First cut from this year’s creative crop of Epica entrants

mistakes-billboardSelfishly speaking, there are three good things about the Epica Awards. First, they are the only ones that allow specialist journalists to pass judgement on the ad industry’s creative achievement over the past year – so, no closed-shop cliquishness about the outcome, just good old-fashioned cynicism. Two, like Cannes, they are an international benchmark; you get to see what’s going on outside your own little pond. Three, they are not Cannes – see point one; also, they take place towards the end of the year, a distance that allows sharper detachment of the critical faculties.

Having got all that out of the way, I’ll explain what this article is about. I’m just back from Paris, having judged (or rather filtered – others will do the final judging) this year’s creative crop. In common with all creative advertising awards schemes – or at any rate, those with an open franchise – most Epica entries are barely worth a second look. But one or two stick in the memory. Here are my two runners and riders. They may fall at the next jump; there may be others that merit more consideration as winners; I don’t know. All I can say is they were memorable.

The first is the campaign “Mistakes” launched by the New Zealand Transport Agency earlier this year. Most road safety campaigns rely upon the graphic impact of a collision for their deterrent effect, to the extent that the ad’s denouement becomes desensitised cliché. This campaign – and we’re talking about the one minutes television spot here, although other media do support it – takes a substantially different approach. It focuses not on the gory details of the road accident itself, but on the freeze-framed moments preceding it. An SUV pulls out of a junction onto a main road. No doubt about it, the driver – perhaps distracted by his young son in the back seat – is technically at fault. He has failed to take proper observation. The saloon-car driver speeding towards the SUV’s exposed broadside cannot stop in time. His foot moves dramatically towards the brake pedal and – time stands still. Both cars halt in their trajectories. The drivers get out of their cabs and in a poignant conversation rehearse the awful inevitability of what is about to happen. The SUV driver admits to his mistake and pleads for his son’s life. But, heartbreakingly, the other driver is powerless to change the course of fate. Both must, after this brief reprieve, return to their vehicles. Momentarily we see the car’s speedometer race over the 100kph speed limit, then hear the violent collision.

Remorse also punishes the less at fault – most frequently in the form of a thousand post-traumatic flashbacks. It’s a simple but eloquent campaigning point aimed not at the SUV driver – after all, we all make mistakes don’t we? – but his complacent saloon counterpart, a stand-in for the overly confident competent driver who, 99% of the time, can count on his reactions to offset minimal speeding.

The  agency is Clemmenger BBDO Wellington. Creative Director of “Mistakes” was Brigid Alkemawas.

After that cheery review of one of life’s little pitfalls, let’s move on to altogether more spiritual matters and a heartwarming Christmas message, courtesy of Unicef and Swedish agency Forsman & Bodenfors. You don’t need to be Jesus, Mahatma Gandhi or Mother Teresa to earn your place at the top table in the House of Goodness…

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