Last week, StopPress met with an estimable judging panel in an effort to determine which finalist in the StopPress/MediaWorks TVC of the Year competition was most deserving of this year’s title.
Copious head scratching, contemplative groans and a fair bit of imbibing ensued as the judges weighed up the pros and cons of the campaigns over a lunch at Auckland’s Neighbourhood brew bar.
And by the end of this highly scientific estimation of the effectiveness of the each campaign, the judges came to a final shortlist of three candidates: ‘Mistakes’ for the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) by Clemenger BBDO, ‘Devil’s Chair’ for NZI by FCB and ‘The People’s Film’ for VW by Colenso BBDO.
The panel of judges—comprised by MDS Adschool creative director Kate Humphries, The Family chair Dave Walden and MediaWorks creative director Ant Farac—were unanimous in their opinion that each of these finalists were deserving of the honour, and these sentiments were succinctly expressed in Farac’s rundown of the campaigns.
“What each of the standouts demonstrated this year was the sublime art of story telling,” said Farac. “Exceptional ideas told brilliantly. With their distinct styles, each in their own right showed how powerful, innovative, moving and compelling a great idea well told can be. A simple mistake, where a glance back from a father to his son in the final moments before a crash, freezes you in time and haunts you long after it has played . A chair cursed by all who come into contact with it is the ultimate antidote to a bull in a china shop. An iconic car that’s been part of people’s unique life stories told by the people who own them … They captivated our attention and continued to spark debate long into the long lunch.”
And while each of the three campaigns were brilliantly executed, it was eventually decided that Clemenger’s shocking PSA on the dangers of travelling only slightly over the speed limit was the best piece of work over the course of the last year.
Humphries, who often serves as a judge for NZ Marketing’s Campaign Review section, said that the ad was powerfully done and “the ‘if only’ moment slowed right down and played out to heartbreaking effect”.
“Just when everybody was applauding Clemenger for using humour in public service ads, they go and pull the rug on us with a serious ad ending in a crash,” she said. “Yet, unlike so many car safety ads that have done just that over the years, this one withstands repeated viewing. It forces you to feel the impact of that crash each and every time; it doesn’t lecture; and it leaves the subject of blame and fault suspended right there in front of you. The fact that this has ignited conversation online is a clear testament to its power.”
Since being uploaded to the NZTA YouTube channel the spot has already accumulated over 10 million views, illustrating that its appeal extends beyond national borders.
Walden, who founded Whybin\TBWA 15 years ago, was also impressed by the ‘Mistakes’ campaign, calling it a welcome departure from the usual road safety ads.
“While we have all seen a heap of work around road safety, we are all weary of the ‘shock’ crash stuff,” he said. “This spot cleverly allows you to see yourself in this position of the driver, and that is always a plus in any communication, and the kid in the back seat is the emotional tug. Nicely shot and not overdone. And, importantly, it makes you think and sticks in your mind.”
Another spot that really sticks in the mind is FCB’s ‘Devil’s Chair’, which earlier this year won a Craft Grand Prix in the animation/design/visual effects category as well as two golds at the Axis Awards. This trend of success continued as the judges gave second place to the campaign for the TVC of the year.
Humphries was particularly impressed by the campaign and summarised it with a trifecta of ‘greats’, saying: “Great insight. Great animation. Great storytelling. It’s a category-breaking, highly watchable ad in an often-staid and difficult territory. And it’s all wrapped up with an absolute swagger of an endline.”
Walden similarly applauded the way in which the campaign approached the subject in a way that wouldn’t normally be expected of an insurance company.
“The chair as a metaphor for business, in a slapstick full on animated spot which grabs you and breaks the mould for the category,” he said.
The final spot in the top three was taken up by the most recent of contenders, as VW’s crowd-sourced ‘The People’s Film’ won a place on the podium.
Walden said: “The ‘peoples car’ in an ad made by the ‘people’. Very clever way of integrating the nostalgic view kiwis have of the old Beetles and Kombis with more contemporary models. Nice and pacey, and put together amazingly well considering all the disparate elements. Makes you feel good about the brand and not many car ads do that.”
The craft category was whittled down to two contenders, which eventually resulted in the well-awarded ‘Blazed As’ ad for NZTA by Clemenger BBDO and DDB’s ‘Born to Defy’ spot for Steinlager sharing the spoils.*
The judges added to the already-abundant array of compliments that have been given to the ‘Blazed As’ campaign since its release.
“Skilled comedy has long held a mirror up to the realities we ignore, and that skill is clearly evident in this little film, said Humphries. “Not only has Taika [Waititi] sharply teased out the observant child’s eye in the performances of these kids, but also his filming and editing decisions have ensured a message that avoids any smattering of the didactic—allowing the humour, and therefore the message, to be authentically delivered.”
Walden said that the skill lay in the fact that Clemenger BBDO and Waititi presented an idea that wasn’t necessarily novel in a way that resonated with the audience.
“Using kids to mimic adult behaviour is not new, but this is brilliant direction of young fresh talent,” said Walden. “It draws you in and makes you think about the issue of dope, cars and kids. It walks that fine balance of humour but it’s also meaningful. It’s quintessentially kiwi and makes you feel good after watching, while simultaneously getting a message about a serious subject across.”
A successful and effective partnership
This is not the first time that Clemenger BBDO has taken the title for the TVC of the Year. In 2012, ‘Ghost Chips’, also created for the NZTA, went home with the title.
Interestingly, at the time, there was some controversy in the industry because the spot was largely snubbed at Axis, but ended up doing very well at international awards shows.
This controversy was however ameliorated—at least to some degree—when Clemenger earlier this year went on to win the Grand Axis for ‘Blazed As’.
In many ways, this award was the culmination of a successful creative partnership that has over the past few years given Kiwis a series of powerful ads that not only relay important messages but do so in a way that doesn’t chastise or alienate the audience.
And while the creativity on show is integral to the success of the campaigns, Clemenger BBDO’s Philip Andrew recently told NZ Marketing (in the March/April issue) that it’s equally important for the campaigns to be effective as well as entertaining.
In the article, Andrew says that over the last few years driver behaviour has changed significantly, a fact that he attributes in part to the efforts of the NZTA and Clemenger.
“When we started working on NZTA, or LTSA as it was known then, the average mean speed if you were categorised as a speeder was 120kmh. Now it’s under the tolerance, around 107-109kmh. That progress hasn’t been made because of engineering or car safety technology. That’s happening because of lobbying and the work we’ve done to get people to accept that there are other people on the road.”
And given that the annual road toll remains a serious issue, we can only hope that the creative partnership between Clemenger and the NZTA continues to remind Kiwis that the road is a social space.
*Update: the craft award was shared between these two entries.