Six Things You Learn About Advertising From the 2013 British Arrows Awards

Six Things You Learn About Advertising From the 2013 British Arrows Awards

Douchey stereotypes still sell. Multiple spots for AXE and related products rank, and rankle. AXE, we learn, will help you screw “your brainy girl” (you can stay awake through obscure plays), “your party girl” (you can dance all night), and “your flirty girl” (eventually she’ll flirt with a woman and you’ll end up with a threesome). The spots are technically well-done, if this is the post-ironic media landscape, I’ll have irony back, please.

Social media are becoming high-stakes. One honored spot informs viewers that a homeless shelter is about to close, and shows a woman being assaulted by two men on the street. She breaks away and runs to a shelter, at which point original viewers were invited to share a petition via social media. If they shared, the shelter door opened and the woman escaped to safety. If they didn’t share, she was dragged away screaming. Tasteless? Maybe, but also a powerful reminder that contrary to some skeptics’ claims, likes and shares are real currency with real power.

CGI isn’t interesting in and of itself any more. In recent years, the Arrows were filled with showily computer-animated spots. Some of those were cool, but this year’s winning CGI calls much less attention to itself. The exceptions, including a Barclays ad that’s derivative of Toy Story, were made by agencies that knew they couldn’t simply count on cool graphics to carry the spots.

Editing is the new ninja skill of media. Skilled editing has always been the bottom line of TV advertising, but in the world of Vine and Instavideo, you really appreciate the importance of precisely-timed edits. Anyone can make a video, but not everyone knows which parts (almost all of them) to leave out.

It’s still possible to shock. This year’s most graphically mortifying spot is a 45-second video, banned from television in the UK, that depicts the horrifying practice of “finning” live sharks, who are then dumped back to endure slow, immobile deaths on the sea floor. My friends and I were frozen with our pitas halfway to our mouths, and any inclinations we might have had to ever order shark-fin soup were permanently quashed.

Kevin Bacon looks absolutely terrifying. Speaking of horrifying, from the looks of this spot “the Footloose killer” could totally be a thing.

Jay Gabler

Advertisements honored in the 2013 British Arrows Awards will be screened at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis from December 6 through January 5.