Creative Awards: Paper Tigers

Goodby, Martin, BBDO West Nab Top Prizes At Athena
Simplicity and subtle humor ruled the Newspaper Association of America’s annual Athena awards this year. Much of the winning work combines arresting graphics and minimal copy to bring a smile to the weary commuter.
One execution in Goodby, Silverstein & Partners’ $100,000 grand-prize winner for Hewlett-Packard shows two men in an elevator with the caption, “Having no printer problems to discuss, IS manager and co-worker experience an awkward moment of silence.”
Joel Clement, art director on the ads for the San Francisco shop, says he appreciated, “The one night out of the year when newspaper advertising gets the glory usually reserved for broadcast”–not to mention the gigantic styrofoam check he received. “You expect Ed McMahon to hand it to you,” he says.
“It certainly wasn’t a One Show,” says one attendee about the informal event held last month in New York and hosted by comedienne Sandra Bernhard. “The mood was one of general congeniality rather than breathless awe.”
The Martin Agency, Richmond, Va., took home the most awards–12–including gold medals for Saab and Vertex Pharmaceuticals. Jeff Ross served as copywriter on the gold-
winning campaign, which features people waiting in chairs on the roadside for the new Saabs. He was surprised the ads won: “I didn’t even know we had entered the show.”
Martin’s bronze-winning campaign for Residence Inn features line drawings illustrating how “Bigger is better.” One shows a William Tell character aiming at an apple atop a boy’s exceptionally tall hairdo.
“There were some brilliant ads that I hadn’t seen because newspapers are, by their nature, very local,” says Martin senior vice president, senior copywriter John Mahoney. One of his favorites was a student entry for Volkswagen depicting a 1960s-era VW bus with several New Beetles huddled puppy-like at its side.
BBDO West in Los Angeles garnered a gold for its Starbucks campaign–long, narrow executions shot by documentary photographer Elliot Erwitt. The ads show people drinking Starbucks coffee, superimposed with the check boxes that run down the side of the chain’s cups.
Art director Mike DiPerro says he used size, style and simplicity to make the ads a quick read and as eye-catching as possible. “Newspaper is not looked at as the most glamorous medium,” he says, “but the same conceptual work and intensity goes into it.”
“It dominates the page without buying the whole page,” says copywriter Jack Fund. “It’s easy to stand out,” he says of the award, “if you have a strong idea and execute it cleanly because there’s so much crap.”