In an industry that loves patting itself on the back, the APA Show stands out. In contrast with many award shows with their dozens of categories, the APA’s collection of between 40 and 50 pieces of the UK’s best advertising work offers an annual chance to celebrate the industry in a more straightforward way.
Every year the judges have to watch hundreds of films to decide on the final collection. It’s a unique chance to get a feel for the year’s output. LBB’s Alex Reeves spoke to some of them about how it made them feel.
LBB> Having watched and judged all of the entries for the APA Show, how do you feel about the state of British advertising?
Yan Elliott, Joint ECD, CHI&Partners> The state of British advertising: not good enough. Needs to stand out more. Needs to surprise more. British advertising used to lead and it's forgotten how to do that. We need to work on being more irreverent and carefree.
Sally Lipsius, Head of Broadcast Production, WCRS> The calibre of this year’s entries is as good as ever, if not better. The quality of the work is really very high and I enjoyed watching them all. There were so many that I wished I had had the pleasure of working on!
Emily Marr, Head of TV, Mother> I feel great, actually. There’s an incredible breadth of work out there and compared to some of the stuff I have had to judge in the past this one was a pleasure.
Margo Mars, Managing Director & Partner, BRF> I feel as restless with excitement as ‘it’ feels probably! Ad and content consumption have completely shifted, and irreversibly so. With every new challenge I feel my expectations of advertising and filmmaking are being pushed, and everything we do must be approached with a sense of curiosity. I feel the future of this industry will depend upon broadening your vision, diversifying your teams and opening up to new ways of working.
Chris Page, Owner, Jelly> Pretty chipper! Although we are constantly being instructed that the industry is on its knees, it's plain to see that some good work is still being made. Even if I wasn't a massive fan of all of the creative, it was reassuring to see that the production quality is still sky high.
LBB> How did you do your judging? Did you watch it all in one sitting?
YE> I judged it in multiple sittings. There is just so much to go through.
SL> I had to do it over two sittings to make sure that I watched them all from start to finish. There’s a lot to go through. But it’s worth devoting the time. There are always so many that I haven’t had the chance to see before.
EM> I judge on the go. Literally on the go. In fact, a couple of the entries made me trip up!
MM> I dipped in and out for sure, I don’t think anyone should watch 300+ ads in one go and then say what they thought of it! In all seriousness, it was good to take time with the work and go back and forth between my favourites. There was a collection of exceptional work in there that absolutely deserves to be celebrated; the work that didn’t make the cut this year had some tough opposition.
CP> Good God, no. I had to take myself out of the studio for a couple of afternoons and furrow my brow in a quiet place.
LBB> Were there any themes or trends that stood out?
YE> I didn't notice any particular theme. Although happily I feel the best ideas are shining through.
SL> I think that, for me, it was pleasing to see that the comedy/dialogue scripts are going strong. These commercials really do live or die on the quality of the script and I felt that there were some very strong contenders. Then there are of course the blockbuster visual epics too, which are always fun and interesting to watch.
EM> I felt this year we were dealing with a great many more storytellers which was wonderful. Many of the spots were like watching little feature films. The quality, the craftsmanship and the work that goes into them (as we all know) is extraordinary and it’s usually over in 30 seconds, or if you are lucky 60, but it was good to see that people still are very much striving to make great work. When I was younger, I thought of commercials as mini movies and this year’s shortlist hasn’t let me down. Also, whilst we are all used to commercials taking themselves too seriously, I felt that, although there was a gravitas to this year’s entries, there was also an underlying sense of humour and a sense of fun, which I like.
MM> I felt a definite movement towards more personal creative work: authentic character-focused narratives that speak to emotion and seek to resonate with common feeling. I think advertising is returning to classic storytelling in this way - whilst remaining fiercely modern with ever more captivating high-end production films.
The advertisers that opened their arms to one-of-a-kind directors produced some particularly striking work: those that chose to stretch the realm of creative thinking through exploring a unique vision of the modern world. Working with fresh, creatively remarkable voices, for them resulted in some exceptional advertising.
CP> As usual for me, nowhere near enough animation being made - and the briefs that got out went to the usual suspects (predictable answer from an animation studio head). I'm a big fan of the surreal, so it's great to see some more left-field spots - in terms of both script and execution - getting through. A little plea from me to everyone making a car ad next year, can you make not look exactly like all the others please? Car ad wallpaper is a bit of a curse. The couple that broke away from the norm really stood out.
LBB> There are so many award shows in this industry. Where do you think the APA Show fits in. What is unique about it?
SL> I love the fact that there are no categories. It’s a stronger, tougher arena to fight your corner in and all the work that makes it to the show is the best work out there.
EM> If you look at the panel of judges they choose, there is someone from every corner of the advertising globe, thereby giving everyone a voice. It’s a good representation of our industry.
MM> The APA show is unique as a celebration of the UK industry as a whole, not of individuals and single spots as such, but of the collective, which is particularly important for the industry right now.
CP> The APA Show has a very relaxed vibe, it's one of my favourite nights. It’s refreshing to be 'competing' to become part of a collection that will go on to represent the UK production industry rather than the unseemly scrabble for a trophy.
LBB> How about the night? Do you have any strong APA Show memories (or lack thereof?) Anything you're particularly looking forward to this time around?
YE> I’m really looking forward to the night. I love seeing the best work in one place.
SL> It’s by far the best party of any of the award shows and at the best, most interesting venues. How lucky are we to be able to roam through places like the Natural History museum after it’s closed to the public? Roll on Thursday 7th! See you there.
EM> I always look forward to the APA Show. Mainly because you can drift and mingle and don’t have to sit through a 10-hour dinner. Its focus is on the work itself and, of course, being able to catch up with people.
MM> An incredible amount of time and energy goes into all this work, so I like to celebrate the evening in style: two mini burgers in one hand, bubbles in the other and twinkle toes ready to hit the dance floor. See you there!
CP> As I've said, the relaxed atmosphere at the APA show is lovely, much less frantic and showy than most of the other nights. My main memories revolve around arriving at the show, I have very few that involve leaving... is that a good thing? I'm looking forward to catching up with lots of old mates in the business as usual.