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Tales of the Recession. Part 3: The Epica Awards

Whether consciously or not, our collective verdict as judges at this year’s Paris-based Epica European advertising creative awards was drenched in la morosité – the all-pervading gloom oozing out of this recession.

To be sure, we had less to play with than usual in framing our choices. Entries were down 37%, marking the steepest decline in the awards’ 22-year history. But it wasn’t just the industry that was acting defensively. Each of our winning choices seemed to be tinged with an element of nostalgia for better times, concern for traditional craft rather than the avant garde and adventurous, or marked by an emphasis on practical solutions to the bleakness around us.

The film Epica d’Or, for example, was won by Saatchi & Saatchi London for T-Mobile’s “Dance”. It was supposed to be a joyous hoe-down dedicated to connectivity, but could equally be interpreted as a St Vitus dance by a moribund brand about to be swallowed up by Orange (in the UK, at any rate).

The press Epica d’Or was won by DDB & Co Istanbul for Dank’s second-hand furniture campaign. Need I say more about the undertone?

The outdoor Epica d’Or went to  Euro RSCG Dusseldorff for its Citroën “Cornering Lights”. Although the ad trumpeted technological innovation, the graphic treatment was solid and traditional (nothing wrong with that, of course).

Then we come to the integrated campaigns category, which was won by Heimat Berlin for Hornbach’s “House of Imagination”. Hornbach is a leading German DIY chain, where business must be booming right now.

And finally, when all else fails, never forget the power of prayer. The interactive Epica d’Or was awarded to Forsman & Bodenfors, Gothenburg, for the Svenska Kyrkan (Swedish Church) Campaign for Prayers website.

Recessions often prove to be turning points in long term trends. And here, too, the results did not disappoint. DDB was knocked from its perch as top advertising network for the past four years by Euro RSCG, which had 7 winners (DDB had 6). Leo Burnett and Ogilvy tied for third position with five each. BBDO and Saatchi had 4 apiece.

Another sign of changing times: Britain fell way down the ranking of winning countries, to fourth. It is the first time we have finished outside the top 3 in the history of the awards. A portent, or just a blip? We’ll have to see.

Just for the record, Germany was the most successful country, with 18 winners, and also accounted for the most awarded agency, Serviceplan Gruppe Munich & Hamburg. France came second and Sweden third. For more on this year’s awards, click here.

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