With the faltering economy, agencies turned to big ideas with smaller budgets.

By Yash Egami

After 13,000 entries, three rounds of One Show judging and continued discussions about the economy, the results are in: 83 Gold, Silver and Bronze Pencils were handed out at the One Show, 39 different countries were represented among the finalists, and yes, it was a tough year all around.

But with the economic downturn came a need for new and innovative advertising solutions that didn’t require big budgets, which sometimes resulted in exceptional ideas.

“A bad economy, changing media landscape and nervous clients typically don't make for the best marketing,” observes One Show Judge Court Crandall from Ground Zero in Los Angeles. “And it showed. Entries were down and there was less emphasis in the work on building brands and more emphasis on driving sales. That said, there are no cheap Pencils any more. To win metal, you have to do something truly great.”

Some of the top scorers at this year’s One Show included print work from BBDO/Proximity Malaysia for Chrysler Jeep, Nike’s “Next Level” TV spot by 72andSunny, Crest “Bulldozer, Pre-Nup, Lice” by Saatchi & Saatchi and “Help the Honey Bees” for Häagen-Dazs by Goodby, Silvertein & Partners, which also won the
inaugural Green Pencil Award.

But the surprise winner of the evening was “The Best Job in the World” by CumminsNitro in Brisbane, which took home Best of Show honors. The relatively low-budget campaign to promote the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef became a worldwide phenomenon, attracting thousands of applications, prime-time media coverage and millions of page views online.

All of the One Show judges marveled at the campaign’s effectiveness with a limited amount of marketing dollars. “It’s hard to believe that a small-space ad that, frankly, was not much more than a headline could become something truly global,” says Steve Mykolyn from TAXI in Toronto. “Most of the international judges had come across the campaign in their local market, and that was conclusive proof that a big idea trumps a big budget and a big production.”

One Show Judge John Boone from Charlotte-based BooneOakley realized afterward why “Best Job” deserved to win: “I remember after a particularly long day of judging where we debated what deserves to be named Best of Show—going back to my hotel room and seeing the answer being televised…on CNN Headline News. Ironically, the ‘Best Job’ contest announced the winner the same day it won Best of Show. Coincidence? Hardly.”

It was a good year for Australian agencies as a whole, which won a total of six Pencils and 21 Merit Awards. Ian Grais from Rethink in Vancouver noticed the quality of the work from the country was particularly strong. Says Grais: “Four of my favorite campaigns came from four different agencies Down Under: ‘Magic Salad Plate’ for Four ‘N Twenty Meat Pies, ‘Lost Sock Appeal’ for Network to Ban Landmines, “Offset the Evil” for Sega, and the Best of Show ‘Best Job in the World’ campaign for The Islands of the Great Barrier Reef.”

“Offset the Evil,” with its tongue-in-cheek, comically sweet online games created to offset a gamer’s “evil footprint” after playing Condemned 2, an ultra-violent video game from Sega, was a guilty pleasure for many of the judges.

“I reluctantly admit having played such games, I often feel the need to confess my misdeeds to a priest ...even though I’m not Catholic,” cracks Boone. “Fortunately, Clemenger BBDO created a Microsite called ‘OffsetTheEvil.com’ that featured innocent, syrupy-sweet video games like ‘Clown Flower Time’ and ‘Pony Heart Quest’ to help reduce one’s evil footprint. And it made a room full of bleary-eyed, grizzled ad vets laugh like a bunch of pre-pubescent school kids on the final day of judging. Father, forgive us.”

Tim Roper from Crispin Porter + Bogusky was also impressed with the campaign while being simulatenously repulsed by the game. “I can only imagine that if the brief for what sounds like the most repugnant and bile-inducing game I’ve ever heard of actually crossed my desk (and I didn’t refuse to participate on moral grounds), I can’t imagine generating a better, smarter,
funnier idea than this,” he remarks. “Here’s your Gold Pencil. Now let’s get this game off the market, please.”

Some of the biggest winners in this year’s show like “Offset the Evil” and “Best Job” came from agencies outside the U.S. Other multiple-Pencil winners include DDB London, which continued its winning streak for its Harvey Nichols “Mannequins” campaign and AlmapBBDO for its Volkswagen print campaign. Creative Juice in Bangkok won for its Yellow Pages print campaign, featuring actual Yellow Pages books on rooftops across the city. Even Turkey scored its first-ever Gold Pencil for a radio campaign, “Google Search Tips,” from Grey/Istanbul.

Paul Renner from Arnold in Boston believes that while international agencies stealing the spotlight isn’t exactly a new trend, it was much more noticeable this year and should be a wake-up call for U.S. agencies.

“Maybe it’s time we U.S. agencies relied a little less on analytics, charts and the ‘Everyone is creative’ motto, and a little more on following our proven, experienced creative guts,” states Renner “Oh, wait, never mind. What am I thinking? Focus groups would kill that whole idea.”

But the continued rise of international work left more than a few judges wondering out loud where some of the ads were coming from, with many losing their cultural voices.

“[An] interesting trend for me was a series of cross-cultural influences that is clearly a fallout of the acute globalization of world cultures that we have seen over the past few years,” says Agnello Dias from Taproot in India. “There were a few spots that I could have sworn were from my country but eventually turned out to be from another market altogether.”

When asked about trends, several judges admitted to having a love/hate relationship with some of the work that relied on visual solutions. Print pieces like the Scrabble “Split Objects” from JWT Chile, “The Beautiful Word” from Ogilvy France and the Chrysler Jeep campaign scored highly but also caused judges like Court Crandall to question whether the need to be clever overshadows their effectiveness.

“Where someone once described how ‘a piece of great advertising hits you like a bucket of cold water,’ what is deemed the most interesting communication of our generation is more like a puzzle,” says Crandall. “Oftentimes, it literally is a puzzle, as was the case with two different Scrabble campaigns. Don't get me wrong, I love advertising that is involving and participatory, but what is clever when you see one or two ads quickly becomes dull and expected when you see the same approach taken over thousands of pieces. It’s not Highlights Magazine and I don't care about most cleaning supplies, highlighters or feminine hygiene products to spend five minutes trying to figure out your ad. I also believe that if you look at most successful brands, you'll find that they forged an emotional connection with their consumer when others in their category did not. I wish that instead of trying to be subtle and shrewd, more print advertisers saw the value in giving their consumer something he or she would tear out of the magazine and pin to their cubicle wall because it so defined and inspired them the way Nike women’s ads traditionally have.”

But others admired the Scrabble and Chrysler work for their simple, yet clever designs that transcended language. The “less is more” sentiment was evident in winners like “Best Job in the World,” a billboard for brewer James Ready that encouraged people to “share” the space and a low-budget spot for Midas from DDB Canada in Vancouver.

“While it’s difficult to compete with mega-budget productions and A-list celebs, I was encouraged to see a few standouts where ‘simplicity’ was king,” comments John Boone. “I was particularly awestruck by the brilliance of the Jeep print campaign which used overlapping silhouettes to form the shape of the vehicle. Brilliant. And there was Goodby's deceptively simple ‘There Can Only Be One’ television campaign for the NBA. And a commercial out of DDB Canada, that I will reference every time we're working with a small budget, called ‘Police Chase,’ where both cars are stuck in the snow. Low budget. Simple. Funny.”

To read the rest of our One Show roundup, pick up a copy of the latest issue of one. a magazine

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