When I entered the world of advertising some 10 or so years ago, I read an article in which a Cannes jury president described the Belgians as 'the Brazilians of Europe'. He deemed us prolific, daring and unique...at least that’s how I remember it. His words felt like Julius Caesar describing ‘the Belgae’ as ‘the bravest of the Gaulish people.’ It was exciting to be a creative stemming from this trilingual (that’s right) market the size of a cocktail napkin and being able to make waves amongst the big boys, purely based on wits, ‘grinta’ and guts. But then, all of a sudden, we lost that identity for a couple of years. A lot of people were sounding the death knell on the whole of advertising, and as a result, many of the big agencies started to look and feel more like consultancy firms than creative studios. But all of that is starting to change again. We’re rediscovering the bravery that once made us relevant on the international scene. I like to think my own agency, Mutant, is a part of that movement. I like to think that we’re getting back to being that ‘brave little Belgium’, and the cases I’ve selected for this occasion are proof of that...
Arca - 'Prada/Rakata'
Agency, Production & Post: Frederik Heyman
Advertising purists will argue that this piece doesn’t belong in this selection, but I beg to differ. It was made by a Belgian creative called Frederik Heyman to promote Arca’s 2021 album, 'Kick ii'. I’m infatuated with the complex universes Frederik creates with his visuals. They’re both frightening and sensual. They almost make me forget how much the actual music irritates me. I first discovered him through his work for Gentle Monster, which is a sunglasses brand, and I’ve been amazed by his work ever since.
Equal Payday - 'Eternal Pregnancy'
Production: CZAR BE
Director: Lionel Goldstein
Post: Stijn Van Assche
Okay, I’m stretching the 'recent work' rule by including this one, but for the sake of proving my 'brave little Belgium' point, I had to. I don’t think there are many places in the world where a concept like this sees the light of day. I admit, it’s shocking, but once you get past that, you realise how clever its message is. The film won gold at Cannes and I’m really curious about the conversations that went on in that jury room after they saw this piece...
Canon - 'ReStory'
Agency & Production: Happiness Brussels
Director: Simon Schuurman
Photo Recovery & Edit: Object Care Laboratory x Antoine Melis
Last summer, the south of our country was hit by an unexpected and devastating flood. The material damage to people’s houses and cars was massive, but countless objects of emotional value, such as family photos, were lost as well. Happiness and its client Canon developed a platform where people whose photos were severely damaged by the flood could have them restored, thanks to an intricate manual process and digital corrections. It’s a beautiful campaign that uses technology for an emotional benefit.
Duvel - 'Duvel Distilled'
Agency & Production: We Want More
I’m a designer at heart, and often I allow my eyes to do all the reasoning I need to like something. I don’t really care why they did it (it was actually for the 150th anniversary of the Duvel Moortgat brewery) or what’s in it (it was described to me as a distillate made from Duvel that was aged for ten years in oak sherry and bourbon barrels, followed by ‘a finishing touch’ in Portuguese ‘Moscatel de Sétubal’ barrels)...I just really like the way it looks. The Duvel glass is of course insanely iconic here in Belgium, so this design ticks a lot of boxes for me. Ruud Belmans, who is the founder and creative director of We Want More, had something clever to say about it as well: "You should never touch an icon but when you do, turn it upside down."
Studio Brussels - 'Missed You Stranger'
Post: Hamlet x Divide
Extreme close-ups of two wet tongues wrestling with each other on prime time TV. Arm hairs stroking each other while you’re trying to take a leak. A stranger’s spit shooting towards your face in slow motion. In different times, these things would be intensely unpleasant. But after such a long time of isolation, we crave even the bad parts of social and physical contact with strangers. That’s what makes us human. To celebrate the return of the music festival season, we created an extravagant campaign for radio station Studio Brussels called 'Missed You Stranger', celebrating those awkward moments. Studio Brussels - or StuBru as we call them here - were actually our first contract client when we started Mutant. They were brave enough to choose an unproven agency, and we reward them with being as brave as possible in our creative proposals.