In America, there are football people and there are football (i.e. what Americans call soccer) people.
Similarly, just as there are tons of people who love tuning into Super Bowl just to see what outlandish ways Dorito’s and Budweiser are going to advertise their products, there are many in the Twin Cities who annually look forward to trekking out to the Walker Art Center during the holidays to pay for the privilege of watching commercials for an hour and a half.
(In fact, just last year my colleague Jonathon Sharp made almost the same analogy, but did me one better, saying: “The awards, which run a breezy 72 minutes, are like watching the Super Bowl without any American football. It’s pretty fun.”)
Sounds perverse, no? Well, even putting aside the snarky observation that there’s no better way to celebrate the season of commercialism than with a good dose of advertisers’ best efforts, there’s a lot more to it than mere tradition.
OK, yes, tradition certainly plays a factor in the continued success of the British Arrow Awards program, formerly known as the British TV Advertising Awards program. It’s been running at the museum for 25 years now. (The awards have been in existence since 1976.) And the holidays are nothing if not based in decades’ worth of tradition.
But there’s also the not insignificant matter of just how much creative and fun these ads are, pound for pound. The Arrow Awards “recognize and reward the best television, online, outdoor and cinema commercials made by British advertising agencies and production companies,” according to their website. And even watching some of the finalists that didn’t get awarded gold, silver or bronze designations it’s clear, British ad agencies put most ideas from the Mad Men on this side of the pond to shame.
It’s the sense of invention that I think accounts for how the Walker attracts tens of thousands every December to watch the same things we usually opt to skip on YouTube every chance we get. Well, maybe that and opportunity to see how some of those weird alternate universe candies Brits Pub keeps stocked in their glass front counter get sold to Nigella Lawson’s kids and their classmates. (Will someone please tell me what the hell Weetabix is and why anyone would consume that?!)
I won’t spoil any of the award-winningest ads of this year’s program, but below is a sampling from the bronze winners — which run the gamut from hysterical slapstick to brilliantly, visually metaphoric and (in one case) utterly terrifying.
So, as Brit Dawn French would say, tickets for these shows are going like hotcakes, so get your skates on. For tickets and screening dates, which run throughout December, click here.
Lipton Ice Tea, “Slap Mr. Jackman”
Durex, “33 1/3”
Samusocial, “This Is How The Film Ends”