Super Bowl ads 2015 – the Adboardingpass review!



The big game has come and gone. Lovers of football sure got a treat: drama, fanfare and color. But lovers of advertising were sadly left out in the cold. 

It’s a bit of deja vu from 2014: As a whole, the level was decidedly mediocre. It was no worse on average than the past two years. But…there were hardly any standouts, those soaring home runs which capture the imagination and elevate the profession. It makes you yearn for the magic that was captured in Chrysler’s “It’s Halftime in America”, the solemn grace of Ram Truck’s “The Farmer”, or even the pop culture hipness of Samsung’s “The Next Big Thing.”

What were some of the overall takeaways of the night?

  1. Movie and TV is big business – Amazing to see how many trailers for movies or TV shows.
  2. Has the pre-buzz reached its peak? – Seems to me like everyone pre-released their ads early, and…nobody cared that much. It’s like everything else these days in our fast-moving media world. Two years ago some people leaked their ad early, and it got huge buzz. Last year, more did it, and even greater buzz. This year, this tactic feels like it may have jumped the shark. Why? Probably because people enjoy being a part of a pop culture “insider” event, but once it gets big and folks come to realize they’re just being blatantly marketed to, they get turned off.
  3. Did I mention this was supposed to be a party? – Like in real life, it’s so important to be able to gauge the temperature of the room. I was surprised by the amount of somber ads in what is normally a very festive event. The approach is both gutsy and risky in search of breakthrough: for some it worked nicely (eg: Always “Like a Girl”), for others it was a bit of Hindenburg moment…though still far preferable, in my book, to indifferent mediocrity.
  4. Long-form rules – What was once the exception now feels like the rule. The level of scale an emotion in most of these just asks for 60 seconds.
  5. Call to action exhaustion – Was it me or were there far fewer “call to action gimmicks” than in years past? I’m referring to ads that ask you to vote for how the ad ends, or tweet in support of this or that, etc. Perhaps they didn’t work as well last year? Or is it just that people don’t need to be told anymore what to do in order to get more info?
  6. Going for it and failing – You can’t fault the level of ambition. More than previous years there were efforts that clearly aimed for greatness, but for some reason or other just failed to make the landing. An example is Nissan “With Dad” or Carnival’s “Come Back to the Sea.” As they say, A for effort…
  7. Men good, domestic violence bad – The NFL has lived through a well-deserved PR crisis based on a series of spousal abuse incidents among its players. Was it a coincidence that much of the messaging was explicitly anti-abuse and/or painting men in a positive light?

My Top 5 ads of the night, in order of their appearance:

1. Reebok “Be More Human” 

I love everything about this ad. It’s beautifully shot, and has lovely, soaring copy. By fully embracing those on the fringes of exercise (those crazy crossfitters, mudrunners, etc.) the ad humanizes them, it makes them (and their approach to exercise) more approachable and even desirable. For Reebok, a once-dominant brand since swept aside by Nike and Adidas, it is a powerful statement that says “watch this space.”

2. BMW i3

A great story, well told. The ad uses all the trappings of a big Super Bowl ad: celebrities, pop culture references, humor…all in the service of a very crisp message  (“Big ideas take a little getting used to”) that then connect seamlessly to the car that is being introduced. Car advertising is really tough – here they hooked you in so well that when it comes time to make the sale, it sticks. Nicely done.

3. Always “Like a Girl”

In a year packed with ads in the PSA mold, this was the best one. It’s innovative and surprising, and yet it rings true. It’s the type of ad that generates conversation in your living room immediately after it has passed, and that’s hard to do. Of the top 5, this one is the one where the linkage to the brand is least clearly defined, which is a shame – but nonetheless it has an unusual staying power.

4. Clash of Clans “Revenge”

See, this is how you use a big celebrity during the Super Bowl. It’s not just about plugging in famous people. It’s about plugging in famous people in an unexpected situation, having them say something that is interesting (his monologue is hilarious) timely (his “Taken” movies have become part of pop culture) and relevant (the motif of revenge connects the story to the game.) They even luxuriated in a little twist at the end (“it’s Liam”) that wraps it all up in a smile. Fantastic.

5. Budweiser “Brewed the Hard Way”

Not much subtlety about this one, but it’s really, really well executed. The beer category version of Chrysler’s “Imported from Detroit,” it’s a good 60 seconds of a classic brand thumbing its nose at newcomers and short-term fads. Tons of confident brand essence, lovely “product porn” and quite a bit of irreverent fun thrown in. Give me more! It makes me want to go buy a six-pack, and I prefer this one million times over nonsensical stories of puppies.


There were a few others that stuck out a bit, even when falling well short of greatness:(click on name to view the video)

  1. MountainDew “Kickstart” – Such ridiculous moves that they managed to make a fun ad out of a nothing idea.
  2. Mercedes-Benz “Fable” – Car advertising is tough. This one is redeemed by a really cool looking car, and special effects to match. Made it passable, and that’s saying a lot for the category.
  3. Kia Sorrento “The Perfect Getaway” – Another good use of celebrity star power. Lets Brosnan play to his strengths, with a little tongue-in-cheek humor and plenty of car beauty shots. A solid effort.
  4. Fiat 500 “Blue Pill” – Grand in scale, cheeky, and a very appropriate Euro vibe all communicating a crisp message in an engaging manner. As simple as that.
  5. Doritos “Middle Seat” – Thousands of user-generated ideas yield and this was the best one? Guess that’s why ad agencies exist. But, hey, it was good for a laugh, and for Dorito’s that’s not a bad outcome.
  6. Turbotax “Boston Tea Party” – a big, fun production that gets the brand benefit across with a smile.
  7. Victoria’s Secret – Not over the top, just focusing on beautiful women and beautiful lingerie. It’s so hard to not ruin something so simple. Here they avoid disaster…by keeping it simple.
  8. Snicker’s “The Brady Bunch” – It’s like a joke that you already know the punchline for but you laugh anyway. In this case, thanks mostly to the inspired casting.
  9. Mophie “All powerless” – A grand, apocalyptic, special effects extravaganza. It’s what Super Bowl production budgets were made for! I’m a fan.
  10. – Really jarring and not in the Super Bowl’s festive spirit…but really, really well made.
That’s it. Not bad, but really not great. Next up, the Oscars?

Ad of the Day is back!

keep-calm-i-am-backAd of the Day is back!

Following a summer hiatus, Ad of the Day will be back in your inbox, starting tomorrow.

Why should you care? Because a little creativity does a body good! In just 1 minute you can get your daily dose, every day, from every corner of the world. Not all of it will be to your liking…but some of it is guaranteed to be awesome.

For example, if you paid attention in the past year, you saw great work like the list below the moment it launched, long before it hit the jackpot at Cannes:

  • OBI Home Improvement “Renovated Billboards” (3 Gold Lions)
  • Newcastle Brown Ale “If we Made It” (2 Gold Lions, 6 Silver Lions, 4 Bronze Lions)
  • Volvo “The Epic Split” (2 Grand Prix, 7 Gold, 7 Silver, 3 Bronze)
  • Mercedes Benz “The Chicken” (1 Bronze)
  • S7 “Moscow-Kiev” (1 Bronze)
  • NZ Transport Agency “Mistakes” (1 Gold, 1 Silver, 1 Bronze)
  • HBO GO “Awkward Family Viewing”(1 Gold Lion, 3 Silver Lions, 1 Bronze Lion)
  • Sogni d’oro Tea “Don’t Drink and Drive” (1 shortlist)
  • VW Kombi “Last Wishes” (2 Gold, 5 Bronze)
  • Lurpak “Adventure Awaits” (3 Gold, 1 Bronze)
  • Nike “Make Every Yard Count” (3 Silver, 1 Bronze)
  • Guinness “Sapeurs” (2 Silver, 5 Bronze)
  • Apothek “Subway” (2 Silver, 1 Bronze)
  • John Lewis “The Bear & the Hare” (1 Silver, 1 Bronze)
  • Jack & Jones “Made from Cool” (2 Silver 3 Bronze)
  • Playstation “Perfect Day” (1 Gold)
  • Guinness “Surge” (1 Bronze)
  • Paris Zoo “Wildlife is back in Town” (1 Gold, 2 Silver, 6 Bronze)

So here we go again! As always, suggestions are more than welcome.




Note: I’ve since moved from Shanghai to New York, so the email will come to you with a 12 hour time difference compared to the last years:)

Cannes 2014: Predictions

Cannes is around the corner, with thousands of hopefuls vying to take home a prized Lion. Who will succeed? Well, if you’ve been reading the Ad of the Day during the last year, you’ve actually seen a lot of work that will surely win some metal.
I’ve combed back through the last year of content, and below I share with you my 6 guaranteed(*) winners, plus another long list of work that I think has a strong chance. Enjoy!
(*) Trying to guess Cannes outcome is a fool’s game, as I painfully learned a year ago. But…whatever!
1. OBI home improvement “Renovated Billboards” 
Redefines the boundaries of the outdoor medium, while showing the brand promise in a unique way. (OOH GOLD/Grand Prix) 
2. NewCastle Brown Ale “If We Made It”
Leveraged the insanity of superbowl ad-mania, turned it on its head, and got a ton of attention with little money. Brilliant. (Titanium GOLD/Grand Prix)
To see the entire campaign, go here:
3. Volvo Trucks “The Epic Split”
Dripping sheer brilliance in every glorious second. 72 million views, each one of them utterly deserved. (Film Gold/Grand Prix)
4. Mercedes Benz “Magic Body Control”
Completely unexpectd, and yet completely on target. A convention-buster that stays with you. (Film GOLD)
5. S7 Airlines “Peace Kiev-Moscow”
An amazing convergence of relevance and branded iconography. Captured lightning in a bottle. (OOH GOLD)
6. NZ transport agency
Devastatingly powerful, and strikingly original in a category that has been mined a-plenty (Film GOLD)
FULL LIST OF PROJECTED WINNERS (AMONG PREVIOUS ADS OF THE DAY – click on link to view the piece and the write up)
1. HBO GO (film BRONZE)
2. Sogni d’oro Teas (craft BRONZE)
3. VW Kombi (Titanium SILVER)
4. Lurpak (craft SILVER)
5. Nike (film BRONZE)
6. S7 Airlines (OOH GOLD)
7. Apotek Hair (OOH SILVER)
8. OBI home improvement (OOH GOLD/Grand Prix)
9. Jose Cuervo (Cyber BRONZE)
10. VANS (Branded Content SILVER)
11. NewCastle Brown Ale (film, Titianium GOLD/Grand Prix)
12. The North Face (Branded Content SILVER)
14. Guinness (craft BRONZE)
16. Day’s Inn (Film BRONZE)
17. Selpak tissues (Print BRONZE)
18. Greenpeace (Film BRONZE)
19. Volvo Trucks (Film GOLD/Grand Prix)
21. John Lewis (craft Bronze)
22. Eurostar (Cyber BRONZE)
23. Virgin (Film BRONZE)
25. Corona (Design SILVER)
26. Jack & Jones (Film SILVER)
27. Playstation (Craft BRONZE)
28. Geox (Cyber SILVER)
29. Carrie (Activation BRONZE)
30. Mercedes Benz (Film GOLD)
31. Guinness (Print SILVER)
33. Virgin Mobile (Innovation BRONZE)
34. Volvo Trucks (film BRONZE)
35. Airwaves (Print BRONZE)
36. GoPro (Branded Content BRONZE)
37. Schweppes (Print SILVER)
38. Paris Zoo (Print BRONZE)
39. Chipotle (Design GOLD)
40. Coca-Cola (Product Design GOLD)
41. Coca-Cola (Promo&Activation SILVER)

It’s not me…it’s you (in 2 parts)


Dear Clients:

It’s not me, it’s you.

Funny…but it’s also painfully, achingly true.

Have a look. Enjoy. Have a chuckle.

And then…please stop it.



Post originally appeared on:

– – – –

Hi God,

Thanks so much for the latest round of work. Really coming together. Few points of feedback:

1 – Really liking the whole light thing but not totally sure about the naming system. “Day” and “night” are OK but we feel like there’s more we can do here. Thoughts? Definitely need to nail this down ASAP.

2 – Re: the “sky”… not really feeling the color here. Would like something that pops more. Please send additional options.

3 – Appreciate the work on the sea and ground, but right now there’s way too much sea. The ground is getting lost in it. In general, sea does not resonate well with our users. Was talking with the team and the idea of having no sea at all came up. Thoughts?

4 – Noticed you’ve covered the ground in vegetation bearing seeds according to their kind and trees bearing fruit according to their kind. Is this intentional? Please advise.

5 – Right now we’re only seeing two great lights in the sky… a greater one for day and a lesser one for night? Thinking that maybe we weren’t clear in the original briefing. Definitely need more than just two great lights. Need to make this a memorable, high-value experience for our users. Please revisit slides thirteen and fourteen in the deck. Shout with questions.

6 – Seas teeming with life is fine, but again, we need to reduce the sea. This is a showstopper for us.

7 – Are the winged birds final, or placeholder? Some kind of weird stuff going on with those. Just want to get some clarification before giving more feedback.

8 – Can we get more livestock and wild animals that move along the ground according to their kinds? Again, the passion points for our target users (slide eighteen) are ground and animals that move along the ground. Whatever we can do to increase the amount of ground will go a long way toward converting our users from passive consumers into brand evangelists.

9 – Re: “mankind.” Interesting take on the brief here. Big pain point is that mankind is coming across as largely made in your image. As you hopefully recall from the deck, our users are a diverse group (slide twenty-seven) and we definitely want to make them feel represented (slide twenty-eight). Afraid that if our users see fleshy bipedal mammals positioned as “ruling over” the ground and sea (if we’re having sea), they might feel alienated and again less willing to convert into brand evangelists. Let’s fast-track an alt version with mankind removed. Doable?

10 – Please cut all the “be fruitful and multiply” stuff. We’re a family brand and this doesn’t fit with our voice (slide thirty-four).

Realize it’s Saturday and you were planning to be OOOtomorrow to admire your creation and everything, but I’m hoping you can keep rolling on this through the weekend. Need to get this in front of my exec team by EOD Monday so hoping to sync up EOD Sunday. Will be around all weekend via email and chat if anything comes up. Looking to you and your team for a big win here.



Dear Agency Colleagues:

It’s not them, it’s us.

Funny…but it’s also painfully, achingly true.

Have a look. Enjoy. Have a chuckle.

And then…let’s please stop it.

Super Bowl ads 2014 – the Adboardingpass review! (part 2)



CLICK HERE if you missed part 1

OK…now that we’ve gotten the ugliness out of the way, and without further ado, the Adboardingpass TOP 10 of Superbowl 2014!

1. Duracell “Trust your power”

“But I’ve been deaf since I was 3, so I didn’t listen.” Wow. Fantastic. Extremely touching, a gripping story of the persevering human spirit, made even more powerful because it’s a true story, featuring one of the star players in the Super Bowl! Add to this good (enough) linkage of the brand and great production values, and what you’ve got here is the best ad in this year’s Super Bowl. One that hits all the right notes without faltering. First Class

2. Heinz “If you’re happy and you know it”

Very clever. It’s one of the holy grails in advertising… an ownable and unique ritual featuring the product, which triggers a moment or somehow makes the ad possible (eg: Oreo’s “twist, lick & dunk”.) It’s extremely hard to make this truly work with credibility, but I think they’ve done it here…and this is potentially something that could be extended indefinitely. Add to this a catchy jingle and mildly generic “Americana” imagery, and you’ve created a very branded, very solid Super Bowl ad! Business Class

3. Turbotax “Your day”

Absolutely fantastic. Amazing execution (the way the narrator taunts the name “Sean”, or the way Sean breaks out into his dance moves…) And most of all, driven by a great insight: original, truthful, and illuminating: that this “holiday” is actually not so for most football fans. The ad is further elevated by a credible and central role for the brand in addressing the pain of our protagonist…a compelling case to reach out and get your taxes done with Turbotax. Maybe the most unexpectedly funny ad of the day. Business Class

4. Honda”#hugfest”

I found this one very courageous. Safety is a territory that historically has been owned by others (eg. Volvo), and it would have been easier to accept it…but Honda decided to jump in and stake a claim. And they way they did it: major celebrity, speaking to you as if he were in your living room, asking you to hug someone by you…and then trying to link that to the brand’s feeling for you…wow. That’s ambitious. It’s a fine line, and they could have overplayed their hand…but the humor in the ad is what clinched it for me. Pitch perfect. Business Class

5. Coca-Cola “America the beautiful”

A sweet, loving ad in the come-together mold of the iconic “Hill top” from decades ago. Given the setting (a very American celebration), I thought it was expertly done, affecting, and (crucially) with a strong social point of view. A testament to Coke’s track record is that they’ve become one of the few companies with the cultural gravitas to pull off an ad like this. Business Class

6. Radio Shack “The Phone Call”

For such a tired brand, this one was oddly effective! Mercilessly self-effacing, but banking on the public’s ability to overlook past transgressions as long as there is a strong indication of change. If this is a re-invention for RadioShack, they’re off to a great start. A delightful ad full of 80s references that go by almost faster than you can remember them. I never expected this from them…which proves that ingrained perceptions can really start turning a corner with just a single ad! Business Class

7. U2 “Bank of America in support of RED”

Brilliant. These guys continue to push the envelope. So many things coming together here.: A beautifully shot video with a brand new song from a mass-appeal mega-band. Hard not to be drawn in if you’re a fan (and most people are, on some level.) And then…everything comes together beautifully at the end: an irresistible offer (free music!) for a great cause (even more irresistible) Everybody wins: You, U2, RED, Bank of America…which is truly rare. Much respect to finding a different wrinkle yet again. Business Class

8. TMobile “Breakup”

Excellent. It reminds me of old-school advertising: saying what needs to be said, using an approachable tone, a dash of humor, and then knowing when the hell to get out. Very crisp and void of distractions – letting the impact of the message do the talking. I’d bet this will be extremely effective. Business Class

9. Budweiser “A hero’s welcome”

This one is proof that shameless emotional manipulation, when done very, very well, can still end up working even on the most jaded hearts:) I mean, you fight it, but in the end….it gets to you. The message is right, the images are idyllic, the music is so bittersweet, and the brand is standing respectfully off to the side – always there but not ruining the moment. A balancing act, nicely pulled off by one of the few brands that can attempt a message like this successfully. I loved it. Business Class

10. Cheerios “Gracie”

Funny, true, and ambitious without being crass. A real winner. And a lesson to many of us: clueless marketers think that it’s all about product, and the emotional tension and human aspect is just a necessary diversion. Clueless agencies think it’s all about the drama and storyline, and the product is just a necessary diversion. The answer is somewhere in the middle, and this ad is a perfect example of credible product integration to drive a much bigger emotional story. Really well crafted. Business Class

And there you have it! It wasn’t the best of years, but there were certainly some gems in the mix. What did you think? Which one was your favorite? Which of your favorites did I leave out? Let me know in the comments area below. Until next year!


Super Bowl ads 2014 – the Adboardingpass review! (part 1)


How was the advertising in this year’s Super Bowl?


Examined ad-by-ad (as we’ve done in the last two years) the average was decent enough, with the customary sparkle of big budgets and/or big celebrities, and a strong sense of cheery, celebratory, largesse. But what ends up defining the year, what leaves a mark…are the height of the peaks, and the depths of the valleys.

Were there truly great ads? (or at least some truly awful disasters?)

Coming off fairly grand achievements of years past like “It’s Halftime in America”, or “Imported from Detroit”, or “Farmer”, or even Bud’s “Eternal Optimism”, this year felt decidedly subdued.

But it wasn’t for lack of trying! There were many ads that had the ambition and the ingredients for greatness. Soaring anthemic themes, grand cinematography, emotional depth, beautiful writing and more: ads such as Chevy “Life”, Microsoft “Empowering”, Chrysler “America’s Import”, Coca-Cola “Going all the way”, Maserati “Strike”, Axe “Make Love not War”, and Jeep “Restless”, among others. And yet…they just didn’t come fully live up to their potential. The leap from script to consumer’s soul didn’t happen. That magic of advertising can giveth, but it also sometimes taketh away, no matter how well you mix the ingredients.

So which were the ads that managed to stand out, even if they didn’t reach the rarified air of the all-time greats? This year we will focus on the top 10, with only one solitary ad (!) earning passage into the hallowed “First Class” status.

But first…because I know we all love to see a good train wreck too…the list of the very worst of Super Bowl 2014. They didn’t make it to first, or business, or coach…these go straight to the Baggage Cargo Hold: (click on name to view the commercial…if you insist.)

1. Toyota Highlander “Muppets”
Muppets are one of those things that most Americans remember as being waaay funnier, interesting and endearing than they actually are. They can live happily in memory-land, but when brought to the stark light of today, it’s a disaster. This ad is almost impossible to get through, a real waste of talent and money. Awful. Baggage Cargo Hold

2. Labbatt Blue “Undomesticated”
Seriously? Who is responsible for this? What does it even mean? Useless, pointless, and worst of all – boring. Baggage Cargo Hold

3. American Family Insurance “Dreams”
The ingredients are there, but it feels oddly flat. Perhaps a requirement for an anthemic ad should be for it to come from a brand that has earned the credibility and gravitas to make one. Baggage Cargo Hold

4. Doritos “Cowboy”
Oh dear. If this is the very best that comes from a consumer-generated effort, then it’s much easier to understand why you should hire an actual ad agency for your next super bowl ad. It looks like it was made by bored middle schoolers on a summer afternoon…simply not ready for prime time. Worthless. Baggage Cargo Hold

5. M&Ms “Delivery”
The “wait, what?” uttered at the end is exactly my reaction, but not in a good way. Storytelling, humor, cinematics, etc – are all there…but really what’s the point? I expect this would test ok in a focus group, but that misses the point. This is a tired campaign running on fumes, and now threatening to turn M&M’s into a tired brand. Shame. Baggage Cargo Hold

Whew. That’s was rough, but it had to be done! And now that we’ve gotten the ugliness out-of-the-way, and without further ado, CLICK HERE for the Adboardingpass top 10 of Superbowl 2014!

Adboardingpass “Best of 2013” – the Top 5


Click here for part 1, where we go over all the highlights.

top 5

As we saw in Part 1, there was much to celebrate: advertising that was funny, emotional, well-meaning, well-executed, and much more.

But in the end, some work rises to the top. Below are the top 5 ads featured on Ad of the Day in 2013, in order of appearance. I may run out of superlatives by the end of this…

1. IBM “People for Smarter Cities”, by Ogilvy Paris!

Once you’ve picked up a Grand Prix at Cannes, there’s little more that needs to be said. A rare and wonderful “perfect storm” of idea, brand, medium and execution. Amazing.

Original write-up (June 11) Cannes can be such a lottery that making predictions is a fool’s game. But I’m going to be a fool right now and guarantee that this outdoor campaign will pick up at least one Lion next week. There’s too much that is awesome about it for it to go unnoticed…it’s exactly what I think judges will be looking for: A simple, “why didn’t I think of that before!” idea. Credible integration with the brand and its message. A great example of “show, don’t tell” (instead of just talking about IBM being useful to cities…these OOH boards are useful!). Use of media that transcends its normal limitations (this isn’t just a print ad made big.) A fetching case video. A sub-category that may likely has less competition than others. Fantastic work. Advance congratulations to my colleagues in Paris:)

2. Southern Comfort “Shampoo”, by W+K New York!

This ad just oozes class and easy charm. Along with Lion-winning companion “Whatever’s Comfortable“, it’s the type of campaign that I would kill to be involved with: confident, different, edgy, and extremely courageous in how it’s executed. Just…superb.

Original write-up (July 4) This campaign is a gem, it shines bright for its courage and its flair. This is the second ad in the series, and it sustains the momentum and the “wtf?” fascination of the first ad (if you haven’t seen the classic, Gold lion-winning first ad, click here.) The flair is in the little details: the way he just goes ahead and checks the woman out…the old-fashioned shape of his glasses…his snakeskin boots…the real-world sexiness of the woman…her subtle smile of acknowledgement…his retro ring and bracelet…all of these details set off fireworks of secondary thoughts in your brain, and add depth and story to a narrative where seemingly not much is happening. But let’s talk about the courage, because as I watch this ad I have an ongoing thought of “wtf? this…is oddly awesome…I don’t know how to feel about this but I’m drawn to it. How did they ever pull this off?” Ask a FMCG client or account person about the ideal process to get out an ad and they might say something like: 1. concept testing/validation, 2. write-up a tight, specific brief, 3. develop creative that addresses all the nuances of the brief, 4. qualitative testing to make sure consumers get it, 5. quantitative testing to hopefully have statistical validation/guarantee of the breakthrough, comprehension, and forecasted efficacy of ad, 5. Hire director to “shoot the animatic”, without much deviation from what has been validated. We may talk about creative excellence, but really the driving factor here is to minimize RISK, to get it as close to zero as possible. This has a side effect: it eliminates the need for courage. It makes sense, after all there is big money at stake, careers, etc. So that’s fine. But let’s be clear: without risk, without courage at some point, there is no chance at all for great creativity. There. just. isn’t. In the example above, I’m sure they went through steps 1,2,3 and had a nice little strategy and brief. And then…they went off-road. How do you even present an ad like this? What is it even about? An oddly-semi-cool guy getting his hair washed? Imagine the leap of faith required! Going with this campaign takes courage, it assumes risk, it gives a feeling of mild discomfort, dread, and excitement. I doubt they tested it for validation. And I bet that they hired a talented director that added a thick layer of opinion on how the idea comes to life. And that…is how you get to great creativity. It’s messy, often risky, and requires courage and guts along the way. It’s a simple recipe to jot down, but a very hard dish to cook.

3. Guinness “Surge”, by AMV BBDO in London!

If you can hang it up on your wall unchanged and have it look like an beautiful piece of art, that’s a pretty special print ad. It’s amazing how these can be so simple and powerfully distinctive at the same time. I mean, it’s a picture of the product! Ah, but it’s much more than that. Simply beautiful




Original write-up (September 25) It almost seems unfair, really, when you have a series of print ads that are so simple – yet so filled with raw power, meaning, and brand linkage. It feels as if it should be a little more complex, a little harder to get things so right. Ah, but it is so hard. Simple is the hardest of things to pull off! A brand needs to earn the right to go for simple, and this can take years or decades of consistently laying the groundwork. And then of course, an agency and client team have to have the talent, the vision, and the courage to let the message speak for itself, without the heavy burden of add-ons that act as insurance policies. There’s nothing simple about making something look simple. And that’s why this series of print ads is the type of work that should be celebrated.

4. Mercedes-Benz “Magic Body Control”, by Jung von Matt/Neckar in Stuttgart!

The year’s best car commercial features no cars. And yet it’s all about product benefit, while being crisp clear, entirely disruptive and very memorable. That’s tough to do. It also takes a lot of courage to even attempt. More of this, please!

Original write-up (September 26) Bravo to Jung von Matt and Mercedes, for breaking one of the laws of automotive advertising! (Law 14.c.iii which states “When showcasing stability control, one must show the car in one of three situations: 1. Traversing impossibly rocky terrain, so that all four wheels are a different heights at the same time, 2. Driving around rough roads while humorously not disturbing something inside the car, like a sleeping baby or a cup of boiling coffee, or 3. Inside a modern, robotic “auto lab”, showing the car elevated, with each wheel attached to a hydraulic piston that violently shakes the axle in different directions at once.” There was nothing mentioned about chickens! Or not even showing a car! But were you instantly hooked? Did you get and understand the functional message? Were you entertained, even delighted? Did you remember who it was for? Did it leave you singing the song inside your head? Does it make you feel good towards the brand? Yeah, me too. And this is exactly why in advertising one must strive break the rules, if you’re striving for a great ad.

5. Volvo Trucks “Epic Split”, by Forsman & Bodenfors in Gothenburg!

What an accomplishment: a truck ad so so quirky that it goes viral and gets over 2 million hits (I mean…who’s in the market for a truck?). Mind you, I’m talking about the first ad of this campaign, called “The Hook“. Because the “Epic Split” ad…at 60 million views and counting…it’s almost beyond commentary. As I said back then: “we are not worthy” of Van Damme’s awesomeness:)

Original write-up (November 18) One could talk about the amazing streak of late for Volvo and Forsman & Bodenfors, with great little ads like this one, or this one. One could talk about how this ad rates so highly on replayability, shareability, and brandability, making it deliciously viral (indeed. 21 million views in a few days!). One could talk about how this is a cool torture test idea (have trucks drive in a perfect parallel line, backwards), taken to new heights by amazing writing, celebrity casting, timing, visuals, tonality, environment (sunset!), camera work (one fluid, graceful take), and sublime use of exactly the right music at exactly the right time. One could even speculate that this is a guaranteed Cannes Lion come next June. But perhaps it’s best to simply sit back, hit play, and bask in the sheer awesomeness that is this ad:) We’re not worthy.

And there you have it.

A Grand Prix winner, with multiple Cannes Lions guaranteed to come. Work that is courageous, idea-driven, brand-elevating, lovingly crafted, and expertly executed. It all equals disruptive messaging that sells, and elevates our profession in the process. Congratulations to the teams involved! If you’re reading this, I hope it’s an inspiration to aim higher. After all: Why not us? Why not now?

See you in 2014!

Adboardingpass “Best of 2013” – the Highlights


Part 1: Highlights of the year. Part 2: The Top 5 ads of the year


What a year it has been! As we near the end, it’s time to take a look back at those ads that made a difference in our lives. The highlights were selected from among all “Ads of the Day” in 2013. Dive in and relive some of the best work of the year, from all corners of the world.

Note: click on name of ad in blue to view ad, along with the original write-up in case you missed it.

So, without further ado…

1. The “Cracked-me-up” award – because laughter is the ultimate shortcut.


  • Smart Car “Offroad“, by BBDO Berlin. This car is all attitude, baby.
  • TyC Sports “Letter“, by Y&R Argentina. So awful, and yet so true.

And the winner iiiiiiiis…

Dove Men “Slo-mo“, by Ogilvy Rio! That hair flip just slays me!

2. Best use of technology – much of the time, technology is just fluff that is asked to make up for a weak idea. But not here!


  • British Airways “Yourope“, by Ogilvy NY. So simple and obvious, yet so underused.
  • Sony Legacy “Bob Dylan“, by Interlude, NY. Wow, that’s pretty sweet.

And the winner iiiiiiiis…

Virgin Mobile “Blink-Washing“, by Mother, NY! My jaw dropped. See for yourself, it’s way, way cool. (click on the name)


3. The “Let’s make the world a better place” award – because we’ve got to earn our way into heaven somehow.


  • Casa do Zezinho “Help“, by ALMAP BBDO Sao Paulo. Utterly and unexpectedly charming.

And the winner iiiiiiiis…

American Cancer Society “Finish the Fight“, byThe Martin Agency, Richmond, Va! Uplifting, lovely art direction, thought-provoking, great use of celebrity. (click for larger image)

American Cancer Society

4. The “Tear jerker” award – because when an ad makes you cry…it’s hard to say it’s not having an impact on you.


  • Google “Reunion“, by Ogilvy Mumbai. Lovingly made, with amazing acting. Even if you can guess what’s coming, it’s still very powerful.
  • Extra gum “Origami“, by EnergyBBDO Chicago. I didn’t quite see it coming. And, being a dad, it totally got me at the end.

And the winner iiiiiiiis…

British Airways “Ticket to visit mom“, by Ogilvy New York! A loving and textured film about the powerful bond between mom and son.

5. The “Storyteller” award – you start listening to a good one, and you’re hooked all the way through. It has worked since the days of cavemen, and it still does.


  • Otto “Button“, by Heimat Berlin. Teases you with a storyteller’s flair. Once you’re completely hooked, comes the reveal.
  • Verizon Droid “48 Hours“, by McGarryBowen New York. It’s like a 90 second trailer for what could be a pretty cool full length feature.

And the winner iiiiiiiis…

Eurostar “Maybe“, by AMV BBDO in London! One of the better tourism ads I’ve seen – storytelling with real flair, done in an unconventional manner.

6. Best work from a small market – Brilliant work…but if I didn’t put the country after the city, you might not know where exactly it came from.


  • World Championship Martial Arts “I woke up“, by BrandHealth Communications in Peterborough, Canada. Touching message, and lovingly executed.
  • Ecovia “Drive Safe“, byTerremoto Propaganda in Curitiba, Brazil.  Simple, hard-hitting, and amazing to look at.

And the winner iiiiiiiis…

Coca-Cola “Road to Hope“, by Ogilvy in Myanmar, Yangon! A lovely “road trip” story that mirrors the journey of a nation.

7. Best long-form content – It’s great to live in a time where we’re not limited to the 30 second segment…


  • Virgin “VX Safety Dance“, directed by John Chu. This would totally rock. Why aren’t more airlines doing interesting things like this?
  • Mountain Dew “Human Bungee Slingshot” directed by Devin Supertramp. Totally sweeps you up with its energy and irrepresible joy.

And the winner iiiiiiiis…

Dolceca ice cream “Aqua Mangos“, by JWT Cairo! Jam-packed with hilarious little touches. I’d be proud to have this one on my reel.

8. The “Wow, that gave me goose bumps!” award – Emotional work that inspires, thrills, and brings a smile to your face.


  • Disneyland Paris “Magical Moments“, by BETC in Paris. It captures the joy, the thrill and the whimsy in such a simple, powerful manner.

And the winner iiiiiiiis…

Coca-Cola “Let’s go Crazy”, by Ogilvy Rio! Work like this makes me proud to be in advertising.

9. Best use of music – An extremely powerful (and criminally underused) tool in advertising. One some of these, you could sell me anything…as long as that song is playing.


  • Oreo “Wonderfilled“, by the Martin Agency, Richmond Va. Irresistibly catchy
  • Playstation 4 “Perfect Day“, by BBH New York. Prescient tribute to the late Lou Reed
  • Samsung “The Developer“, by Leo Burnett Chicago. Caught this song at its peak of the charts – amazing timing.
  • Moosehead “Wild Nights” by Sid Lee in Toronto. A peaceful, easy feeling. Just right.

And the winner iiiiiiiis…

John Lewis “The Bear and the Hare“, by Adam&EveDDB in London! So much is good about this ad, but the music had me at hello.

 10. Best use of Celebrities – This is done right much less often than you think.


  • Verizon Droid “48 Hours“, by McGarryBowen New York. Could it have worked without Ed Norton? Maybe – but it’s so much more interesting with him.

And the winner iiiiiiiis…

Schweppes “Maybe too Schweppes?“, by China in Madrid! Such an awesome ad….only Iggy could have pulled it off so well.


11. The “Bring on the Crazy” award – if you don’t stand apart from the crowd and get noticed, nothing else that comes after even matters.


  • Dolceca ice cream “Aqua Mangos“, by JWT Cairo. Would love to have been at the pitch meeting for this idea.
  • Cosmopolitan Casino “Misfit right in“, by Fallon in Minneapolis. Nothing about this makes sense. And yet, it totally does!

And the winner iiiiiiiis…

Jack & Jones “Made from Cool“, by & Co in Copenhagen! – I was jealous of this one after only 5 seconds. They took a chance and they nailed it, the whole campaign is awesome.

And there you have it folks, the Ad of the Day 2013 highlights! Click here for Part 2, where we unveil the top 5 ads of the year (hint…none of them are included above)

Both of these ads are amazing. One of them won’t win any creative awards.


This Guinness ad has it all. One of those that you see and you think to yourself “I’ll be seeing you at Cannes.” Surely you’ve seen it by now, it’s gone very viral over the last month:

Instantly gripping. Fanciful camera work that gives you a kinetic, you-are-there feel. Great selection of the music track, which is at odds with the action, but hints that this is not just a sports drink ad. An unexpected, jarring twist. A meaningful emotional punch. A credible link to the brand and what it stands for. What else is there to ask for? Not much really, if you’re a consumer. As a piece of creativity meant to impact the real Joe down the street, this one just plain works.

And yet, my guess it that it won’t win a single major creative award.

Why? Because it may work for you and I, but if you’re a judge an awards show you have a duty to demand originality, and this is the mortal flaw of the Guinness ad and many other great ideas. Simply put, it has been done before.

Have a look at this one. It’s from India, for a local ice cream, and it came out two years ago.

How do you feel about the Guinness ad now?

We can’t (or shouldn’t) pass judgment on who did what first or who borrowed what from whom. But considering the timing, I think it’s safe to give it the Creativity kiss of death: “It’s been done before.”

It must be the bane of every young creative’s life: You go in to see the creative director with a great thought, something that has you thrilled…only to hear, in a most casual, almost dismissive tone “it’s been done.” Argh! Hearing this is an assured death sentence for the idea, even more than “I don’t like it”, or “this idea is terrible.”

Should it really matter if it was done before? After all, some of these cases of “been done before” happened in a different continent, in a different time, for a different category, surely it can’t be a big deal? In real life, perhaps not. But in the context of judging Creativity (with a capital C) absolutely! After all, the word itself implies creating something that wasn’t there before. If it has been done before, it may still be an amazing ad and it may still sell tons of product, it’s just not something that should be rewarded in a festival of creativity.

Now have a look at this lovely ad for Mercedes Benz, recently featured as an Ad of the Day:

What a joy it is, so interesting, crisp, and compelling in communicating the benefit. But now it gets really interesting…The Mercedes ad was posted in late September…and instantly some alert observers called foul and pointed to this ad by Fujifilm, dated February 19, 2013! Had it been “done before”?

Certainly, right? Not so fast. Amazingly, the creators of the Mercedes ad took the unusual step of defending their claim to originality, by stating that their ad was featured in Mercedes auto shows as early as last Fall (which can’t be easily corroborated), and by linking to an early Youtube upload from February 20, 2013 This, in my mind, is definitive proof that this wasn’t a copy. The defendant is innocent, and I expect awards will follow!

It’s like a cosmic coincidence of creativity. It may sound like a cop-out, but history is littered with examples of art/work/inventions that were birthed at the same time, with no likely correlation between the two. As in all creative arts, this also happens in advertising more often than you’d think.

So what do these examples teach us?

First of all, don’t be so quick to judge. It would be easy to start a witch hunt, but until you have the fact at hand, don’t make assumptions. I’m always a bit dismayed by how people toss around accusation of idea theft in public advertising forums. It’s basic civility to our colleagues to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Second, people need to understand that judging creativity in a creative awards show is not the same as a layman viewing creativity in their TV set. The criteria are much more extensive and demanding, and among these the variable of originality (“has it been done before?”) must be absolutely non-negotiable.

And finally, creativity doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It is affected by everything that came before, and it will affect everything that comes after. We have a responsibility to the past, by taking inspiration from what came before and using that to make the present work even better. And we have a responsibility to the future, by executing each idea in the very best way it can be done – If we’re going to preclude that same idea from ever being done again, we’d better make the best version of it possible!

Keep an ad on the Guinness ad and the Mercedes ad as awards season starts up next year, and let’s see if the juries agree.

The “A to Z recap” of Cannes Lions 2013



The posters have been taken down, the streets have been swept, the Nice airport has cleared, the celebratory hangovers are starting to fade…12 thousand delegates are slowly making their way home, having endured through a thrilling week of creativity, inspiration, networking, and good-old-fashioned celebration.

What to make of Cannes 2013?

The Cannes International Festival of Creativity, celebrating its 60th edition, has grown so big and complex that it’s impossible to capture the experience in a few neat thoughts. But I will try to give you a taste: below is an “A to Z” collection of parting thoughts from the unique advertising whirlwind that is Cannes.

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Anniversary Celebration: Cannes turned 60 this year, and there was an exhibition that showed the historical evolution of the festival. From its beginnings in 1953, when 200 delegates gathered in Venice and paid a 30 dollar registration fee (ha!), to the week-long extravaganza that it is today, including 12 thousand delegates and 35 thousand pieces of work submitted. Do you know that the Lion was originally modeled after the Lion of St. Mark’s Square, in Venice, and only got its current look in the 80’s? Did you know that Cannes only became the permanent home of the festival in 1984? For this and more historical tidbits, click here.

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Beach promenade: Although most of the content takes place inside a convention center, undoubtedly a big part of the identity of the Cannes festival is linked to its lovely French Riviera setting, and its beach-front promenade known as La Croisette. Why is the beach so cool? 1. You end up walking the 7 or so blocks countless time throughout the week, and amazingly you can count on running into mostly everyone at some point, from old friends to celebrities of the advertising world. 2. Most of the parties, large and small, take place on the actual beach itself – they place planks of wood on the sand and turn the beach onto a huge platform…from where you can look back onto the hotels…quite beautiful and unique.

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Lovely, relevant (and free!) last week

Coca-Cola: As far as clients go, this was undoubtedly the year of Coke. They were crowned as marketer of the year, in a rightful recognition of the incredible work they’ve been doing for many years now. An inspiration to the industry in terms of their creativity and their embrace of trans-media storytelling (if I were Pepsi I’d be so depressed!) On Saturday night they picked up their award, and this was the video that was played as an introduction. Two things to note: It’s called marketer of the year, but you don’t win this for one year of good performance, what is clear is that to get to this level you need a cumulative effect of many years of excellent creativity. Coke works with many agencies, and among them Ogilvy is extremely well represented, it can be said that we’ve been their key driver of recognition in the last two years, including CokeHands, Share a Coke, Sprite Shower, Toe Tappy, and many more!

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Dumb Ways to Die: Ten, twenty, thirty years from now, this will be the one piece shown in retrospectives of Cannes 2013. It’s an astounding achievement, and even if you saw it months ago, watch it again below and be hooked all over again. Consider: 1. It won 5, yes 5 Grand Prix (this is nothing short of surreal.) 2. Graham Fink nailed it with his prediction prior to Cannes: “…it is going to sweep the board at Cannes. And rightly so. I think if I had got this brief, I would have done something very powerful and shocking. But what is brilliant about this idea is the creative team did exactly the opposite. They started with a song. And a happy one at that. But at the heart is a dark message. I’m sure it hit the target market like an express train.” 3. Both Dan Wieden and Lee Clow got on stage and expressed their jealousy at not having come up with that one.

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Excellence: One of the best things about Cannes is that it gathers all the great work from all over the world, and it shows you exactly how high the bar is. You walk away with a mixture of inspiration, ambition, healthy jealousy, unhealthy jealousy, and fear that your future work won’t measure up. A few examples below (click for larger image), like the Ogilvy Paris ads for Perrier Small Bubbles: a delightful mix of pop art, unexpected humor, solid writing, and cleverly conveyed product benefit. Or the ads for Knacki Sausages, also by Ogilvy Paris: amazing art direction, relatable humor, crisp benefit, great branding. Or the Ray Ban ad by Marcel, mixing artful photography, storytelling, and a brand-manifesto message. Amazing stuff, huh? I’d be so proud to have been involved with any of them. They all have something in common: all were shortlisted in print, yet none of them walked away with a Lion. That’s how high the benchmark is!

Perrier - illiteratemotorbikephotojournalist

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Finality: Cannes can be filled with celebration, in fact there are so many awards and categories that at times it can seem a little like your kid’s soccer league: everyone goes home with a trophy. But the truth is quite a lot harsher. There were 35,000 submissions, and each one of them represents a lot of work, sweat and tears, and the hopes of many people who stayed behind in the office. When you don’t win (and most don’t win), the news arrives with a devastating finality: you see, the shortlist is published a few days before the awards show for each category. If you get a shortlist, this is a great accomplishment, and it allows you to continue “dreaming” of a Lion for a few more days until the ceremony. Party on! But if yours is not on the list…just like that, it’s all over. Sadly for me this was the case with many of our entries from Ogilvy Shanghai. On Monday morning, right at the time I was picking up my delegate badge and beginning my Cannes experience, I found out that many of our entries (including some that were near and dear to my heart!) hadn’t made the cut. Devastating. But that’s life at Cannes. Not winning doesn’t mean your work is not awesome (see examples above). But the pain is swift and undeniable.

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Gutter Bar: A true Cannes institution. Reliable, unassuming, and a charmingly decadent. If you haven’t been, you’d be stunned by what a piece of crap little bar it is. In fact I think it’s 2 or 3 little bars that are on the corner and neither of them is actually called “Gutter Bar”. What the term describes is an area on the corner across from the Martinez hotel, where hundreds, even  thousands of people spill over onto the street and just chill for hours, catching up with friends over copious amounts of beer. It’s basically the Cannes dive bar. People start arriving at 2 or so once the other parties start wrapping up, and then the place is jammed until 6 or 7. Seriously, it’s jammed until daylight. A word on the partying: regardless of what Cannes-goers might tell their wives/husbands/bosses back home, let me assure you: the amount of partying is insane. The sun doesn’t even set until 9:30pm. Dinner ends at 12. If you’re taking it easy, you sneak out to go home early…at 2 or 3. If you go with the flow, 5am. If you’ve won a lion and you’re going all out…6 or 7. Over the course of a week, this is a supreme test of human endurance, and I guarantee you that by Friday, variations on “being shattered” are featured in 94% of any conversation at Cannes. And that is just another reason why Cannes kicks ass.

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Hotels: The Carlton, The Martinez, The Splendide, The Miramar. All lovely, grand hotels along the Croisette where movie stars stay during the Film Festival, and advertising royalty stays during Cannes Lions. I walked into the lobby of the Carlton last week and as I was going through the revolving door Dan Wieden was going out in the opposite direction. Very cool. The Carlton has a fantastic terrace that spills out onto the Croisette (that is, the terrace juts out the front of the hotel,) and this is where people meet at all hours to catch up, gossip about the work and the seminars, and generally drink up pricey bottles of rose wine. At night both the Carlton and the Martinez are jam packed…they’re basically the pricier, slightly ritzier, slightly earlier version of the Gutter Bar.

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Immortal Fans: A masterful Grand Prix winner in Promo & Activation by Ogilvy Brazil (Rio office). Other work may have gotten a little more attention throughout the year in social media. But the way this case is presented has the power of a freight train, and I’m thrilled it got selected. Mixing the magic of soccer, with the passion of the Brazilian people, with a life-or-death cause, with a brilliant creative idea, with superb execution…what else? This is the type of sublime inspiration one is exposed to at Cannes. Our industry at its best.

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Sir John Hegarty: One of many “superstars” that you’re bound to walk by, or see giving a speech, or just generally be around during the week. It’s pretty cool. Shelly Lazarus, David Droga, Dan Wieden, Marcelo Serpa, Khai Meng, etc., they’re all there, most every year. I’m not sure if all industries have a collection of “stars” like advertising does, people that have been at the top of their games for decades, sometimes heading up agencies that bear their name, being very visible and vocal figures for their industry and representing tons of historic work. Certainly the entertainment industry (much more glamorous than us!), but I wonder if the same can be said for banking, or insurance, or automotive? Either way, it’s pretty neat.

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KhaiKhai: The Ogilvy network, under Tham Khai Meng’s creative leadership, last year won the Agency of the Network at Cannes, for the first time in Ogilvy’s history. We took the crown from BBDO by winning 83 lions, including a Grand Prix. This year, you figure the only way is down…instead, that record was completely obliterated. Khai gave a talk last week at Cannes where he showed inspiring recent work from around the Ogilvy network. It was amazing to see how diverse it was in geography, medium, and execution, but how consistent it was in its excellence. I don’t see Khai’s creative machine slowing down. I mean, even stuff that didn’t win a lion, or even get a shortlist (!) was awesome. Like this submission video for IBM by the New York office. Sweet stuff.

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Links: Cannes, is so large, so filled with content and options that I think you could easily fill up 10 schedules that would never intersect. Anytime there is a cool talk, seminar, meeting or party there are 3 others great ones at the same time that you unfortunately have to miss. So there are as many Cannes experiences as there are individuals – this A to Z view is one person’s view (mine). For more, here are links to some excellent Cannes roundups:

Mannes in Cannes: By our own Chris Gotz, ECD of Ogilvy Cape Town. Without a doubt, the very best day-by-day recounting of Cannes I have seen. Read from the bottom up. Seriously, you must. I wish I could write like this.

Adweek: Make sure you read the one where Lee Clow and George Lois dispense their timeliness wisdom, and also the one where they interview 12 greats

Adage: Filled with good video interviews of the top winners

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Meeting 2

“How not to be a douchebag in advertising”

Master Classes: At Cannes there are many types of “talks” during the week, all happening at once in a big jumbled heap of a schedule. You have Seminars: keynote speeches given on all types of topics, normally “sponsored” by an agency or industry-related company, and held in a big auditorium. There are Forums, where a panel sits and gives a bit of a speech, and then takes questions from the audience on a variety of topics.There are Workshops, which are skill-based and feature a more interactive, participatory setup. I bet not many were scheduled before noon. Also Tech Talks, where tech companies give their pitch on how they are going to revolutionize the industry. And even specialized content groupings, such as “China Day” this year, where all things China were discussed. But my favorite were the Master Classes. If a Seminar is a rock concert in an arena, the master class is an acoustic concert in a neighborhood bar. A very small, intimate, relaxed setting, with some seriously smart folks sharing their know-how in a casual, easygoing way. This year I went to hear Khai talk about creativity (above), Stephane Xiberras describe the difference between great and bad ads (more below), and the founder of Mother NY talk about how to avoid being a douchebag in our business. The only one I missed was Amir Kassaei of DDB, because I was triple-booked. Either way you like it, there is a ton to learn at Cannes.

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Non-stop: They say you can do “learning Cannes” or “social Cannes” easily…if you try to do both you’ll end up quite worn out. Well, that’s what most people try to do. Folks that don’t go (especially wives and husbands) might think it’s a paid vacation…and while it’s as awesome as a vacation, it’s by no means as relaxing. Here is a sample agenda for last Tuesday June 18, kept track of with a handy Cannes Lions App that would crash every 5 seconds: 9:25-9:45 How to reap the benefits of 1.34 billion Chinese consumers, China Day; 10-10:45 Iconic Storytelling frame by frame, Annie Leibovitz, Disney & McGarry Bowen; 10:30-11:15 Four hands piano: how different is Chinese creativity?, China Day; 11:30-12 Casa Mexico hospitality area; 12-13 How to avoid being a douche in this business, Mother Collective; 13-13:20 Where is China’s youth heading? China Day; 14-14:45 Creativity at scale, Facebook; 15:30-15:50 Lightning Talk: LMAO with Gen Z – and realizing I am getting older, Google Beach; 16-17 The health tech revolution, crossing the physical digital divide, Arianna Huffington, 17-17:45 How brand can embrace miraculous new technologies, Leo Burnett & Contagious; 19-21 Media, Mobile, Innovation and Outdoor Lion awards; 21:30-1 Opening Gala, 1-3 Carlton Terrace, 3-5 Gutter bar…repeat more or less for 7 days..!

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Ogilvy: It feels a little bit crass to wave your own flag, but honestly at Cannes 2013 O can only stand for Ogilvy. Let me throw a couple of facts at you: 1. Agency Network of the Year. 2. Agency of the Year (Sao Paulo). 3. If you remove the points of all of Ogilvy Brazil entirely, we’d still be Network of the Year. 4. If you combine the points of 2nd place BBDO and 3rd place DDB…we’d still be agency of the year. 5. From Khai’s email: “No one had ever won more than 100 Lions before; our previous record—set only last year—was 83. We almost doubled that with 155 Lions.” 6. Grand Prix are extremely rare. The most we’d ever won was 2 for Dove Evolution in 2007. This year we won 4, and for 4 different offices on 4 different ideas (Promo&Activation: Rio for Immortal fans. Media: Amsterdam for Dela. Titanium: Sao Paulo for Dove. Outdoor: Paris for IBM) 7. We won a rare Creative Effectiveness Gold Lion, for which only previous Gold Lion creative winners can submit. 8. We won lions in 38, yes thirty-eight, different offices around the world. I don’t know how to say it elegantly, so I’m just going to say like it is: historic.kicking.of.ass.

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Pereira O’Dell: an agency from San Francisco that teamed up with Intel and Toshiba to win an astounding 2 Grand Prix (Film, and Branded Content/Entertainment) for “The Beauty Inside”. The piece doesn’t have a simple explanation, but it’s basically a series of web films released online and made in part by filmed contributions from Facebook followers of the story. An amazing mix of storytelling, technology, strategy and innovation. I was impressed because I had never heard of it (most everything that won last week had been appropriately pre-hyped to death), so it was a nice surprise. But what really stand out is the complexity and ambition of this project. You know how when a professional basketball player shoots a free throw, you can imagine what it feels like? Likewise with much of the winning work, I can imagine being involved in creating something like that. But this one…I don’t even know how people do it. A big part of the appeal of Cannes is setting a high benchmark…and then seeing how people consistently surpass it and push the boundary further. Check out the winning case study below.

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Quality: Much of the winning work at Cannes is crafted to such a high polish that it sparkles. It is quality advertising that makes the brand proud. I like that there is a craft category, because it recognizes that beyond the almost mystical powers of a great idea, there is also tremendous power in a wonderful execution. The Getty ad below won a gold for ALMAP BBDO for film craft in editing…but I think the music could just as easily been recognized. The Southern Comfort ad won a gold for film craft in casting…and I have to admit that guy just rocks. Like these two below…there are dozens and dozens that are the maximum expression of great photography, script writing music, cinematography, etc.

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Rosé: For some reason, rosé wine (quick note: pronounced “rou-ZEI”, just like the flower, but with an accent on the second syllable. The R can only be pronounced in the French way if you are French…or Brazilian.) is the official drink of Cannes. It must have to do with a summer feeling, a Riviera je ne sais quoi…or maybe it’s just savvy marketing by the wineries, ready to dump all their unsold wine on eager tourists one week a year. I’d easily bet that one sips more rosé in Cannes than they will in the whole rest of the year combined. If you win a lion, you go to the Carlton and order a big bottle of Champagne? No. You order a big bottle or rosé. And they do sell bottles that are the size of small children, as you can see in the adjoining photo.

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Ogilvy São Paulo: What to say about these guys? Five years ago they’re a decent creative office. Then they become a top creative office within Ogilvy. Last year at Cannes they were ranked the 3rd most creative office in the world, which was unbelievable. This year, they were number one. In the world. In the entire world, including the luminaries that everyone always thinks of, the Wiedens, the Drogas, the BBHs, the BBDOs, etc. Number one. Most offices are thrilled to shortlist. Win 1 silver lion or a couple of bronzes and it’s a banner year…hell win a gold and careers are made. This year Brazil won: 2 Grand Prix, 16 Gold Lions, 4 Silver Lions, 12 Bronze Lions and 24 shortlists. It’s almost grotesque. What’s best is that I’m lucky enough to actually know these folks: so I know they did it with hard work, without cutting corners, on real brands and with huge creative ideas that make a difference. An inspiration. Once again, parabens, galera!

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Twitter (and social media) overload: Cannes can get so intense with mobile overload that, upon leaving one would welcome a couple of days in a monastery, or camping, or wherever there isn’t electricity or a wireless connection. At Cannes there is wi-fi everywhere, and if the talk gets just even the slightest bit boring…people are immediately looking down at their phones. Tweeting about what is going on. Updating Facebook. Checking the schedule on the Cannes App. Catching up on Linkedin. Having a peek at Adage, or Adweek, or Adlatina. It’s non-stop. When you go have lunch or dinner…no problem, every place has free wi-fi, and so the madness continues. It can get a little overwhelming. On the more positive side, Rai Inamoto, the president of the mobile jury, pulled a stunt that I thought was pretty cool as he opened up his segment during the awards ceremony. He asked everyone to pull out their mobile phone and hold it up towards him. He took a picture. He tweeted it. He wrote “Admiring the stars of “#CannesLions at the Palais”. In seconds we had the picture in our own phone, via twitter. It all took less than a minute. Pretty amazing world we live in. Here you have it below.


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Unexpected discoveries: In the age of the internet, YouTube and blogging, if you pay attention to creativity you can pretty much be aware of most of the good work out there as it comes out throughout the year. Cannes often serves as a culminating recognition for great work that has been seen many times over, and this is great and well deserved. So it’s a special double treat when you discover work that is great AND you had not seen ever before. It’s the thrill of greatness and newness, all wrapped up. I’m sure you’ve seen and enjoyed Dove’s real Beauty Sketches…but I had never seen Dove’s “Cameray Shy”, a Gold Lion Winner for Ogilvy London. Brilliant, isn’t it? Amazing insight, powerful message, wonderfully executed…this got a huge round of applause, a real delight. And, if you’re not British, perhaps you may have missed the unbelievable “Meet the Superhumans” a Channel 4 promotional ad for the Paralympics last year. Crank up the volume and prepare to be amazed. This one also got a roar of delight when it was screened as they picked up their Gold Lion. Discovering these “hidden” gems makes a special event even more magical.

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Viral: “Dumb Ways to Die” has been viewed more than 51 million times on YouTube so far. Dove “Real Beauty Sketches” more than 55 million times. Last year’s Chipotle “Back to the Start” ad, 8 million times. And Dodge RAM’s “The Farmer”, 15 million times. Even a small activation on the streets of Singapore, Coke’s “Sharing Can” has been viewed over 1.5 million times. Media budgets are great, but we live in a time where amazing ideas, expertly produced, simply cannot be contained. There are so many channels, outlets, devices and means to get out the message! Advertisers sometimes speak wistfully of the 60s, when you had 3 networks in the US and if you had a good TV ad it would pretty much be seen be everyone. But think of all the good ideas for that didn’t make the cut…because their brands didn’t have a media budget! I’d much rather take my chances now.

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Wieden + Kennedy: 2013, Independent Agency of the Year. 2012, Independent Agency of the Year, and also Agency of the Year overall. 2011, Independent Agency of the Year, 2010, runner-up to Independent Agency of the Year. I mean, seriously! When they were announced winners this year, it caused zero stir, zero surprise, it was almost dull. This is what it means to be damn good. There is plenty of healthy jealousy and petty sniping between the “large” agencies…but not many people seem to have a single bad thing to say about Wieden.  And it’s not like they’re a tiny boutique shop in Soho…they’re a major agency with offices in multiple big cities around the world, doing work on mega brands for now decades. Whatever it is that they’re doing, probably more people should be paying attention and trying to emulate it.

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Stephane Xibèrras: Stephane is the CCO at BETC, the largest and one of the most creative French agencies. Among their many memorable achievements are last year’s magnificent “The Bear”, for Canal+. He gave a lovely little Master Class session entitled “From Lion to Skunk”, about how little decisions turned great ideas into terrible ones. Funny, self deprecating, charming and honest, he left me with one of my favorite quotes from the week. After explaining that the difference between good ideas and bad ones is often in the details, he stated, in a fantastically thick French accent, that  “…everybody can have an idea. THEN the work begins!” So true. And to his credit, he didn’t just tell us, he showed us. He took great, acclaimed ads from the past (such as “Gorilla” for Cadbury Dairy Milk) and then he went into client-from-hell mode: “I love it! Fantastic! Let’s DO it. (wait for it..wait for it…) BUT (bingo!)…only a few details…we need more energy, no? And a demo? Where is the demo? And I hate Phil Collins, is there something else”. Then, to our delight, he showed us the revised ad that emerges when those little tiny tweaks are made. What made it so funny and meaningful…was that the ads weren’t horrible…they were like every average ad that you see on TV! The aberration, the great ad turned bad for a few poor choices, was exactly the mediocrity you’d expect, but no worse than so many others. The lesson here? The difference between mediocre and great is razor thin. Details matter, obsess over them. Fight for the right to make the right choices. Wonderful.

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Young Lions: There is a category of attendee at Cannes called the Young Lions. It’s a brilliant move by the organizers as it begins the process of training, educating and inspiring the future leaders or our industry from an early age. They have a dedicated area, dedicated parties, and dedicated classes and seminars. Many agencies invest in selecting a few Young Lions from around the world and bringing them over to Cannes, and it’s great to hang out with them and take in their enthusiasm. The bad part is that it makes all the other “old lions” feel old as hell.

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ZZZZZ: This signifies all Cannes attendees come Sunday morning…people in the airports and planes were passed out hard. I’m sure it’s also many of you reading this post…which somehow seemed like a clever idea when I started, got incredibly long and out of hand, but it was one of those where I was on K and couldn’t just stop, now could I? I hope it gave you a small window into the eclectic, fascinating, maddening, uplifting experience that is Cannes.Last year was my first time ever, this year was my lucky repeat, and I hope to be there again next year, and maybe pick up a lion or two for work that makes us all proud. Most of all, I hope I get to see you there, walking down La Croisette, at a Master Class, at Gutter Bar, at the Palais, or hell…maybe even up on stage, picking up a lion or two for work that makes us all proud!


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