How Harvey Nichols’ Lo-Fi Masterpiece ‘Shoplifters’ Cut Through a Sea of Highly Crafted Ads

TBWA's Chris Garbutt picks his three favorite spots ever

Headshot of Tim Nudd

The big Film winners at Cannes in 2016 were a study in contrasts.

In the Film Craft category, the Grand Prix winner was Under Armour’s “Rule Yourself: Michael Phelps” spot from Droga5, an exquisitely made masterpiece of craft (and Adweek’s Ad of the Year for 2016). But over in the Film Lions, the Grand Prix went to its polar opposite—the incredibly lo-fi “Shoplifters” spot for Harvey Nichols by adam&eveDDB.

“Shoplifters” was a revelation to the Cannes jurors, even those who had seen the spot on a computer before.

“When we got to see it on the big screen—this had never happened to me in a jury room before—once it was finished, the whole jury room spontaneously started applauding,” said Film juror Ana Balarin, executive creative director at Mother London. “That says a lot about it. … Who would have thought that a film with a low budget, without a script, using found footage, could be so entertaining and have such a rich narrative?”

In our latest “Best Ads Ever” video, TBWA global chief creative officer Chris Garbutt picks “Shoplifters” as one of his three favorite ads ever, citing its unique spirit in a world of highly manicured advertising.

“It’s a great examples of zagging while others zig, or disrupting the category,” Garbutt said. “Harvey Nicks has always been about beautifully crafted executions, and luxury, and fashion. And then, out coms this lo-fi ad, or story, shot on CCTV footage, using existing stock that they’ve got from people shoplifting.”

He added: “It’s a very brave execution. In a sea of craft … this one piece just cut through all that.”

See the video at the top of this story for Garbutt’s two other picks, and see all three ads in full below. And for more “Best Ads Ever” videos, click here.

@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.