Reactions ranged from shock to laughter when the International Advertising Festival came to Detroit on Nov. 17 with outrageous ads from around the world, judged at the Cannes Festival in June. Three Cannes judges were from the United States, including Bill Ludwig, chief creative officer of Campbell-Ewald in Warren, Mich. Here is Ludwig's account of his adventures on the 'Press and Poster' jury.
From where I was sitting - 12 hours a day - the air quality index was hazardous to small children and American creative directors. There wasn't a 'no smoking' section in the judging room. And everyone else in the world smokes - a lot.
We judged 7,333 entries. Thirty-seven for penis extensions. Twenty-six for gay film festivals. Twelve for Viagra. And 14 involving Monica and Bill.
I could not help but wonder what kind of ad one would create by combining all of the above.
I knew that I would see some great ads, but it was ironic; the entries that impressed me most were neither press nor poster. They were ideas that transcended conventional notions of print, a fusion of media and creative in which the idea emanated as much from the placement of the ad as it did from the ad itself.
I saw cartons of eggs revolving around the Virgin Airlines baggage carousel at the Johannesburg Airport to communicate the care with which the airline treats its passengers' baggage. I saw three-dimensional bodies plastered to outdoor boards that were placed around an amusement park to promote its new death-defying rides. I laughed at a poster for spicy Doritos that was placed at the site of a recent brush fire during the dry season in South Africa.
I had no preconceived notions of what the judging would be like. I had heard stories of nationalistic conspiracies. I found none. There was no collusion of any kind. We were rarely aware of the entry's country of origin. And we didn't care.
We were 23 judges from 21 countries, dedicated and discriminating enough to be the first jury to cull the entries we felt did not live up to our criteria. Our opinions were passionate and eloquent, yet we considered carefully each other's point of view.
When I think of my experience at Cannes, I recall some of the personal criteria I applied when judging the ads: relevance, impact, uniqueness and memorability. What could be more relevant or important than immersing oneself in creative product from around the world? It had a great deal of impact on me, and does so even today. It was like no other experience I've had. It is certainly an experience I will always remember.