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Creative: Preview - Best of Show

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Judges Dub Work "Solid" and "Outrageous"; Agencies Await
Luke Sullivan once described April as among the most harrowing months of the year. "You'd find me lurking in the mail room pining for "the letter' from the One Show announcing accepted entries," says the award-winning copywriter in his book "Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This."
Well, it's baaack. That time when careers are made, salaries are raised and egos coddled or destroyed.
The best and worst of 1998 will be scrutinized, contested and distinguished with Pencils, Clios, Andys, Lions and, in some cases, mega-cash. (The MPA Kelly rewards the grand prize winner with $100,000 and the Andy Awards' Grandy includes a sweet $50,000.)
Anticipation is in the air. The award season kicks off with the Andys this week, but an early poll of judging committees reveals mixed feelings about this year's entries.
"It's going to be a weird year," says Jeff Goodby, co-chairman and co-creative director of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, who served as one of the Andy judges. "There wasn't that much that was mind-blowing. There were a lot of good things out there, but nothing that broke the mold and started over in a major way."
Goodby, who includes himself and his agency in "that damning statement," adds, "No one did anything that changed the world, but that's OK. Mark McGwire doesn't always hit 70 home runs and he shouldn't."
Steve Henry, creative director of HHCL & Partners, London, and chairman of the TV and radio jury of the Clio Awards this year, agrees, noting, "I didn't feel there was a lot of breakthrough work, but the general standard was very high."
The year's medal harvest will yield honors for the timeless and the offbeat. "We've been through a stage of clearly expressed ideas, then it went wacky and wonderful. The situation now is torn between these two," Henry says. "We're getting some wacky and some solid stuff."
Previous award-show staples like Goodby's tough-talking Budweiser lizards, BBDO's Snickers sight gags and TBWA/Chiat/Day's Apple work for iMac this year will probably win again.
Judges debating Arnold Communications' work for the new Beetle said the campaign had "one of the best product of the '90s" and a great starting point, the Bernbach original. Participants predict the ads will be widely honored, adding to Arnold's Cannes Grand Prix print honors last year.
"I didn't think there was anything better than that," says Mike Hughes, president and creative director of The Martin Agency, Richmond, Va., who served on the Kelly jury this year. "Just like the designers did with the car, the advertising made it fresh and new-but kept what was great about it."
As expected, comedy continues to reign supreme. For instance, Cliff Freeman and Partners' campaign for Outpost.com drew huge laughs in the judging rooms of the One Show, the Andys, D&AD and the Clios. "It is just so outrageous," says Andy judge Tracy Wong, creative director of WongDoody, Seattle.
Cliff Freeman, which swept the '98 shows with its Fox Sports NHL campaign, entered its equally outrageous work for the client's Web site this year. The ads parody public-service ads to illustrate the obsessive appeal of the site. In one, a man diapers his baby with his feet. "It's the best misdirect I've ever seen," says One Show judge Steffan Postaer, creative director at Leo Burnett, Chicago.
Per usual, the award shows will honor work little seen because of limited or off-season media schedules. Two campaigns from Wieden & Kennedy are garnering praise for their "inventiveness": Nike's "What are you getting ready for?" and Miller High Life. "Just when everything had been done, they made [Nike] approachable again," says John Butler, partner and creative director of Butler, Shine & Stern, Sausalito, Calif., who judged the One Show and the Art Director Club Awards. "Miller High Life is fresh. It nailed the consumer."
That's all a creative could hope for. And, of course, a little metal.