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Nike's 'Play' Pays Off for Wieden

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CANNES, France -- Nike's "Tag," out of Wieden + Kennedy in Portland, Ore., beat out another spot based on a "Play" theme-the heavily favored Xbox "Champagne" from Bartle Bogle Hegarty-for the film Grand Prix at the 49th International Advertising Festival here last week.

In addition to Xbox, three other gold Lion winners were favorites in the jury room and, in the early hours of deliberations on Friday, earned enough votes to be considered Grand Prix-worthy. Those contenders were Levi's "Odyssey," from BBH London, which features a couple crashing through walls; Reebok's "Sofa," by Lowe, London, in which a man's couch comes to life; and a Fox Sports campaign from TBWA\ Chiat\Day, San Francisco, that warns, "Beware of things made in October," to tout Major League Baseball playoffs.

After whittling the top contenders down to Xbox and Nike, the international panel of 22 judges decided on the Grand Prix winner when Paul Briginshaw, creative director of Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy, London, offered a convincing argument for the Nike work.

"It helped settle it considerably," said jury president Jeff Goodby of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco. "Nike was stuck in this place where they were a performance brand, a thing that Michael Jordan used to get better, and they expanded their idea to play," he added, recounting Briginshaw's speech. "They weren't just athlete's shoes, but something you can use in everyday life."

Nike's "Tag" commercial, directed by Frank Budgen, features an inventive game of tag set to a driving techno beat. A young man wearing Nike sneakers runs after and hides from other urbanites participating in the game.

The Microsoft Xbox commercial, featuring the tagline, "Life is short. Play more," follows the flight of a baby that torpedoes straight out of a womb and eventually crashes into a grave as a withered old man.

"If any of the [other] four [contenders] were picked for a Grand Prix, I would have been happy," said Goodby. "The four or five best things [in this year's show] are as good as any year."

Final deliberations went later than usual on Friday-not so much because of arguing in the jury room, but because of World Cup fever. The judging process was delayed twice so the jurors could watch the soccer matches.

Although this year's jury had several strong candidates for the top prize, selecting golds proved more difficult. "We spent a lot of time really going back through to see if we missed something that deserved to go higher," said Goodby. He said that after an initial count of 11 golds, a handful of silvers were upgraded to gold.

The U.K. took home the most golds in the competition, winning seven out of the 15 gold Lions awarded, down from 24 last year.

In addition to TBWA\C\D's gold for Fox Sports, the U.S. won three other gold Lions: Nike's "Shade Running," also from Wieden + Kennedy, Portland; Toyota Celica's "Dog," from Saatchi & Saatchi, Torrance, Calif.; and an anti-smoking spot for the Florida Department of Health, "Focus on the Positive," from Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Miami.

Four silver Lions went to the U.S.: Disney's "Big Night," by Leo Burnett, Chicago; FedEx's "Great Idea" from BBDO, New York; a MilkPEP spot from Bozell, New York ("Pants"); and two other CP+B executions for the Florida Department of Health ("Presidential Visit" and "Swahili").

The jury awarded a total of 86 Lions, including the Grand Prix, from a selection of 5,059 entries.

A spot called "Doggie Style" by Saatchi, London, for print Grand Prix winner Club 18-30, which shows a dog copulating with several other canines, won a gold, but it didn't impress the jury president much.

"I'm a prudish American; I'm from New England, which was founded by Puritans," said Goodby, but he ultimately voted for it. "It was funny to do so at the time," he said with a laugh. "You had to be there."

Saatchi & Saatchi, London was named agency of the year, with Wieden + Kennedy's U.S. shops coming in second. Third was Bozell, New York. The Palme D'Or for production companies went to Gorgeous Enterprises, London. "Tag" also won the Lion for excellence in music.