Tricky Dick
With 4,926 contenders for the Grand Prix Lion, I’d like to make the case for one campaign. Good work always rises to the top, and, as usual, there are some superb contenders from around the world. Although there is a select group of commercials that I know will do well at Cannes, my personal favorite is Fallon McElligott’s controversial–and often misunderstood–Miller Lite campaign.
With more than 75 Miller Lite ads in the hopper, Fallon has offered an incredible array of spots. Some have been so juvenile, my first thought after watching them was, “What were they thinking?” Yet others have been so clever–so odd–with an underlying current of mischievousness that made me slightly uncomfortable. But I liked it. I always look forward to the next Miller Lite commercial, and I can’t say that about too many campaigns. Miller Lite makes me laugh. It must make others laugh, too; it’s won numerous awards at the Clios and One Show. If someone described one of the spots to me, say “Arm Control,” which demonstrates Pavlov’s theory by showing a man who uncontrollably waves his arm every time he’s around a Miller Lite, I’d never think it would get produced. Yet, I don’t get tired of watching it, and, invariably, I laugh every time. Its eccentric humor works. The brand, once invisible and free-falling in sales, is back.
True, the campaign was weak out of the gate–Dick “the creative superstar” was merely a cheap safety net; the spots work better without his dorky, sideburned face introducing them. After Miller and its agency finished that awkward defensive period of overexplaining themselves (they even produced a horrible self-conscious series of ads that discussed the polarizing effect the original pool of spots had on different generations), the campaign took off.
The storytelling has ranged from fairly traditional to truly wacky. Equally diverse have been the styles of execution. Filmic looks for some, bare bones for others. On one side of the spectrum: A couple enjoys an old-fashioned tearjerker movie, only the boyfriend doesn’t cry until he drops his Miller Lite bottle, which rolls down the theater aisle and smashes with a crash. In another spot, a cowboy makes a trade with a bull, a case of Miller Lite for an estimated arrival time on the next stampede. At the other end are the unconventional “Evil Beaver” and “Robot Love” spots. In the first, an “evil” beaver seeks revenge on woodland settlers and ends up drinking their beer. In the other, a woman falls in love with a robot that shorts itself out when it can’t resist the beer. In this offbeat love story, they are reunited: He is recycled as a Miller Lite can.
The entertaining campaign lives in that same bizarro place that Diesel Jeans–this year’s Cannes Client of the Year–exists. It’s a trip to an altered state of reality, where anything goes. No wonder: Two of the creatives on the account, Paul Malmstrom and Linus Karlsson, cut their creative teeth at Diesel’s longtime TV agency, Paradiset DDB in Stockholm. And they’ve often used the directing team Traktor, also a Diesel favorite. Despite its obvious nod to the fashion label’s advertising, the campaign is interesting in its own right, especially for such a mainstream American brand that spends approximately $150 million advertising in the U.S. and has traditionally relied on hops, flavor and brewing techniques for creative inspiration. Dick’s influence has been felt–and poorly imitated. This campaign is about the beer-drinking experience. It may be silly, but Miller Lite World is a wonderfully strange–and fun–place to be. –E.P.
A collection of medal contenders at the Palais
Fox Networks NHL
Cliff Freeman and Partners, New York
AICP, Art Directors(3), Clios(5), D&AD(2), One Show Simple idea, clearly executed. These hilarious spots show why other sports should be more like hockey.

Apple Think Different
TBWA Chiat/Day, Venice, Calif.
AICP, Clios(5), One Show, Kelly finalist
Great thinkers–Einstein, Gandhi, Hitchcock and others–and fine photography, but will anybody care?

Courtyard Rest
Lowe & Partners/SMS, New York
Intl. Andys(2), Clios(3), One Show
Universal in concept (lack of sleep can wreak havoc on one’s day), this clever Marriott campaign has a chance.

Budweiser Louie the Lizard
Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco
AICP, Int. Andys(2), Clios(4), One Show
Great writing gives this funny series, showing Louie’s attempts to whack the Bud frogs, an edge.

SuperSonics Home
WongDoody, Seattle
Intl. Andys(Grandy+4), Clios(5), One Show(2) These regional spots following basketball team members into Seattle homes may not travel well.

Nike Park Life
TBWA Simons Palmer, London
This U.K. fave, a soccer game with some of Britain’s best, may lose some kick in front of a global group.

Volkswagen Affordability
BMP DDB, London
One Show(Best of Show +2), D&AD(2)
These clever ads stressing surprising prices won four Lions in ’97 and is sure to do well with “Lamp Post.”

HBO Haircut
BBDO, New York
AICP, Clios(4), One Show(2)
After winning first Emmy, BBDO hopes “Haircut” and others will match last year’s “Chimps” success.

Altoids Curiously Strong
Leo Burnett, Chicago
Kelly winner, Intl. Andys(1) One Show(1)
Campaign offers fun twists on intense flavor.