30 June, 2012

Australia's lion now sleeps

Melbourne Herald Sun, Friday June 29, 2012 

Forget the Oscars and the BAFTAs, in the world of advertising the big gong is the Cannes Lion. That fest ended last weekend, with Australia proudly displaying 14 lions in gold, 15 silver, and 29 bronze - a total of 58. Our previous best was in 2009 with 45.

However there was some disappointment. Only two awards were in the TV commercials category where in the past we have been much more successful. Looking at commercials that did take home gold, they were good - but they also had million-dollar budgets you'd never get from a client in Australia.

Fallen angels smell aftershave
A Doritos chip commercial from BBDO London was set in a Mexican village worthy of a spaghetti western; BBH London continued the Lynx after shave tradition of adolescent sexism with "Even angels will fall" - set in a post-war Naples straight from a De Sica film.

Our own gold winner, Hahn "Super in, super out", had Lion Nathan money behind it, in the tradition of big-buck beer commercials.

The only other Aussie winner was bronze to DDB Sydney for Volkswagen Tiguan - which to my mind had more wit and humour, for much less cost.

This is a worrying trend of advertising world wide. More spent, hugely elaborate technology, more layers of complication instead of focus and communication.

On which topic we must mourn, this month, the demise of Campaign Palace. For over 30 years this agency defined the peak of Australian advertising creativity, winning the top prizes around the world - New York, London, and of course Cannes.

You'll remember their commercials even if they ran before you were born. "One day you're gonna get caught with your pants down", Rex the anteater, Dunlop tyres landing on an aircraft carrier, the Rev cow working out at the sauna and the treadmill.

They could handle emotion, too, like the little boy who loses his mother at a station - "If this is how he feels after losing you for just a minute, imagine how he'd feel if he lost you for life" - one of the strongest-ever Quit Smoking ads.

And a whole generation of girls remember Naomi Watts turning down dinner with Tom Cruise because mum had roast lamb for dinner that night.

Campaign Palace was founded by Lionel Hunt and Gordon Trembath in the 70s and quickly became a world-beater. Early in my career I was fortunate to have Hunt as my creative director and he would drill into us the basis of great advertising:

Study your product to understand its unique defining feature. Dig and dig and dig till you have distilled it down to one simple thought. You wear nice underwear because some day someone might see you in it. The tyres on your car are made by the same company that makes tyres for Harrier jets.

If mum puts a  roast dinner on, the kids will all turn up. Giving up smoking is not just for you, it's for your kids.

One simple thought, beautifully presented, sums up the thousand words someone else may have used to communicate the same concept. It sticks in the memory like the burr from a paddock. No amount of money can make an ad work as well as that.

The Lions lose their Palace
Just one other gold lion TVC worked that well, I'd written about it some weeks before - the Argentinian "Dads in briefs". A simple idea: what's worst on a muggy day than your dad wandering around the house in his underpants. Simple photography, low budget, hilarious concept. Quick, buy an air conditioner.

Now that's the sort of brilliance Campaign Palace used to bring to Australian advertising. Will we see the like again?

Blog: themarketeer-raybeatty.blogspot.com

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