Advertising’s One Show is Quite a Show

The ad biz sure knows how to put on a show. In the cavernous lobby of Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center, the industry’s creative rock stars munched on duck wraps and veggie skewers, admiring each other’s work and haircuts. I just attended the One Show, advertising’s night of creative exaltation, and ended the evening feeling both inspired and dumbfounded.

The show opened with a reel of extravagant ads I’d never seen.  My host explained many are produced primarily for the One Show jury! Production studios and agencies looking to build portfolio creds go all out to make ads that seldom air–but that take home trophies for creative fabulousness. I was dumbfounded by such industry insularity.. .and  by agency budgets that allow for it.  An added incentive for creative wunderkinds,  headhunters apparently stalk events like  the One Show, looking to snap up the most fabulous.

The ceremony was kicked off by Fabio of the long, wind blown hair (yes, they had a blower for laughs),  “Pencils,” the One Club’s “Anvils,” were handed out in flawless succession  for broadcast, print, radio, outdoor, collateral, branded content (closest to PR), games and innovation.  I wasn’t counting, but it did feel like Omnicom sister agencies DDB and BBDO cleaned up,  which felt good.

Jerry Della Femina, of the Hamptons restaurant–and advertising of old—riffed on how easy Don Draper makes ideas seem–and how bad Draper’s are–and then awarded the work that seemed closest to ours. He described the branded content category as work where ” ad messages are woven into storylines” and handed a Gold Pencil to Morgan Spurlock’s “Greatest Movie Ever Sold”  trailer, which teases his documentary about product placement, funded with product placement.  Jerry also awarded one of my favorite pieces of the night, a video that “sells” an H+R Block product that maximizes tax refunds, set inside the story of financial hardship in Detroit through the eyes of people there.

A viral video that showed what’s possible when a brand really wants to shake up its image was the Kenny Powers, K-Swiss CEO video, featuring Danny McBride of “Eastbound + Down,” delivering a hilarious parody of a foul-mouthed CEO with swagger. Though the awards were all given with nary a reference to business results, I checked, and the once conservative white tennis shoe brand ascended when this f-bomb filled  video went viral.

The innovation category was fun–Unicef Good Shirts with; Skittles “Touch the Rainbow” by BBDO Toronto, which makes your finger part of the action (check it out); and an annual report from Australia Solar that’s literally powered by the sun (words appear when sun hits its pages) –as well as a Tropicana billboard by DDB that illuminates with natural energy.

But ultimately it was humor that won the night.  The funny Carlsberg stunt that tested regular folks to sit down amongst bikers in a theater, with the payoff, “That Calls for a Carlsberg,” brilliantly positions the beer as the courageous choice.  A slighly sexist Harvey Nichols ad from BBDO in London  pokes fun at disheveled women emerging from one night stands, ending with one well dressed lady and the line, “Avoid the Walk of Shame.”

The production value of many of the ads–and of the One Show itself–left me wistful. Ideas that sell, at their core, must entertain. A wake-up call to PR people everywhere.  It’s time to put on a show.