VW Drives Arnold at Hatch 2000

For the third time in four years, Arnold Communications’ work for Volkswagen of America captured best-of-show honors at the Advertising Club of Greater Boston’s Francis W. Hatch Awards.

Arnold took home 37 awards, including seven gold bowls, plus best-of-show at the 40th annual event held here Thursday at John Hancock Hall.

The Boston agency won the best-of-show prize for its “Milky Way” commercial showing a group of young people who forego a late-night party for a VW ride under the stars.

“That’s just an unbelievable spot,” said Hatch judge Todd Mitchell, a copywriter at Core in St. Louis. “They showed great taste in keeping it honest, genuine and real. It’s that kind of undefinable magic that stays with you.”

Arnold’s VW work also scored best-of-show honors in 1999 and shared that prize in 1997.

The decision by the eight-judge panel to award the top prize to Arnold was, however, far from clear-cut. Work for nonprofit group Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities by Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos in Boston, was also given serious consideration, said Hatch judge Sally Hogshead, co-creative director of Robaire & Hogshead, Venice, Calif.

“Volkswagen wasn’t an easy pick,” said Hogshead. “The spot isn’t one that you can look at and rationalize and deconstruct and say why it’s a great spot. It’s visceral and experimental.”

Despite judges’ efforts to prevent the event from becoming what Mitchell called a “Volkswagen Show,” Arnold also landed six golds for VW, honoring TV, radio, outdoor and transit, and Web-site work. Arnold’s other gold came for the American Legacy Foundation’s national anti-smoking campaign.

Hill, Holliday earned 26 total awards and tied Arnold for the most golds with seven. The agency’s work for Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities earned five gold awards. Voter.com ads brought in two additional gold bowls.

“We all instantly gave it a gold,” said Hatch judge Luke Sullivan, a creative director at WestWayne in Atlanta, of the Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities work. “It was clean, old-fashioned advertising with kick-butt headlines.”

Mullen, a big winner at numerous past Hatch shows, notched a single gold for L.L. Bean; last year, the Wenham, Mass., agency won nine gold awards. At Hatch 2000, Mullen took home 36 awards, following closely on Arnold’s, though the majority of Mullen’s prizes were merit certificates.

The show this year was marked by a decline in awards overall, with 173 prizes being given out, compared with roughly 250 last year. Only 18 gold prizes were handed out, compared with 25 last year.

“We put the judging in the hands of our judges, who are all well-respected people on the creative side of the business,” said Bethany Kendall, president of the Ad Club.

The decline in awards was not a reflection of the quality of the work, several judges said. “It’s always been perceived as a prestigious and difficult show,” Mitchell said.

“I think that the broadcast was stronger than ever,” said Hogshead, adding that the quality of the writing and art direction for the submissions had “a subtlety and elegance that is rare to find.”

Monster.com, Maynard, Mass., which just switched to Arnold from Mullen, was named Ad-vertiser of the Year. Hill, Holliday producer Greg Roman won the L.E. Sissman Award, presented to an ad-vertising professional who pursues the arts outside of work; Jim Ricciardi, executive vice president and director of print creative services at the shop, captured the Bob Stacy Craftsperson Award, given to the individual with the desire to excel as a professional and an individual.