Advertising: They were cheesy, funky, arty - and one was a runaway success

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Good evening. This year's "Yorks", the advertising awards ceremony completely devoted to the marvellous creativity of our young country and the Cool Britannia can-do spirit of 1997, comes in three convenient forms; online, video and DVD. The awards were recorded at the Millennium Dome, the dynamic yet nostalgic alternative Albert Hall, and the compere was Stephen Fry. The advertising creative folk in the audience were asked to dress in the School Disco manner.

Stephen's introduction linked Franciscan friars, George Cukor, the Apple Mac and Rupert Brooke's pertly rounded buttocks. (When he and Simon Jenkins are gone, what will happen to our intellectual traditions?)

The award in the first category, Most Inventive Use of a Former Politician in a Commercial, was presented by Jeffrey Archer (we thought about Jonathan Aitken, but he didn't really have the profile). And it went to the Cheese commercial - The Ultimate Cheese Party CD. It stars the Hamiltons, who dance and gurn their little hearts out for the album with everything - "The Birdie Song", the Macarena, everything. It's fascinating. Only a few years ago Neil was blustering, hanging on to a shred of dignity while Martin Bell was kippering him. And now, once through that pain and shame, nothing-left-to-lose barrier, they're making the supreme sacrifice, earning them those crucial letters after their names - the WDA (Will Do Anything) - wild!

The award for Artiest Commercial of the Year is presented by Tracey Emin, shimmering in full-length midnight blue Givenchy satin. And it goes to that Honda commercial where the car parts move around the white gallery space just like an arthouse "short". It's an incredibly inventive chain of perpetual motion among bits of plastic, rubber and metal. It looks lovely and tremendously clever. And it's Art, no question. The objective of a commercial like this, dear thoughtful, bourgeois reader, is to make you feel that Honda is a brand for People Like Us now.

The award for Best Use of Music in a Commercial was presented by Paul Gambaccini. (He knows everything, you know: Rhodes scholar, co-author of The Guinness Book of British Hit Singles.) It was a close call. The jury of one thought long and hard about the KFC campaign and its northern soul tracks, but it's gone to Lynx. The Lynx commercial rediscovered exactly the right delicious old funk track for the wonderful little dance routine that the skinny, balding nothing-in-particular hero does. The hands in the air routine, the routine that lures the two babes to dance around him and says two girls for every boy. The track, "Make Luv" by Oliver Cheetham, was a hit all over again. A bigger hit. It's in all the compilations now, and every time it's played there's a useful reminder of a chemical air-freshener for the overheated parts of teenage boys.

The award for Best Swinging London Aesthetic in a Commercial was presented by Cherie Blair (she's really tried, she's from the North, you know). And it goes to Rimmel. The Rimmel commercial, for its mascara, ticked every box: Kate Moss, the Union Flag, Guardsmen, Buckingham Palace, the lot. It was Swinging London Mark One (1966) and Mark Two (1997), when the American magazines did us all over again. Everything was red and white. Kate - Little Miss Foxy - was "cheeky" and girls in black taffeta swung from chandeliers and chased men in uniform. It's a lost language.

The award for Cutest Household in a Commercial was presented by Dermot O'Leary. (I know, but most advertising creative people look just like him now; we have to be mindful of the audience.) And it goes to Motorola for their sexed-up arty Italian tenement. It's the house that everyone wishes they'd spent summer in at 19 while they were doing a completely pointless university course. The pleasingly decayed tenement in the old town where everyone's young, cute and up for it. The tenement where they're all sending each other sexy pictures by phone. The tenement which just might make you think that Motorola was a remotely sexy brand.

The award for Best Period Evocation in a Commercial was presented by Dame Joanna Lumley (such a nice, modest, well-mannered girl in real life). It goes to BT Yahoo for its clever pastiche of the vintage California tech computer nerd style of 1969. The bleaching of the film stock so it looks like an old Clint Eastwood 2am TV showing; the perfect styling of the two boys (the Jewish one with the major moustache, and the square-faced innocent with the Prince Valiant hair); and the glorious reconstruction of the sunlit university computer room with its whirring mainframe were all delicious. And all cleverly patched through to the internet too. Real Sense of Period.

The award for the Most Globally Portentous Commercial was presented by Donald Rumsfeld. He's got a way with words. It went to UBS. We're sorry to be a little non-positive here but it's useful to have a bit of contrast, a reminder of just how clichéd and pious, slow and old-fashioned an international bank bringing its superior sports sponsorship to the attention of international business types in an international medium can be. It's very un-English, the way it uses the language of the airport business bestseller and those sticky speeches at corporate bonding dinners. It's all about the Power of Partnership and manly teamwork. That's one thing British admen don't have to worry their little heads about.

Finally, the award for Funniest Commercial of the Year was presented by Derry Irvine (people find him hilarious in private life, you know, and he's getting a bit portfolio now). It goes to 118 118. The pale skinny runners were a brilliant invention, in a world of their own. Once they were up and running, so to speak, they seemed to come up with lovely little bits of business, gnomic and understated. But best of all was their inspired bit of advertising incest, when they took off the arty Honda commercial (see above). They seemed to have made it up on the spot - to have done it in one take - while they rolled on the floor as the exhaust pipe and scissored around as the wiper blades. They made the year's artiest commercial look even better.