2012 One Show: Playing It Safe

By Yash Egami Posted on Oct 15, 2012

By the time the 25 creatives had reached the end of the week during One Show judging, after being sequestered in dark rooms on an island resort for most of the time and eating at the same breakfast buffet every morning, a certain amount of weariness had set in.

Yes, there were highlights among the entries, including Target’s, “Little Marina,” which was the eventual Best of Show winner after hours of debate. Kenny Powers returned with “MFCEO,” which took home Client of the Year for K-Swiss and a co-Best of Show in One Show Interactive. And television had a strong showing with the continued rise of the 60-second spot, with Kia’s “Drive the Dream,” Levi’s “Legacy,” Heineken’s “The Date,” ESPN’s “Shake on it” and other spots winning Pencils.

But the overall sentiment among the One Show judges was that the industry faced another difficult year and most clients were unwilling to take risks. Worse yet, some wondered whether any of the work was worthy of being named Best of Show.

“It hasn’t been a vintage year,” observed Aaron Phua from Johannes Leonardo, echoing the sentiment felt by most of the other judges. “There were a few gems but not enough. I wonder if it’s the result of spending too much time on making the case study films like a mini-series?”

“The trend has gone on to spread across the other categories unnecessarily—it is weird to find a written case study attached to a print entry,” he continues. “It’s like watching how a sausage is made.”

Roger Baldacci, formerly at Arnold Worldwide, believes that part of the reason for the dip in quality has to do with changing viewing habits.

“Most of the judges thought it was a down year,” he commented. “I was one of the few judges to vote for not having a Best of Show. But upon reflection, it wasn’t so much a down year as it was a transitional year. We are in the midst of a digital revolution. It’s like the gold rush. Everybody is rushing to use new technology and new ways to reach and engage with their audience. Which is awesome. But technology and executions are in the drivers seat now, while simple ideas are riding shotgun.”

Innovation played a huge role in many of the entries, and while a few dazzled the judging panel, many did not impress.

Leslie Ali from Jam in Sydney laments, “Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. There were sadly lots of examples of weak ideas hiding behind shiny innovation. Or social advertising trends (like ‘crowd-sourcing’) being lazily applied to briefs, posing as client solutions. It seems like we’re selling work to clients (and ourselves) that use innovation to simply say our brand is ‘with it.’ A bit embarrassing.”

International agencies outside of the U.S. continued to dominate in the print category, with work heavy on illustration and concept and light on copy. Standouts included work for Procter & Gamble, Benetton and Volkswagen, but it was obvious fewer agencies were focusing their energy on the medium.

“Print was still full of ‘scammy’ DPS ad campaigns for products like superglue,” observed Ross Chowles from The Jupiter Drawing Room. “The category that was so exciting and inspiring was when TV/digital/activation started to blend. When you look at these ideas, you realize that there is a great future for creativity. When you compare an idea in this new area with the traditional print ad, you can see the veneer-thin thinking in print.”

One of the bright spots was in the television categories, particularly the over 30-second commercials. Canal+ won multiple Pencils for its long-form spot called “The Bear,” featuring a talking bearskin rug as movie director. The commercial from BETC Euro is the latest installment in a now-legendary campaign that includes 2006’s “March of the Emperor” and 2010’s “The Closet.”

“This became my favorite commercial of the year as soon as I saw it on the Internet, and it still is,” states Connie Lo from Leo Burnett Hong Kong. “The scene where the bear-rug-director shouts, ‘I don’t give a shit!’ makes me laugh every time. Clever idea, perfect craft, and delightful sense of humor are sure elements of success.”

“The long format ads are the ones that really interested me,” agrees Anupama Ramaswamy from JWT Mumbai. “They were the ones with the meat. They had a story and most had good craft and good writing. A few favorites were from Everlast, Canal+ and Chrysler’s ‘Halftime in America.’”

Digital moved further from the computer screen to the real world, which often created some of the most interesting and exciting work of the year.

Smart’s E-Ball invited guests to play a large-screen video version of pong using electric Smart cars as controllers at the Frankfurt Auto Show. San Diego-based agency Vitro gave pedestrians in subway station tunnels the opportunity to race against long-distance runner Ryan Hall in a 60-foot-long digital billboard. Skittles asked viewers to place their finger on the computer screen while outlandish videos played around it. And American Express with CP+B came up with “Small Business Saturday,” where shoppers were encouraged to support local businesses on the Friday after Thanksgiving here in the U.S. Digital kits were sent out to independently-owned stores to help market themselves, and social media along with print and TV spots helped spread the word.

Says Leslie Ali, “There were many entries that invited the consumer to play. The best of the batch positioned the product dead center, and gave consumers something to think about or tell a friend about. It was nice to see so many brands invest in stuff that dared and delighted.”

Vestas “Windmade” and Droga5 won the Green Pencil Award for its logo that designates whether a product was made with wind power. “Great ideas like that is what will make us save the planet,” noted Calle Sjonell from Ogilvy. The work stood out in a year when there were surprisingly fewer “green” entries compared to last year.

The only thing certain about the advertising industry in 2011 was that it continued to be its own worst enemy. Says Roger Baldacci: “Sometimes I think we’re talking to ourselves too much. We’re trying to wow each other versus doing the right work, in the right channel with a powerful idea driven by a smart insight that will move the needle for your client.”


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