Stephen Foster’s agency, ads and person of the year – plus some thoughts from Giles Keeble

Well we’re almost there – here are my choices of the above plus Giles Keeble, who has invented his own categories. Final result next week when some stragglers have straggled in (maybe).


Agency of the year

Really tricky because of the work I see a lot of the good stuff lately has come from France and Scandinavia but I’m not sure which agencies have had the strongest overall performance. Maybe we need some correspondents over there (volunteers welcome).

Leading the pack at the moment is Droga5 in New York, not least because of the agency’s deal with Hollywood talent agency William Morris Endeavor. This certainly puts D5 in an interesting place – but I wait to see how such access to ‘content’ can change the ad map. As for D5’s work, it’s always interesting and ambitious but I don’t think this has been a vintage year.

Last year’s winner Wieden+Kennedy London has had a respectable year but we’re still waiting for some authentic Tesco fireworks (not entirely sure Tesco is looking for fireworks but the rest of the world is), so no repeat I’m afraid.

So I’m going to give it to Bartle Bogle Hegarty. BBH is an agency in transition of course, having completed the sale of all its equity to Publicis Groupe (what will its future be in Omnicom/Publicis?) with remaining founders Sir Nigel Bogle (Andy Law’s person of the year) and Sir John Hegarty supposedly taking more of a back seat.

Well I still see Bogle prowling his Kingly Street fastness while Hegarty has been spreading the word for good advertising like a preacher on speed. But Alexandre Gama from Brazil has taken over from Hegarty as CCO and, no doubt, more changes are afoot.

But, most importantly, the work has been consistently good – as it has for 30 years (although we’re not awarding that).

Here’s its latest Baileys ad, which shows what my agency of the year is made of.


Ads/campaign of the year

I might cheat (don’t we always?) and divide this into two.

The campaign of the year is Danish agency &Co’s Jack & Jones epic featuring Christopher Walken. What’s not to like? Bold, brave, quietly funny and to the point.


Individual ads are much harder. There’s the ‘Nutcracker’ (above) obviously and here are some other stand-outs.

First up is Volvo Trucks‘ ‘Epic Splits’ from Forsman & Bodenfors in Gothenburg (part of a long-running brilliant campaign):


Next is ‘So God made a farmer’ from The Richards Group for Chrysler Ram trucks.

American agencies seem to love this emotion-laden stuff but it’s bloody difficult to pull off. But this one succeeds: the poetry is wonderful as is the filming and it does tug at he heartstrings (especially the bit about the colt – sob).

We could go on…here’s a surprising one, from Ogilvy UK for Kronenbourg 1664. Why? It’s just a perfectly-realised old-fashioned ad with a nice story, a gentle joke and a wonderful performance from Eric Cantona. It’s just like wot the best ads used to be.

And my winner is…The Richards Group for Ram trucks.


Network of the year

A bastard category if ever there was one. John Wren and Maurice Levy may have undermined Sir Martin Sorrell’s WPP by agreeing to merge Omnicom and Publicis to create the world’s biggest marcoms company but WPP’s networks have been smiting their opponents with biblical fervour.

Mighty media company GroupM has been dishing out the punishment to all and sundry – most recently by winning Volvo from Havas in Europe – and, on the creative front, Ogilvy kicked a load of Riviera sand in Omnicom-owned BBDO’s face by winning over a hundred Lions at Cannes (the first time anyone has done this).

Now this wasn’t achieved without controversy – some say that Ogilvy spent over $10m to achieve this, sometimes with its own versions of various ads. But the network of the year still has to be Ogilvy & Mather.

Phew…nearly there.


Person of the year

UnknownDavid Droga is a strong contender, as is SMS (see above). But I’m going to be a bit UK-parochial this year and choose ITV’s director of television Peter Fincham (left)

ITV, the UK’s biggest commercial broadcaster, has had a storming few years, even managing to increase its viewing figures in a marketplace stuffed with lowest common denominator digital channels. Its profits have soared along with the ratings and Fincham, who the BBC foolishly dumped following a spat over a programme with the Queen, has combined big traditional Saturday night winners like the X Factor and Ant & Dec with really good drama like Broadchurch and, most recently, the excellent Lucan.

A strong ITV matters to UK creative agencies as much as media agencies, it provides the opportunity to show off their wares to best advantage. Actually more of them could rise to the challenge.

Fincham, therefore, deserves their and our support.


Giles Keeble adds

I once asked Alan Bennett to be a judge on a radio jury and he declined by quoting from Alice in Wonderland: ‘all must have prizes’! The annual ‘best of’ has come round, as it tends to do. While this can be taken seriously – Best Agency and Best Campaign etc are good PR for those Agencies- what are the criteria? Usually things like new business record and numbers of awards. When you’re in it, you can lose perspective; when, like me, you’re half in and half out (and more out than in), you can miss things, good and bad.

So I will invent my own few categories.

Best change of Direction: Southern Comfort, from all that New Orleans stuff to the ‘Feel Comfortable’ work.

Best renaissance: Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty. I understand that Unilever don’t think it ever went away, but it certainly wasn’t noticeable until recently.

Most consistent: John Lewis – at least for their Christmas work and the clean quality of their print. When people are waiting to see what you have done this year, and how it might compare to previous years, it is a mark of success as well as a challenge. Personally, I still think the little boy ad from three years ago is the best.

Most over-awarded: Dumb Ways to Die. Don’t get me wrong – it is a brilliant film, wherever it may run. It is just lazy for juries to also give it best radio, best poster and best shelf-wobbler.

And finally the What Next? winner is Guinness: what will more of Made of More look like?

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