Cliff Freeman Wins Grand Prix

CANNES, France—Once again, comedy, and Cliff Freeman, conquered all. In what was considered a “unified” decision by the jury at the 48th International Ad ver tising Festival here, Cliff Freeman & Partners’ Fox Sports campaign was awarded the Grand Prix over the John West Salmon “Bear” spot from Leo Burnett in London. Cliff Freeman also won a gold for another Fox Sports campaign.

The darkly comic Grand Prix–winning campaign, which uses hilarious, cheap-looking video to poke fun at broadcasts of arcane sports from places like Turkey and India, offered the tagline, “Sports from the only region you care about—yours.”

“It has originality and clarity,” said Michael Lee of Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer/Euro RSCG, one of the 22 film jurors. Despite its slightly xenophobic humor, the campaign was considered insightful and universally appealing.

“That’s the power of humor,” said jury president Bob Isherwood of Saatchi & Saatchi. Powerful, in deed—Fox Sports has won top honors at every major award show this season.

After a second round of voting Friday, the Cliff Freeman work edged out Burnett’s much-favored “Bear” spot by a vote of 14 to 8. Using very British, Monty Python-esque humor, the “Bear” spot shows a fisherman wrestling streamside with a bear to get the “freshest” product imaginable. Meanwhile, the heavily favored American contender, Nike’s “Freestyle” spot from Wieden + Kennedy, barely made it onto the shortlist (see sidebar).

In another surprising turn of events, Budweiser, which won last year’s Grand Prix with “Whassup,” was awarded only a bronze, for the preppy-themed “What are you doing?” parody spot from Goodby, Silverstein & Partners.

The final hours of judging were not nearly as contentious as in past years, according to all reports. “It was a clean fight. No racial harassment, no passionate speeches, no banging of tables and not the slightest bit of debate,” said Lee.

In a year that was considered creatively lackluster, the U.S. won six gold Lions, four silvers and five bronzes along with the Grand Prix. In total, 24 golds, 19 silvers and 27 bronzes were awarded out of 6,117 entries. “Is there anything that’s industry-changing or category-defining? No,” said juror Dennis Ryan of J. Walter Thompson in Chicago. “But overall it was a good reel.”

The U.S. gold winners are Arnold in Boston, for Volkswagen’s “Ransom” spot, in which a Passat owner is mistaken for a rich guy and kidnapped, only to be returned when the truth comes out; WongDoody, Los Angeles, for the “You have to be there” L.A. Dodgers campaign; Goodby’s Pacific Bell spots “Neighborhood” and “Cops,” which show the ugly frenzy of a community of “Web hogs”; Cliff Freeman, for the Fox Sports campaign starring white basketball-playing wannabes; Butler, Shine & Stern, Sausalito, Calif., for a San Francisco Jazz Festival spot, “Low Riders,” showing three guys in a convertible listening to jazz but switching to hip-hop for passersby; and Secret Weapon Marketing in Santa Monica, Calif., for the Jack in the Box “Doctor” spot in which a marketing exec presents an ad featuring a doctor making outrageous health-benefit claims.

F/Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi, São Paulo, Brazil, was named Agency of the Year, based on total points from awards, including spots on the shortlist. The Palme d’Or for production companies went to, New York.