Stefano Hatfield On Advertising

And the winners are... (yawn) the same old agency names

Well, despite all the doom-mongers who have been writing off TV advertising for years, the standard of the very best work is extraordinarily high, and I won't hear any "not like the good old days" nonsense.

Sony Bravia's bouncing coloured "balls" was to my mind unquestionably the commercial of the past year, but it was robbed of the top overall prize. If it had to be beaten, then the Andy Williams-inspired Honda "impossible dream" was the second-best spot of a top-class bunch, which also included the same brand's "choir", where the sounds of the Honda on the road are mimicked by massed singers.

Also outstanding was the wonderful Sure "stunt city" commercial and the entire Volkswagen campaign, notably "back from Japan" and "singin' in the rain". The Department for Transport's Teen Road Safety spot shot on a mobile phone is exceptional, and so is Stella Artois's "dancing priests".

This collection would grace any year's output. (I'm sorry, I still don't think the backwards Guinness commercial will make any impression on Guinness's much-documented backward sales story. But what do I know?)

And now for the "buts". The public would be puzzled by some of the winning ads. Who has actually seen most of the commercials in the lengths that they were shown at the ceremony - especially Honda's "impossible dream"? So, what's the point of awarding them in that length on the night?

In a climate where TV commercials are on the back foot, fighting a losing PR war against the rise of the internet advertising medium, the whole commercials production industry has to get real and look beyond the Grosvenor House comfort zone with its pampered creative directors, free champagne and bubbly female producers in slinky dresses. (Whatever happened to the supposedly stylish British male in black tie?)

It's time for the death of the "director's cut", which has nothing to do with the client and everything to do with the director's ego. In journalism and publishing, editing invariably means making shorter. Why is it that in advertising the director's cut is always longer?

Having said that, there was some serious directing talent on display: Ivan Zacharias, Jonathan Glazer, Chris Palmer and Danny Kleinman are - alongside Frank Budgen, and the wonderful "300lb Californian surfer Jew" (his description) Noam Murro - as good as it gets.

The trouble is that they have been the elite for years. Nicolai Fuglsig (Sony) and Antoine Bardou-Jacquet (Honda) are among the very few that look like breaking through to join them. The best jobs seem to be going to an ever-decreasing circle of that elite, while there are ever more directors, not just in London, but the London/New York/Los Angeles tri-city context in which the top jobs are fought over.

The point also applies to the same old agencies cleaning up: DDB London, BBH, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, Lowe, Wieden & Kennedy, Mother and Fallon, at the expense of the many. It's evident, too, in the relationship of the few gems mentioned here to the general direness we see every night on the telly. In British advertising, the very best is great, but as the gap widens, what is happening to the rest? Where are you JWT, Saatchi old and new, Ogilvy, Y&R, Euro RSCG, WCRS, CHI, VCCP and the rest?

Well, that's me off a lot of Christmas-card lists then.

ANOTHER TERMINALLY boring example of crippling insularity is the perennial obsession with getting credit, and endless accusations of stealing ideas. The latest non-story is Groovecutters whingeing that director Duncan Jones supposedly ripped off their "We Close Our Eyes" lusty lesbian bitch-fight pop video for his new French Connection ad. That is, of course, the video directed by the one and the same Duncan Jones for a track which is one giant rip-off, sorry remix, of Go West's 1980s "classic" of the same name. They're having a laugh, surely? All the way into the lower reaches of the charts.

FERNANDO RODES is that rarest of media types, a Spanish Londoner who is now chief executive of a global advertising group. French corporate raider and Havas chairman Vincent Bollore appointed Rodes to succeed banker Philippe Wahl, who had spent only nine months in the job created by Bollore's ousting of long-term Havas boss Alain de Pouzilhac.

Having run the MPG media agency founded by his impressive father Leopoldo, Rodes's appointment is interesting on several levels. It perhaps suggests a greater future for media in the Havas mix. Perhaps it also signifies a closer relationship between MPG and Aegis, in which Bollore has a minority stake.

One of the favourites to succeed Rodes at MPG is his brother Alfonso. As the wide-eyed Anglo-American business press has discovered in its breathless coverage of the intertwined relationships in the WPP-Benatti saga, Europe is a foreign country when it comes to business rules and relationships.

Rodes is not like your average American advertising chief executive. Fluent in six languages, cultured, connected, minted and with a beautiful wife Maria, the soft-spoken Rodes would be easy to dislike if it weren't for two facts: he is one of the nicest senior players in world advertising, and he has a dodgy beard.

What does the future hold for Havas? Oh, why spoil Fernando's moment. We can have fun with that one at a later date.

THIS STORY'S bloody good. In the latest example of its increasing isolation from everyday life in 2006 Britain, the Bloody Advertising Clearance Centre (BACC), has banned the word "bloody" from the Australian Tourist Board's new TV campaign. Not from the cinema ad, you understand, nor the print or online executions - just the TV. So, over bloody gorgeous images of - say - young Aussies fooling around on a beach, is super-imposed the line, "So, where the bloody hell are you?" aimed at us hapless Brits in our bloody endless, damp, grey winter.

No wonder the Aussie tourist minister calls the ban "comical" and is grateful for the extra publicity. That this is the line they chose, and this is the word we banned, highlights just what makes Australia such a bloody attractive destination to us Brits.

As for what the average Brit thinks of the word "bloody" - no worries.

If you have a bloody good slogan for Australian tourism, e-mail stefanohat1@aol.com

HATFIELD'S BEST IN SHOW: AA

OK, I admit it. I am a closet Carole King fan. Tapestry would be on my desert island iPod. And, of the many great songs on that classic album, "You've Got a Friend" is the one that can always bring a lump to the throat. It reminds me of grapefruit trees on an Israeli kibbutz, and Petra Gustavsson from Kumla, Sweden. That's what music does: instant association, even after 20 years. And that's why agencies choose catchy songs - the trick being to make the right association. Here, as soon as you hear the first, very nice AA man launch into "When you're down and troubled..." you know it makes sense. This is madly infectious stuff.

Delaney Lund Knox Warren is being positioned as the modern-day Allen Brady and Marsh, the fabled home of the old advertising sing-along. The industry means it as an insult - as if populist advertising was something to be embarrassed about. They should take it as a compliment. This makes us feel warm and fuzzy about the AA; I know those yellow-jacketed all-weather heroes will be there for me. Inevitably, the public will ask them to sing the tune. Which may be a test of their good nature on a cold, wet morning beside the M6. PS: Petra, where are you now?

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