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As part of The Stable’s Chats series, our CEO & Partner Wilf Sweetland, and MD of Sweetshop Australia Edward Pontifex were both invited to share their favourite piece of film from 2018 for The Stable’s Of The Year Awards – With A Twist.

 

The Stable’s Of The Year awards are different. The industry fixates all year on who won what but doesn’t always pay attention to why. Some work doesn’t get the applause it deserves because why gets overlooked. So The Stable asked those at the top of creative agencies and production companies to pick just one Of The Year winner, their own or someone else’s, local or international, feted or not and tell us why. “Why” matters. We were hoping to unearth some unsung, or “undersung”, heroes – and did.

 

Wilf Sweetland, chief executive officer & partner, Sweetshop. Patrick Melrose

 

Patrick Melrose. I feel like I almost need say no more than that title. It could be the most perfect execution of craft one will ever see. Superbly written, and without a doubt sublimely directed. Those who know, know.

 

From creating a different style of cinematography for each episode, to crafting performances that are so exquisite it is hard to fathom where they came from, this short series stunned and captivated audiences in equal measure. Production design was mesmerising. The nod to history flawless. But the way Edward Berger took us into the mind of each character – not just the protagonist, but each and every one of them, and deep inside too, was what really made this award-worthy. And yet…and yet at the Emmy’s, out of five nominations it received no awards. We are lucky at the moment. We have such a large volume of incredible stories to watch – the once shunned TV series is now a badge of honour for actors. This standard of competition that we, the audience benefit from, appears to be the reason Patrick Melrose was overlooked. Or was it simply that it was not American made?

 

Either way, in my book Patrick Melrose, should have cleaned up. The director, Edward Berger, recently signed to Sweetshop is one of the most talented storytellers you are likely to come across.

 

Duncan Shields, creative director, Redengine SCC: Amarok – Too Powerful for TV (DDB Sydney)

 

Whenever the ads come on, I like to imagine the conversations that led to their creation with actors playing the roles of the usual suspects.

 

Anybody else?

 

Just me?

 

Hmmm, awkward.

 

That’s what led me to choose, Amarok – Too Powerful for TV from DDB Sydney.

 

This work delivers all the “greatest hits” of its category. The bouncing suspension, flying dirt and gratuitous front ¾ angles that highlight the sharp lines and chunky alloy wheels and tick every box on the client’s checklist.

 

At the same time, it manages to break out of the category-confines with a highly entertaining and memorably fresh approach.

 

In my imaginary backstory for this particular ad, the creatives have been briefed with an unenthusiastic, list of cant’s: We can’t say XXXX, We’re not allowed to show… etc. They’re looking pretty downtrodden but crack on nonetheless.

 

All of a sudden, it’s 3am on a Wednesday morning and the client preso is booked for 10 o’clock.

 

Among a pile of half eaten Chinese takeaway, 50+ awesome concepts have already been dismissed as either been done, or not quite right.

 

Then, a junior creative has a Eureka moment and screams out, “Maybe all these car restrictions can be the ACTUAL IDEA!”, thus saving the work and the entire company in the process. Fireworks appear outside the window, people hug, a small dog with a neck scarf barks adorably and the music from Robin Hood – Prince of Thieves begins to play.

 

OK, so it was probably less dramatic than that but however it happened, I’m glad it did.

 

Paul Nagy, chief creative officer, VMLY&R ANZ. Aldi’s ads – all of them (BMF)

 

Most people don’t live up to their potential – ask my mum.

 

It’s the same with brands. We all know people respond to meaningful brands that entertain them, treat them with respect or give them something to believe in…yet the vast majority of brands are derivative, valueless and vanilla.

 

For this reason, I’m a huge fan of the work on Aldi.

 

It could so easily be just another shouty retail brand trying to win you over with the latest “Few Cents Less Than The Other Guy: sale, but no, Aldi chooses to be interesting, entertaining and awesome.

 

As a shopping experience, the ads seemed a bit gimmicky to me at first, I must admit. But their marketing soon had me hooked and I now look forward to the latest catalogue that will entice me to purchase a MIG welder, wood lathe or mountain bike to go with my Greek-style butterflied chicken (if you haven’t tried these yet – you’re welcome).

 

There are many highlights, but I remember with affection the Don’t waste your life in the sauce aisle ad, meeting the Tinkeltons, Dave’s pie that “wasn’t bad” and that fedora-wearing avocado. Most recently, the wonderful Pointless Points ad said what we’ve always known.

 

They are brave, consistently unexpected over a long period of time, and successful because of it.

 

Respect.

 

Stuart Alexander & Dan Fryer, creative group heads, Leo Burnett Sydney. Bit Better Fallout: V Energy (TKT)

 

One bit of work that grabbed our attention this year, but seemed to get overlooked by the juries, was V Energy’s Bit Better Fallout campaign. Building from its Improves You A Bit brand platform, the agency began by engaging the Fallout fanbase via Reddit and asking for suggestions on how to make the game a bit better. The best ideas were then brought to life in surprising ways via an in-game mod.

 

The resulting campaign went way beyond the standard attempts at in-game advertising, producing something truly bespoke and fit-for-purpose. Starting with the existing community on Reddit was a smart move, and instantly gave the best chance of success. But great insights are nothing without a great execution, and this is where the campaign really delivered, earning a shortlist at Cannes in the Digital Craft category. Little surprise and delight moments were peppered throughout, like new armour being fitted with a cup holder (for a can of V, naturally). And even when the brand couldn’t deliver the improvement, it found a creative way around it, adding a complete copy of War and Peace to an annoyingly long load screen.

 

With Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption 2 recently selling over 17 million copies in its first two weeks of release, the popularity of immersive gaming clearly isn’t going anywhere. Finding creative ways for brands to engage this audience is something agencies and marketers should be thinking about, and we think this example from V is a good one.

 

Steve Cochran, executive creative director, Colenso BBDO. Rang-Tan: The story of dirty palm oil – Iceland Foods (Mother London, Greenpeace)

 

So Iceland Foods, a supermarket in the UK, decide they are going to remove all palm-oil from their own-label brands.

 

They know of an existing film that Greenpeace have been running online for a couple of months. In the style of a kids’ animated story and voiced by Emma Thompson, it shows the impact the palm-oil industry has on Orangutans.

 

They think:

 

We could ask Greenpeace to use that for very little or no cost to promote our announcement.

 

Better still, in the tradition of most UK retailers, let’s make it our Christmas TVC for 2018.

 

And because we’re confident Clearcast, the UK’s broadcasters’ advertising standards authority, won’t approve it for airing on television because of the ‘too political’ rule, we won’t actually have to run it.

 

Therefore saving us millions in television media costs. (Especially as it’s 90 seconds long.)

 

That’ll also then enable us to PR the fact that, shockingly, it’s been “banned”, which will earn us millions in free media coverage, helping us clock up more than 30,000,000 online views in a week, triggering a public petition to protest it’s banning, and garnering the free support of A-list celebrities, while throwing attention on the plight of an endangered species and ultimately have an advertising bloke in far-flung New Zealand pick it as his noteworthy piece of work of the last year.

 

Or something like that.

 

Brilliant.

 

Simon Langley, executive creative director, J.Walter Thompson Sydney & ANZ creative lead: It’s a Tide Ad – P&G (Saatchi & Saatchi New York, Rattling Stick, Traktor)

 

If only every ad was a Tide ad. You really do have to take your hat off to everyone involved in this campaign. It’s brilliant, and they’ve won many of the top awards going, for a washing powder. Yes, washing powder. I mean, the degree of difficulty in this category should not be overlooked. The campaign took a boring product and traditional medium, then turned it on its head during one of the world’s biggest and most iconic stages. It’s funny, has flawless craft and brilliant casting. But is that enough these days?

 

In recent times, campaigns that do good have been winning their fair share of Grands Prix and Best of Show at the world’s top award shows, including the likes of Cannes, One Show and D&AD. Often beating out huge ideas for big brands like Tide.

 

Now don’t get me wrong, these campaigns are amazing in their own right, but they often don’t come with the same challenges as a piece of work for a big, global brand. And this has caused hours of discussion in jury rooms worldwide as they sit down to choose that one piece of work that represents the best of the best for that particular show. Do we award the great idea selling product or the one doing good?

 

I personally think it’s important to make sure we applaud those who have done amazing things to sell sh*t! After all, it’s what most of our clients pay us to do. If only there were more clients globally, investing in their brands the way Tide has. Because if we can sell more for our clients, who knows, they may even have the money and inclination to do more purpose driven work that does great things for the world. Imagine if all marketers were as good as the Tide marketers.

 

Edward Pontifex, managing director, Sweetshop Australia: Prepare. Act. Survive – NSW Rural Fire Service (J. Walter Thompson Sydney, Sweetshop)

 

“This year we were really fortunate to receive a powerful and confronting script for Joel Harmsworth from J. Walter Thompson Sydney for its client, NSW Rural Fire Service. The concept focused on the dangers associated with waiting too long to vacate your property when faced with the real danger of a bushfire. The script was initially written with a specific, research-backed approach where the key protagonists from each scene broke the fourth wall and expressed their feeling of doubt or concern about their predicament to the audience. Having dealt with a situation like this personally, Joel challenged the agency to see if they were open to something he felt would be even more engaging with the audience. Joel put forward his rationale in his treatment and both the agency and client took a leap of faith and agreed to change course.

 

It was such a refreshing experience, as not only did the agency keep an open mind about the creative possibilities moving forward but the client did as well. From this point on, there was a solidarity to the creative direction of the project and the only way this could have occurred was through a relationship of trust between the agency, client and director. Trust became more and more important as we journeyed through production with the challenges of a subject matter that was extremely sensitive and for Joel, even personal. We are extremely proud of the beautiful piece of film Joel crafted but it was even more rewarding given how important it was to get the message right.”

 

Rebecca Carrasco, deputy executive creative director, Saatchi & Saatchi Australia: Healthy Hands Chalk Sticks – Savlon (Ogilvy Mumbai)

 

Healthy Hands Chalk Sticks. An idea which turns chalk into soap, in the hands of children.

 

It may be a controversial pick for 2018 because it did also get a bit of attention in 2017, but it was this year that its story was fully told, and I think this year this big little idea should continue to be properly celebrated.

 

What I love is its simplicity. Hungry children in India are in such a rush to eat the lunch supplied by their school that they don’t wash their hands properly – they rinse, but don’t use soap. The spread of disease is a big problem.

 

However, Indian school children also do something else every day; they use chalk the way we use paper and pen. By lunchtime, their hands are literally covered in chalk. So the idea was to put soap powder into the chalk sticks.

 

Genius. And very simple. But these newly connected dots have been right next to each other for a long time and no one has drawn a line between them, until now.

 

What I love about this idea is that the agency really believed in it. The client really bought it. It was really manufactured. Really distributed. And it really did get into the hands of Indian children. It’s really improving lives.

 

The last bastion for any brand is going to be the power of its brand. Products provide utility, brands can stand for something. This is an example of both, done exceptionally well.

 

Chad Mackenzie, national executive creative director, whiteGREY: The Unseen Ocean – Volvo UK (Grey London)

 

This a fairly new piece of work, but a wonderful one in my eyes for two reasons.

 

First, the craft. What a beautiful and powerful of piece of film. The level of craft is incredible and holds you for all five and a half minutes. The feeling behind this film is something that has been building over the last couple of years through the Volvo work. It feels like this story in particular has really landed a unique tone for Volvo.

 

Second, it’s a true story. This is a brand showing us its commitment to sustainability through Tom Franklin and his mission to help the next generation fall in love with the ocean. By transforming inner city kids into ocean guardians, the hope is that they can play their part in the fight against plastic pollution, before it is too late. The simplicity of being part of a story like this is way more powerful than a brand telling us its lofty intentions. Being a part of change rather than talking about it.

 

Will it win at the upcoming award shows? Highly likely in film craft, but the question will be whether a jury will applaud the brand building nature of this work – especially with our lust for activation-led ideas. I certainly hope it gets rewarded – The Unseen Ocean takes film to another level – real work for a real client on an issue that’s globally culturally relevant.

 

Laura Jordan-Bambach, chief creative officer, Mr President: Sound Matters – Bang & Olufsen (Tim Hinman)

 

I’ve loved a lot of projects this year, from the Skittle’s Superbowl Most Exclusive Ad; to the feminism in Nike Mexico’s Juntas Imparables and Libresse’s Blood Normal (I want those limited edition undies!); to the use of Slayer on OVO’s Power Your Life Differently. But for hours spent with a brand myself, the content that I love so much that I’m waiting every week for the next instalment, it’s the podcast Sound Matters, by B&O.

 

I’ve always admired Bang & Olufsen as a brand, and thought a lot of the quality of their products. But the world of audio is pretty crowded right now, and everyone has a new connected speaker, amp or headphones from a Sonos or a Google, or the now ubiquitous Apple AirPods. So targeting its potential customers, the ones who care about audio quality, who are of a creative bent and appreciate the unusual with a brilliantly written and presented podcast on the nature of sound itself is spot on. You can lose yourself in the episodes: discovering new experimental artists working in the field and experiencing city soundscapes through your ears. It’s a seriously deep look at the nuances of sound itself, and those people exploring the far reaches of one of the most powerful of our senses. And wouldn’t all that sound better with a better set off headphones? Or perhaps a new set of speakers?

 

Sound Matters is never going to be the loudest podcast in the world, but it’s a genius piece of marketing and an incredible series. Long may it continue!

 

This article was first published in The Stable on November 26, 2018.