Honor Roll

The awards show season is in full swing, and as the 49th annual Clio Awards gets under way in Miami this week, delegates are wondering if the most rewarded campaign (so far) will continue to rake in the advertising accolades.

The “Believe” campaign from McCann Worldgroup and T.A.G., San Francisco, introduced Microsoft’s Halo 3 video game with creative centered on the hero, Master Chief, and a 1,200-foot diorama with 900 figurines representing a dramatic battle scene. It appeared in TV commercials and on the Web. To date, the campaign has won top honors at the International Andy Awards, the Art Directors Club Awards and, most recently, best of show at The One Show last week. Will a Clio be next?

The chairman for the Clio Television/Cinema/Digital jury, Tony Granger, who recently became worldwide creative director at Young & Rubicam, isn’t saying. He is, however, as effusive as most when talking about the engrossing campaign. “What this work does is reposition the whole category,” says Granger. “It takes the insight, this game is going to feel so real and you are going to feel so engaged in it, that it actually does become real. They haven’t tried to capture the gaming experience, but tried to keep the realism of the gaming experience, which was absolutely amazing. It’s a really awesome campaign. I certainly had that voice screaming in my head, ‘I wish I had done it!'”

Whether evaluating entries in the TV, Print, Interactive or Content & Contact competitions, judges often rely on their instinctual reaction to a piece of work, usually a flash of envy, when making their assessment. Granger specifically asked his jury of 14 to “look for work that makes them jealous” and feel inspired. “What I urged the judges to do was look for work that was inspiration for the industry, for the young talent being attracted,” says Granger. “We looked for work that proved that our industry is very vibrant and alive and very much connected to the future of marketing and entertainment.”

The jury chairman says the international group of judges was “really tough on the work” when it met in Santa Fe, N.M., in early spring, awarding fewer statues than last year’s 90. For an entry to be worthy of a gold, he explains, it needed to be “extraordinary, the idea needed to be simple, the insight needed to be interesting and the work needed to feel effortless.”

This Saturday night the final gala will celebrate the winners in TV/Cinema/Digital, Interactive, Technique and Radio at The Fillmore Miami Beach at The Jackie Gleason Theater in Miami Beach, Fla. Granger, whose print campaign for 42 Below vodka won a Gold last year while he was CCO at Saatchi & Saatchi, promises a “bumper year.”

Bruce Henderson, group creative director at Ogilvy & Mather in New York and a member of the TV/Cinema/Digital jury, says the consensus was that there was “a large amount of outstanding work this year.” And, in fact, the shortlist includes popular commercials such as Cadbury’s drum-beating “Gorilla” from Fallon, London; Skittles’ “Touch” from TBWA\Chiat\Day, New York; and Sony Bravia’s “Play-doh,” also from Fallon.

The jury tried to focus on the strength of the idea and “not be swayed by the extravagance of production,” explains Henderson. “There were great pieces that were done for small budgets and there were less great pieces that were done with very large budgets.”

Henderson said most of the work they saw featured linear narratives, but there were at least a couple of pieces that “were innovative for their category, for the way the story was told,” but declined to mention specifics.

With the competition including spots that appeared in cinema, on TV and on the Internet, Henderson says, the context in which the ads ran was also a factor. “I think there was probably a bit more attention paid this year to the degree to which things were created for the context in which they would be viewed,” he says. “After all, it’s television, cinema and digital. It’s really important to consider the context.”

The winners of the category that recognizes the creativity of both the advertising and the way it connects with consumers, Content & Contact, launched five years ago, will be presented at the Friday night gala, also at The Fillmore, along with winners in the Innovative Media, Integrated Campaign, Print and Design competitions. The shortlist includes complex, big-budget productions like HBO’s “Voyeur,” from BBDO New York, which told the story of the residents of a New York City apartment building on the Web and during live outdoor screenings; Leo Burnett’s “Earth Hour,” which darkened Sydney, Australia, with a lights-out campaign to encourage energy conservation; and Crispin Porter + Bogusky’s “WhopperFreakout” effort for Burger King, which captured consumers’ candid reactions to the fake news that the fast-food chain had stopped selling its signature sandwich.

One of the greatest challenges in judging this contest, says jury member Faris Yakob, digital ninja at Naked Communications in London, is the wide range of work in the category. “It’s hard to make like-to-like comparisons,” he says. “Everything is so different, from tactical, ambient executions to massive initiatives.”

Yakob points to a Uniqlo clock widget. “It’s a simple clock, but it’s also a dancing, singing catalog for Uniqlo that responds to time and seasons,” he describes. “There is a tendency to embrace new technologies; they found a way to embrace them in a way that was relevant to the brand.”

The quality of the industry’s interactive work is improving, says jury member Tommy Means, director and founding partner of Mekanism in San Francisco.

“We are definitely starting to see more production values in the work, and I, of course, really like to see great storytelling in campaigns that sort of touch a lot of media points,” he says, mentioning the “Voyeur” campaign. “I love the way they launched it out in the world, projecting it on the side of a building and tying it back to digital,” he says. But, he says, he still appreciates a banner ad well done. “It’s neat to see people getting extremely creative with a banner execution.”

Evan Fry, vp, creative director at Crispin in Boulder, was on the Print/Poster/Billboard/Innovative/Integrated jury. He says, on the whole, “it feels like we’re all getting better at making integrated campaigns.” He was particularly impressed with the student work. “It’s pretty clear that students are getting it, potentially more than some agencies.”

And, of course, it is future generations that awards shows such as Clio are hoping to inspire. “Our headline this year said it all, ‘Every legend starts with a Clio,'” says Clio Awards managing director Tony Gulisano.

Choosing winners that inspire future generations was also one of the directives TV jury chairman Granger gave his judges. But in the end, the work that will be screened at the final gala is about inspiring creatives of every age. “If jealousy is a dark, motivational force, then, man, it’s a good thing,” laughs Granger. “And I think there’s going to be a lot of people saying, ‘Wow. I wish I had done that.'”