Festival Favorites: Dove, Nike

NEW YORK Will 2007 be remembered as the year that digital creativity finally steals the Cannes limelight? Considering the sweeping performance of R/GA’s Nike+ Web site in this year’s awards show season—winning top honors in competitions such as the One Show, Andys, and D&AD—and the global groundswell of support behind Dove’s viral-turned-TV spot “Evolution,” awards show forecasters predict it just may be.

There’s no doubt in my mind that Nike+ will take home top honors in the Cyber category, but perhaps the big thinking behind the co-branded product will inspire a Titanium award as well. I know many have been so impressed with the Web site and its business proposition that it just may be honored for its “forward-thinking” idea as well as its stunningly inviting execution. (Call it pathetic or progressive, the site has actually inspired me to pick up the product just so I can join in on the fun.)

While Film is historically the most highly anticipated competition in the festival, industry executives claim this year the submissions look a little thin. The executions that stand out are familiar. They’re either followups to previous notable ads like the explosive Sony Bravia “Paint,” the Smooth E “The Story Continues” and AIDS “Love Story, ” or viral executions like “Evolution” and Quicksilver’s “Dynamite.” But with Cannes being the last show in the festival season and judging taking place on the ground there, delegates just may be treated to a dark horse surprise with a recently aired spot that few have seen previously.

From this side of the Atlantic, however, even after watching Leo Burnett’s yearly predictions reel showcasing the agency’s creative intelligentsia worldwide picks, I’m still clinging to my same favorites. As a female who has painfully felt the ridiculously unattainable yet still coveted pop culture picture of beauty, I want to see Dove’s “Evolution” out of Ogilvy & Mather win big. The spot itself doesn’t feature any extraordinary visuals, just the magic of time-lapse photography documenting the transformation of an average looking woman into a billboard-worthy supermodel. The spot, which was first distributed as a viral film, is one of the best advertising executions I’ve seen addressing female self-esteem. Ironic that it’s coming from the very industry that creates and perpetuates those harmful beauty myths.

Another one of my Cannes favorites also comes from the beauty category, but this one from JEH United, Bangkok. It’s a soap opera-style spot series that follows the wacky adventures of acne-battling teens as they consult with a wise-cracking saleswoman. It’s not exactly what you would call an “epic” production. It’s campy, overacted and satirical about the state of the expert product pitch. And that’s why I love it. (And why it probably won’t mass much metal at the show.)

While I love many of the spots on the reel from the U.S. and Europe—Crispin’s jarring VW “Crash” ads, BBH’s gorgeous “Sea of Skin” for Vaseline, TBWA\Paris’ daringly frank animated AIDS PSA “Love Story,” to name a few—I’m drawn to an aesthetic that has a truly foreign flavor. In addition to the Smooth E campaign, two other Thai efforts have tickled my funny bone: another funny campaign for Bangkok Assurance and a lizard love story for Shera Flexy Board.

Most curiously, I’m wondering how a spot for an Indian teeth-whitening gum will do in the competition. The elaborate production features lush music and visuals of an Indian palace that is lit up by teeth so bright they create beaming streams of light out of the mouths of those who chew the gum, luminous enough to light up an entire city it seems. It’s one of those oddball spots that could either produce nasty whistles or thunderous applause. At the very least, it will spread some smiles.