N. Shatrujeet

Cannes Reel has certain winners... but "no clear Grand Prix contenders"

Leo Burnett’s Cannes Predictions Reel for 2004 showcased some of the favourites for this year’s Cannes awards. An overview

With just over a week to go for the Cannes International Advertising Festival 2004 to kickoff, Leo Burnett India unveiled the international agency network's annual Cannes Predictions Reel in Mumbai on the evening of Friday, June 11. And as is typically the case with the Reel, the select audience - comprising advertising and marketing professionals and a section of the media - was treated to some of the best television advertising created globally over the past year or so. Advertising that Burnett's Global Product Committee believes stands a good chance of winning prestigious Lions in 2004.

One of the most anticipated pre-Cannes events in the advertising circuit (particularly so in India over the past four years), Burnett's Predictions Reel, for the benefit of those unfamiliar with the process, is a compilation of 50 commercials culled from the world's top 25 award shows. As per Burnett Worldwide's predictions, these 50 commercials are most likely to win at Cannes, and to the agency's credit, Cannes history substantiates to the accuracy of the Reel. While past Reels have predicted 13 of the last 15 Grand Prix winners, last year, 40 spots on the Reel made it to the Cannes shortlist.

This year's Reel also has a fair share of clear winners. Honda, Bud Light, Soken DVD, Orange, Libero, HSBC, Sony PlayStation 2, Centraal Beheer, Nike, Toyota, UFJ Tsubasa Securities, Fiat, John Smith's, ESPN, Ford, Thai Mobile… a good mix of some very well-known and some relatively unknown brands. However, there is a feeling that this year's Reel did not comprise any "benchmarking" work (which, of course, is purely a function of the advertising produced over the past one year). The consensus is that while quite a few films in the Reel will eventually win Lions, none of the 50 commercials served a perception-altering surprise by way of idea or execution. The upshot is that there were "no clear Grand Prix contenders" in this year's Reel, a fact that even Mark Tutssel, vice-chairman & deputy CCO, Leo Burnett, touched upon while releasing the Reel in the US. Adweek.com has quoted Tutssel as saying, "We don't really have a John West ‘Bear' or a ‘Cog' - one that's head and shoulders above the rest."

This cannot, nevertheless, take away from the fact that more than a dozen commercials were delights to watch. Here are a few of the good ones, picked at random. The two films for the Toyota Corolla (created by Saatchi & Saatchi, London) use some everyday and not-so-everyday situations to make a point about pride of possession. The ‘Keys Party' film, for instance, is about a gathering of couples involved in a private keys party. When a particularly fat and unattractive woman dips into the bowl holding the assortment of car keys, all the men shift uncomfortably at the prospect of the fate awaiting one of them. After fishing around the bowl for a while, the woman finally holds up a key. Slowly, defying all logic, many men stand up, each claiming to be the owner of the key in the woman's hand. The Toyota Corolla is a car to be proud of, is the payoff.

The ad for Centraal Beheer (by Result DDB, The Netherlands) is about a man balancing precariously on a ladder, cleaning the gutters lining the roof of his two-storey house. Suddenly, the ladder slips and falls, but the man manages clinging to the gutter. Hanging on for dear life, he hollers for help. His shouts draw a pair of joggers. Seeing the man dangling by the edge of the roof, they move in to help him… when suddenly one of the joggers identifies him as the presenter of a candid camera show. Seeing the situation as a typical candid camera setup, they look for the hidden camera. Not finding it, they laugh at the perceived trick and jog away - leaving the presenter ruing his misfortune. ‘Just call us,' the insurance brand urges.

The by-now-famous ‘Kill Bill Kill Bill' commercial for Soken DVD (by Euro RSCG Flagship, Thailand) had the audience in splits. A textbook example of a simple idea backed by catchy narrative and execution, the film is about a man describing the movie Kill Bill to a colleague in his office. In the course of explaining the film, the man keeps ‘freezing' and ‘stuttering' every once in a while, to the wonder of his colleague. The man has obviously seen the film on a poor-quality DVD, and is describing the movie just as he's seen it.

After last year's much-celebrated ‘Cog' film, the current Reel has a Honda commercial titled ‘Sense'. While the new commercial may come as a disappointment to those expecting exquisitely choreographed execution (‘Cog' set that precedent), the ad is classy, all the same. The film (conceived by Wieden + Kennedy, London) is about television sets, reading lamps, streetlights and other devices and gadgets that turn themselves off when not being used by people. Then there was a clever film for Libero diapers (by Forsman & Bodenfors, Gothenburg) about a family that's traveling by car on a rainy day. The family has to go into the rain to answer the call of nature, and in the process, every member of the family gets wet… save a toddler who remains seated in the comforts of the car. Libero keeps you dry, is the payoff.

The ‘Eel' commercial for HSBC (by Lowe, London) also appealed to many for the way it used humour to speak about how HSBC understands and appreciates local cultural nuances. The film is about a group of Chinese bureaucrats hosting a dinner for a visitor of theirs from Britain. Much to the Briton's dismay, the Chinese order a meal comprising a local delicacy - eel. A sense of decorum forces the visitor to polish off his plate, but his Chinese hosts immediately replenish his plate with more eel. The Briton keeps polishing his plate in the hope that his agony would end. The hosts keep ordering more eel for him. The takeout is that while the British believe that emptying ones plate is a sign of having had ones fill, the Chinese see an empty plate as a demand for more.

One execution-led commercial that grabbed quite a few of those in the audience was the ‘Mountain' ad for Sony PlayStation 2 (created by TBWA, London). The 60-second film is about a mountain of humanity that gets formed when an entire city scrambles to reach the summit of a human mountain. While this film is generally seen as "visually stunning", there is also some bewilderment about the idea that the film is trying to communicate.

No confusion whatsoever about Nike's ‘Musical Chairs' commercial, however. A continuation of the ‘urban sports' theme made popular by the riveting ‘Tag' film, the new Nike film (by Wieden + Kennedy, The Netherlands) is about an entire basketball stadium that comes to life when everyone from spectators to commentators to players engage in a game of musical chairs. Like in ‘Tag', there is a mad rush to occupy chairs, till the stadium has just one empty chair left. A lone spectator and a lone player head for the chair, egged on by the cheering crowd… Play!

The ‘Men of Genius' series from Bud Light (the ‘Mr Silent Killer Gas Passer' film almost set off a laugh riot); an endearing film for UNIF Green Tea from Thailand (about how everyone desires the top two leaves of a tea stem); two nice ideas for Fiat; a dialogue-heavy take on ‘typical client mentality' by Orange; a short commercial for the Ford Sport KA; a true-to-style ad for John Smith's… Each one is a winner one way or the other. Interestingly, this year's Reel had just one public service/social awareness ad - a touching film on the number of children that the United States has lost to AIDS.

An opinion that was raised by a couple of ad professionals pertained to the "surprising absence" of some commercials that they believe are sure-shot winners at Cannes. These include films for British Airways, Smirnoff Black Ice, the BMW 318i and Trojan Condoms. However, KV Sridhar, national creative director, Leo Burnett India, thinks this is pure subjectivity. "The task that Burnett's Global Product Committee has is to predict 50 commercials from an original list of over 3,000 ads," he points out. "It is a huge task, and naturally, some good ads will be missing here and there. The idea is to arrive as close to the target as possible, and usually, 80 per cent of Cannes winners are on the Reel. Which is a good average."

Sridhar too agrees that this year's Reel has not thrown up any conclusive winners. "The last few years, we had ads like ‘Cog', Ikea's ‘Lamp' and the Bridgestone ‘Dog' which made us sit up and say ‘Wish we had done it'," he reasons. "This year, there aren't enough of those really great ads, so it's tougher making predictions. It's also a bit disappointing." Another observation that Sridhar makes is that new brands are emerging into the limelight. "Previously you had Coke, Pepsi, Volkswagen, BMW, Reebok and Nike ruling. Today, there is no Coke, Pepsi or Reebok, and now we see brands like Honda, Toyota, PlayStation on top." © 2004 agencyfaqs!

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