Ambition Was The Big Winner At Effies 2012

This week the fine folks at Effie Worldwide announced the winners of the 2012 North American Effie Awards at the suitably grand Cipriani in New York City. Wieden+Kennedy and Chrysler’s “Imported from Detroit” took home the Grand Effie award, beating out campaigns from Leo Burnett/Arc Worldwide, Ogilvy & Mather, and BBH New York. This year, I was fortunate enough to be both a shortlist judge and a finalist moderator which gave me some inside insight into how and why some of the big winners triumphed. 

Put simply, the winners delivered work with a huge dollop of old fashioned ambition. From reading a wide cross section of papers, across and wide range of categories, it’s clear that the judges were drawn to those campaigns which demonstrated the effort to reach beyond the product.

Ogilvy & Mather’s Watson was an elaborate advertisement for IBM, and many of the people who saw and heard about the Jeopardy triumph walked away with an improved perception of IBM. More importantly, Watson’s ambition went much further than equity and inquiry for IBM’s products. The campaign demonstrated the potential for IBM’s intelligence to push humanity forward.

Chrysler’s winning Imported From Detroit by Wieden+Kennedy worked its magic on the judges in a similar manner, albeit in a totally different context. This campaign revealed the potential for a downtrodden brand. Leveraging both city and citizenry, it compelled us to show pride in American automobiles again. Our North America CCO, Jeff Benjamin, who was also on the jury said it best: “The Chrysler work had a depth of effectiveness that stood out from the rest. They gave that brand its soul back.”

Finally, American Express Open’s Small Business Saturday initiative revived the power and enduring cultural importance of the small, local store in America.

Of course, it helped that these cases were all beautifully written, all the metrics made sense and that each had pretty short films. But at their hearts, most of the night’s big campaigns reminded us that modern marketing communications must try to fundamentally transform a brand’s fortunes and not just persuade people to buy an additional unit of Brand X per month.

Having said all that, I’m still wondering what bigger themes were illuminated by the Dead Space 2 campaign–maybe it was just a great advertising campaign.

See you all next year.

Adrian Barrow is JWT New York’s Head of Planning. Follow Adrian