, you feel like you can conquer the world.”
Currently at work on the launch of a new Grand Cherokee model, Topolewski says one of the challenges is surpassing the creative level the agency has set with its award-winning work.
Chief creative officer, Arnold Communications, Boston
Although he’s one of 22 creative directors to judge the print portion of the Cannes festival this year, Ron Lawner freely admits, “I’m not really an award-show person.”
Voicing a familiar complaint about shows that focus on creativity for creativity’s sake rather than client results, Lawner adds, “We do advertising for clients. A lot of times, award shows are about what you would do if you didn’t have a client,” he says. “That’s wonderful; but it’s not what we do.”
Striking a balance between effectiveness and creativity, Arnold’s ads have won many creative awards, including a silver Lion at Cannes in 1996. The lauded spot, an inspired Jerry Garcia memorial ad for Volkswagen, showed a line drawing of a Bug shedding a powder-blue tear from one of its headlights above the late Grateful Dead singer’s name. The agency also won a Lion in the late 1980s for an Adrian Lyne-directed ad for Jovan.
What is Lawner looking forward to this year? Immersing himself in ads. “Usually we’re so busy. It’ll be nice to sit back and just think about creative,” he says.
“First, you look at what [an ad] is supposed to do. If it didn’t do it in an interesting way, it’s out,” says Lawner. “To me, advertising is not complicated. There are varying degrees of creative. I look for something that’s strategically sound and creatively excellent.”
Arnold has entered a few favorites this year, including the magnificently understated “Sunday Afternoon,” with two slackers driving around to Trio’s “Da Da Da,” and a number of executions from this year’s Bernbach-inspired Beetle relaunch.
The Beetle campaign, with its fusion of retro-style and cutting-edge music, has caused a stir in creative camps, but that’s nothing compared to the excitement generated by the sleek new Bug itself. Driving a lime-green Beetle during one of the commercial shoots in Los Angeles, Lawner says, “I felt like a rock star.”
This year marks the premiere of the Interactive Marketing and Advertising competition. Cyber Lions will go to the best Web sites and interactive ads, judged by a panel of eight international experts. U.S. participants are Mark Kvamme, chairman and CEO of CKS Group; Norman Lehoullier, managing director of Grey Interactive; G.M. O’Connell, chairman of Modem Media and president of TN Technologies; and Larry Smith, president and CEO of U.S. Interactive. “We are a young industry that needs proactive discussions to grow,” Lehoullier says. “One way to do that is to create momentum around good work.” Winners, chosen from 394 entries, will be announced during the Press & Poster Awards ceremony on June 23.