Letter from Amsterdam: What I’ve learned, what I admired and what got me inspired last week at Epica Awards
Great works, focus on responsibility, push of consultancies into the realm of creative industries, fight for young talents, Adriatic region catching eye of European agencies for production of spots…
Drugi jezik na kojem je dostupan ovaj članak: Bosnian
By: Adnan Arnautlija, Executive Editor, Media Marketing
Last week, Epica Awards gathered the representatives of world media dedicated to creative industries for the 32nd time, to judge and celebrate the world’s best advertising projects in the past year. The meeting of this unique, independent jury this year was held in Amsterdam, one of the most important European hubs of creativity, and was a great opportunity to check the pulse of the advertising world, and get acquainted with the latest trends.
It was a pleasure to watch the excellent works that the preliminary online jury included among the finalists. But as much as it was inspiring, it was exhausting in equal measure, as the jury spent 10 to 12 hours a day reviewing the 738 works that were included in the shortlist, from a total of 4020 submitted projects! A quick glance at the light rain through the jury room window in the first couple of days of the week made the task a bit easier.
There were few representatives of our region among the shortlisted works – too few. For this I partly blame the industry of our region, which should be more active in following these unique global awards, and partly I blame the online jury, because a few projects from the Adriatic region that were in those 4020 entries, for which I am convinced are on par or even better than many of those who passed to the finals, didn’t manage to make that first cut.
What I would definitely advise to agencies, brands, and production companies from our region is to always tailor their case studies to the festival they are submitting to. Think about the sensitivities of the jury and the mission and nature of the awards – and adjust your case study to account for these factors. And, of course, think well about the right category for your work, because a fair number of entries were not in the categories where they would shine brighter than in those in which we got to see them. One obvious example was, in my opinion, the best PR project in the competition, “Go With the Flaw” by Publicis Italy for Diesel, which wasn’t in the PR category at all.
If you are entering a festival that you know will have a lot of competition, approach your case studies the same way you approach your ads – try to hook the viewer at the very beginning, draw their attention and keep the jury member watching your video till the end. 4000 such case studies, with each lasting an average of three minutes, means a lot of time for each individual member of the jury to watch it all, and there is a risk that the project will not get the attention it deserves.
Still, I had a reason to be happy the first day of the jury meeting, thanks to McCann Beograd and McCann Podgorica who won the bronze in the Events category for their project #Unwanted, and making sure that it wouldn’t stay at that for the Adriatic region, Pristop jumped in on the second day, taking silver in the category of Non-Alcoholic Drinks, with the Brilliant Digestion project for Donat Mg.
All in all, when you analyze all the winning works, one trend is crystal clear – the focus on responsibility. Two years ago, at the Creative Circles conference that is traditionally held in the framework of the Epica Awards, Thomas Kolster gave a lecture on the concept he called Goodvertising, which calls brands to responsible social action and dealing with pressing issues.
It seems that two years later all advertisers and agencies have read his book – or, more likely, they have themselves recognized the trend that connecting business to causes that their consumers identify with brings greater results.
So, this year, among the finalists and winners of Epica Awards, it seemed as if there were more than 50% of works that in some way deal with responsible social topics. There were some that were mildly above average in their approach, but also brilliant ones that excelled with their creative idea, courage, or sheer performance. A sub-trend that could be noticed within this batch of responsible works was the growing popularity of the LGBTQ topics.
What delighted me the most in the overall “harvest” of responsible works were brand projects that made bold steps and tackled concrete social issues. It’s easy for a non-profit, humanitarian organization to talk about tricky topics. It’s their job after all. But when a brand does it, they are putting their business behind such a decision, and when they manage to appropriately integrate their brand into the whole story it’s truly a thing of beauty. One of the works that I loved for its simple idea and great execution was the Unbreakable Rainbow, made by the agency 180heartbeats for Ben & Jerry’s in Poland.
Another noteworthy trend this year was the increase in the number of reported print projects, which exhibited both growth in the quality of ideas and their execution. The project that impressed me in this field was one by the agency DDB Duesseldorf, for the Stabilo highlighters, which perfectly combined the basic purpose of the product (to highlight important parts in a text), with a really important goal – highlighting outstanding women from the history that never received recognition they deserve. The result were very simple, yet impressive print ads and billboards in which the yellow Stabilo marker highlights these extraordinary women – a well deserved Epica Grand Prix in the Print category.
Another work from this year’s Epica Awards that absolutely must not be overlooked – which will, I’m certain, conquer many other award shows as well – was the in-house work by Shiseido, “The Party Bus”. Absolutely deserved Epica Grand Prix in the Film category. What the jury has recognized in this work was excellence in a whole range of details when it comes to film craft: from costume design, over scenography, to camera work and animation … All this came together for a remarkably appealing storytelling that seamlessly and charmingly included the brand itself.
But the beauty of the Epica Awards is not only about having the opportunity to see great works and learn about the direction in which the entire industry is moving. The Epica Awards have also given us an opportunity to meet and chat with people from agencies, brands and production companies from across Europe and beyond. Mingling with global creative industry leaders, such as Stephan Vogel, Ogilvy’s CCO for EMEA, Mark Tutssel, Executive Chairman of Leo Burnett Worldwide, who was awarded the first Creative Leaders Tribute award for outstanding contribution to the industry, and other great names, we learned more about the latest trends in industry around the world – about opportunities and challenges ahead.
One of the topics in these talks that really caught our attention was the offensive of consultancies into the field of creative industries, and the future model of agency business in general. The conclusion our interlocutors came to is that the future will make everyone on the market to work more closely together. All the stakeholders will come closer to each other, but as one of our interlocutors noticed, the question of who will have the most say in these new relations will be decided by creatives.
Consultancies, big agencies, small agencies, independent agencies… all will have a place in the new market of the future, but the main question will be which of these sides will be the most effective in attracting creative talents, because they will make the fundamental difference in the future in which data management tools will become more powerful and more accessible. All of them have certain qualities to offer to creatives, and the only question is which ones will be the most attractive to the people whose creativity will bring the deciding added value to their campaigns.
In conversations with a colleague from French magazine Strategies, Alexis Le Meur, and a group of French creatives, I learned an interesting fact that I was not fully aware of earlier. Namely, European agencies are becoming more and more interested in producing their videos in our region, and the best example is the recent campaign by BETC Paris for Citroen, which was shot at Željava Airport on the border between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia. Alexis, who is preparing a piece about this, points out that in many cases the agencies are considering our region for the sake of cost-effectiveness and the quality of the works they can get, as well as the brilliant locations that our whole region is rich in. This topic definitely deserves a bit more research, so you can expect more about it sometime in the future.
A great opportunity to discuss the current trends in the industry was also the Creative Circles conference, which is traditionally held in the framework of the Epica Awards. This year it was dedicated to the theme “Will Responsibility Kill Creativity?”, I will write more on that topic tomorrow. Also, Epica was a great opportunity to talk to colleagues, journalists from around the world about their markets, the state of the media and the overall communication of the market with them, so you can soon expect a series of interviews with people from the media who dedicated their careers to you and your work.
The winning projects from Epica Awards that I mentioned here are by no means the only great ones from the awards – probably not even the best – and I strongly encourage you to go to Epica Awards website and check out all the winners. Also, I had a chance to learn about some great new projects that are coming, but although this is the right place to talk about it, it is not the right time, so I will invoke Ekrem’s “Silentology” principle, and leave that story for some other times.