The British successfully invaded, the television commercial regained some of its lost glory, and integration took only baby steps forward: That seems to be the consensus among judges who helped select the winning work at the 2006 One Show. In a year that produced a solid, if not exceptional, crop of advertising, judges offered generally positive reviews of the entries that advanced to the final rounds, with some noting that the growing international presence in the show, along with the heightened emphasis on multimedia approaches, is yielding more diversity in the work in general.
"The judging panel was far more international this year, and I think the results bear that out," said judge Peter McHugh
, of Carmichael Lynch. "There were more visual solutions, both in print and TV." Among the most stunning of the highly visual commercials in the show was the Best-of-Show-winning "noitulovE" commercial for Guinness, created by Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO. The spot used incredible special effects to show a couple of beer drinkers devolving all the way back to swamp creatures, but McHugh and other judges praised the spot more for its originality and humor than its technical wizardry. "It was a concept that required no words, and it resonated with everybody," McHugh said. "Guinness has a history of epic, cinematic ads but it was nice to see them have some fun with it in this one." Another judge, Zak Mroueh
of Taxi, said of the Guinness spot: "It was such a great idea, and was just so well made. The more I saw it, the more I liked it."
According to judge David Apicella
of Ogilvy, the strength of the Guinness work, along with another outstanding showing by Honda in the U.K., may be an indication that "there's a resurgence in British advertising," he said. Apicella described the Guinness and Honda, as well as a spot for Carlton Draft, as all being epic in scope; the Honda work included a wordless gem of a commercial (though in keeping with recent Honda U.K. work, it was really more like a short film than an ad) that featured a choir creating car sounds using nothing but voice and mouth; the Carlton Draft spot deftly spoofed mega-produced "crowd" commercials by creating its own over-the-top, big-cast production, all the while poking fun at itself through song and subtitles.
"The trend toward epic ads is fine as long as the idea is fresh," said Apicella. "But my pet peeve this year was that there too many commercials with people running in the streets, and some of them didn't really pay off. I think of those ads as 'son of Mountain,'" he said, referring to the acclaimed and densely-populated commercial for Sony PlayStation. Apicella says the epic spots, both the good ones and the not-so-good, seem to be coming more from outside the U.S., whereas inside his home country, he said, "we're mostly still writing gag commercials."
Another judge, Andy Azula
of The Martin Agency, described the work this year as "much more visual, as opposed to copy-intensive-especially in print. I think it was a reflection of the strong international presence in this year's show." Azula sees the trend as a positive one: "I love the visual work because it's often the quickest, most powerful way to get your message across. Even in TV, there was minimal dialogue, with Guinness, Honda, Carlton. And all of that work felt very emotional, especially the Honda choir-it made you feel good just watching it."
Azula attributed this style of work to "a different sensibility overseas." He noted, "There's a lot more entertainment value in the commercials, particularly in the U.K. Clients understand that their commercials better be entertaining. They also tend toward work that is brilliantly simple. Whereas in the U.S., I think there's still more pressure to say as much as you can in an ad, which results in a lot of clutter."
of Cliff Freeman and Partners agreed that the best work this year came from England, adding: "I would tend to chalk that up to the sensibility of British clients, more perhaps than the agencies. Because I don't think it's an issue of talent-the talent is everywhere now. But England just nailed it, with Guinness, Honda and Vodafone." (Unlike Guinness and Honda, the Vodafone campaign was hardly epic in scope: It consisted of short bursts of humor, playing off the idea of conducting complicated phone conversations in the fewest words possible.)
Bijur said that those three campaigns, along with a couple of others, may serve as a testament to the enduring health of the TV commercial-which has frequently been pronounced dead in the recent past. "It's interesting to see that this year, good old-fashioned TV wins best of show," Bijur said. "So I guess it's still alive and well after all. And when you look at some of these commercials, you can see what makes it so powerful: you have someone's undivided attention for 30-to-60 seconds, and that gives you a lot to work with."
To read more about the One Show Judges' comments, pick up the new issue of one. a magazine.