Kings Of The Jungle

Last year, Adweek creative editor Ellie Parpis and I ran into Chuck Porter on the terrace of the Carlton Intercontinental Hotel in Cannes as he was savoring his Media Lion win with a cold beverage. The Crispin Porter + Bogusky chairman said that in many ways, the award meant more to him than TV and print honors.

Of course, three days later, the agency won the film Grand Prix for Ikea’s “Lamp.” But what stuck with me were those Molson labels emblazoned with conversation starters like, “Who’s your daddy?” and my personal favorite, “I’m with the band.”

The originality of that idea—which gave some hope to the pick-up-line-challenged and some buzz to the beer brand—and others in the media, direct and cyber competitions made a lasting impression on me. Some of the best creative work at the International Advertising Festival, it turns out, is seen on the floor of the Palais des Festival, not in its darkened theaters.

Last year’s Grand Prix winner in direct—a Jim Beam campaign that parodied self-help ads—relied on the category’s age-old humor tricks, but still felt refreshing—perhaps because it was direct. The effort, from Young & Rubicam in Sydney, Australia, positioned the brand as a macho alternative to lightweight bourbon and beer by encouraging wimpy men to call 1900-9-JIMBEAM. In one radio spot, for instance, a guy gets hit with the number after he compliments a male friend by saying, “Those pants look really good on you.”

“The campaign shows that you don’t have to be boring to be in direct,” 2003 direct jury president and Wunderman Worldwide CEO Daniel Morel explained last year.

Who knew? For someone who thinks of direct marketing mostly as an avalanche of credit-card pitches, AOL 9.0 discs and late-night George Foreman infomercials, I was pleasantly surprised by the caliber of the entries.

As for the Web, what’s so cool about it is its untapped creative potential: You’re a kindergartner with a blank sheet of paper and a brand-new box of Crayola 64, limited only by your imagination and client constraints. And the latter excuse is fast becoming just that at a time when a $300 million advertiser like Burger King enjoys a serving of Subservient Chicken.

Today’s breakthrough cyber work ranges from the poetic NEC Corp. Web site, with its virtual tree made of users’ comments on environmental issues, to the “Gooooooal!” multiplayer game for Nike Europe, which had a gaming neophyte like myself playing soccer against an Italian named Tarrek for nearly an hour.

I realize that the idea of nontraditional advertising’s power is not new. But mostly it remains just that—an idea. Many young creatives still measure success in 30- or 60-second spots. At the MSN Strategic Account Summit this year, Wieden + Kennedy creative director Ty Montague suggested that will change when the industry stops giving commercials the top accolades.

“Maybe there’s a way where you can have the Big Kahuna night, where the really cool stuff gets shown—and not just TV commercials,” Fallon Interactive cd Kevin Flatt suggested to me last week. Not that I want to make Saturday’s awards show any longer, but I agree.

Fallon’s BMW Films won what I think of as the “Big Kahuna” last year, the first-ever Titanium Lion, created to recognize unconventional ideas that push the industry forward. I can think of a couple of candidates this year, including Wieden’s wide-ranging “Beta-7” campaign for Sega’s ESPN NFL Football videogame and Adidas’ “Vertical Football,” the billboard-turned-playing-field from TBWA\Japan in Tokyo.

Perhaps I’ll stumble upon something new as I walk the Palais floor. But I can almost guarantee that I won’t find it in the screening rooms. I challenge the industry to prove me wrong.