by Todd O'Dowd
It’s that time again!
Starting this Friday, December 4, the Walker Art Center will screen the 2015 edition of the British Arrows Awards. Now in its 39th year, the Arrows (formerly the British Television Advertising Awards) are thee annual celebration of innovative television advertising in the U.K.. And it has become a cherished event in the U.S., especially at The Walker Art Center, which was one of the first museums in the U.S. to host the annual screening and has continued the tradition for the past twenty-nine years. And the appeal is still there. From cheeky humor (sorry, humour), to spectacular production qualities, to surprising cameos and disturbing PSAs, the Arrows push the envelope of what television commercials can do on a regular basis (as opposed to the U.S. market, which only saves its best commercials for Super Bowl Sunday).
This year’s lot are a strong group of advertisements. And as usual, the British sense of humour is there in abundance. In particular, Volkswagen continued its trend of things not being as good as the real thing in hilarious ways. The electronics store Currys PC World nailed it with a series of husbands trying to buy large screen televisions explicitly not for watching football (or as we call it soccer). Mobile company Three nailed it again with a hilarious animal ad featuring singing animals. OralB’s hilarious Christmas ad says what everyone is really thinking this time of year. And that is just a small sample (and I haven’t even talked about the Netflix commercial featuring Ricky Gervais, though the outtakes version is better).
Then there are the commercials with amazing technical virtues (which are celebrated by the Craft Awards, the Arrows’ sister awards which come out in March). Ikea has two amazing ads that will make you ask “How did they do that?”. Nike’s “The Last Game” is an impressive CGI ad celebrating football with a host of world-renowned footie players. The Sunday Times’ Culture Section “Icons” ad is an impressive, man-made montage of cultural icons. Clothing store Cos created a celebration to fashion and foley artists. And the BBC Music commercial is an eye-popping cover of “God Only Knows” featuring Beach Boys mastermind Brian Wilson along with a host of musicians and BBC Radio personalities.
One of the hallmarks of British advertising is that their PSAs are traditionally darker than their American counterparts. While they can be fun at times (see the ad for the “This Girl Can” sports campaign), they tend to be of a darker nature; such as the drunk driving one using Kool & The Gang’s “Celebration,” the unnerving “Fuck The Poor” campaign, and the disturbing child abuse commercial.
Then there are the ads that go deliberately for the heart strings; these are usually from past winners such as Sainsbury’s grocery store (with an homage to a famous Christmas story from World War I), department store Marks & Spencer (with a girl telling of how she got dressed by herself), and department store John Lewis’ Christmas commercial (with a stirring tale of penguin love).
Interactive ads are also a part of the competition, with one winning Commercial of the Year. And while I have no problem with the “Authentic Elephant Rides” video for World Animal Protection and the Every Man Remembered campaign for the Royal British Legion winning, I wish they would have shown the commercials that go with them along with the effects video because they’re brilliant in and of themselves. That being said, I am slightly conflicted over the winner of this year’s Commercial of the Year; a brilliant commercial to be sure, but it really does need to be used in an interactive setting to truly appreciate it.
The 2015 edition of the British Arrows Awards will be screened at the Cinema (and, later in the run, also at the McGuire Theater) of the Walker Art Center, starting on Friday, December 4 at 7pm and 9pm; with a special opening night introduction by Charlie Crompton, Founder and Executive Creative Director of Rogue Films and Director of the Board for the British Arrows. The Arrows will be screened at various times through Sunday, January 3. Tickets are $12 or $10 for Walker Art Center members, and can be purchased on the Walker’s web site.
Photo Credits: British Arrows 2015