Creative Agency of the Year: R/GA London
We’ve shaken things up a little this year. In previous Annuals we have awarded a separate Ad Agency of the Year and Design Studio of the Year. For 2015 we have decided to do away with that distinction and instead simply award the company who we felt had made outstanding use of creativity in the service of their clients.
At the beginning of 2015, we introduced an editorial repositioning, expanding from our traditional heartland of visual communication to a wider remit to examine the ways in which creativity is changing our world. Each month in the magazine we are looking at a different subject or sector – healthcare last month, luxury this time. In this way we hope not just to provide our readers with stimulating, useful content but also to be reflective of the direction of the creative industries themselves. It’s a phrase we have heard more and more but it goes to the heart of this shift: that creative agencies are moving from helping their clients to talk about what they do to helping them actually do it.
R/GA is a great example of that change. When CR first profiled Robert Greenberg and his studio in the early 90s, it was as a designer of movie title sequences. R/GA has reinvented itself multiple times since – from a ‘design company’, to a ‘digital studio’ to an ‘interactive ad agency’. The list of R/GA London projects featured in this year’s Annual demonstrates the breadth of its skills today. For Beats Music, it “tackled the entire problem from branding and naming, to designing the user experience and interface, to marketing in digital, retail, social, events, and broadcast”. Then we have the design of a health tech app – Alvio – a clever digital outdoor campaign for Google and a classic blockbuster commercial, again for Beats.
Other agencies talk about a future in which they might expand into product design or innovation and consultancy – R/GA seems to have found a way to just get on and do it.
Client of the Year: Airbnb
Remember Gapgate? In 2010 the US-based retailer unveiled a new logo only to back down in the face of sustained online protest and ridicule and drop the offending mark soon afterwards. Fast forward to 2014 and another major brand unveils a new identity that soon draws criticism and condemnation. But instead of caving in, this brand appears to enjoy the fuss it is creating as its new mark is compared to every intimate part of the anatomy.
This was the year in which Airbnb really grew up as a brand. Previously, most of its marketing efforts were focused around direct response and search. In 2014, as building brand awareness became a priority, it ran its first TV ads, collaborated on a number of clever marketing activities (including with Ikea, see p64) and began publishing a magazine (Pineapple, designed, like its identity, by Design Studio). It also recruited former Mother and Coke executive Jonathan Mildenhall to oversee marketing.
And then there was the rebrand. While some in the media labelled it as a ‘disaster’ Airbnb appeared to revel in it all. A confident brand, prepared to take risks and to commission work that engages and grabs attention – who wouldn’t want to work with a client like that?
Best in Book: FILM 4 Idents (4Creative)
Tasked with creating a new on-screen identity for TV channel Film4, ManvsMachine used a custom-built in-camera device to create an intriguing and beautiful series of idents that pay homage to the art of filmmaking while capturing the joy and suspense of cinema.
Idents were shot at five locations in the UK and US and three films were shot in each place, each with a different tone and ending (a trio shot at a petrol station, for example, show children riding on bikes, a burning tyre rolling across a deserted forecourt and a police car parked up at night, suggesting three very different types of film). The moving film strip effect shown in sequences (see right) was created in-camera using a custom-built device which stacks live action scenes: cameras had to be passed through the floor and ceiling of sets during filming, and through large holes dug in the ground in outside locations.
The finished films are littered with cinematic references – one set in a motel room contains a nod to 42 different films, while another depicting a corridor in a hotel room (pictured opposite), takes visual cues from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining and Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel. The idents are just 30 seconds long, but use the power of suggestion to create in some a strong sense of terror and dread, while others hint at more light-hearted content such as science fiction and coming of age tales.
The clever and subtle use of references ensures a series of films that viewers can enjoy watching again and again, with the aim of spotting something new – and for those who don’t spot the clues, they’re still a joy to watch. It’s great to see such an inventive technique used, and the diversity of idents provides Film4 with scenes to suit almost any type of content.
Best in Book: Nike: House of Mamba (AKQA London/ Shanghai)
The House of Mamba in Shanghai is the world’s first interactive LED basketball court and became the centrepiece of a country-wide search for the Chinese basketball stars of the future as part of Nike’s Rise initiative. Thirty hopefuls were selected to be coached by basketball legends Kobe Bryant and LeBron James on the unique playing surface, which helped to train up a team using motion-tracking drills and on-court graphics that react live to players’ movements.
The space was created by AKQA – who also worked with Japanese studio Rhizomatiks and production company WiSpark in China on the project – and was inspired by Bryant (it is named after his Black Mamba nickname), and aimed to reflect his own training regime, seamlessly adapting to a range of set pieces. The court itself is made up of a thick layer of glass covering over 1,000 LED screens, sandwiched between an adhesive top layer and a regular wooden base.
Players’ movements can be tracked via sensors that chart their speed across the court and the time it takes them to complete certain tasks. They can also follow floor commands on the surface via motion-tracking technology, while computers can be plugged directly into the court to provide graphics, video sequences and live feeds.
After the House of Mamba training programme was completed, three players were eventually chosen to represent China at the World Streetball Championships.
Best in Book: Tanqueray No.Ten (Design Bridge)
No. Ten is a premium small-batch gin from London distillery Tanqueray, designed for use in martinis. The gin was previously packaged in a darker faceted bottle, but the brand felt this was leading bartenders to mistake it for a heavier flavour, and asked Design Bridge to create a new design hinting at a “light and zesty” taste.
The result is an elegant bottle with some clever added features: the shape is based on a 1930s cocktail shaker, referencing its use in classic drinks, and the glass is modelled to ensure each of its ten facets catches and reflects light. A lemon squeezer built into the bottle’s base references the gin’s citrus notes, while its cap features the texture of a zester.
It’s not easy to sum up taste in a shape, but the new bottle suggests a much lighter drink than the previous one, with a more premium look and feel. It’s also much more likely to stand out on the shelf of a bar, as well as in stores alongside other craft, small-batch and premium gins.
Best in Book: Airbnb Rebrand (DesignStudio)
It’s a rare thing to see a rebrand trending worldwide on social media, but when lettings website Airbnb launched a new logo last summer, it provoked thousands of tweets, memes and online comments. The Bélo, described as a ‘universal symbol of belonging’, was likened to food, animals, buttocks and testicles, inspiring countless parodies and even a song.
In the initial excitement, some press were quick to write this off as a PR disaster, overlooking the fact that it had generated the kind of coverage most companies can only dream of when rebranding, and that the logo was just one small part of an extensive and considered identity system.
As well as a new app and website, DesignStudio produced a brand book and film, an image library and a toolkit for internal art departments, giving Airbnb a clear message and comprehensive set of visual guidelines for the first time in its history. The new look has already had a significant impact on communications, leading to the launch of a members magazine, Pineapple, designed in the same style.
Equally impressive was the brand’s decision to encourage people to subvert and reinterpret the Bélo via an online tool, and its reaction to criticism of the symbol – a few days after launch, the company published an online report celebrating the many things it had been likened to around the world. It was a progressive and daring approach for such a large company, and whatever your thoughts on the symbol, it is now instantly recognisable as the marque of Airbnb – which is exactly what DesignStudio and the company set out to achieve.
Best in Book: Ryman Eco (Grey London)
Commissioned by Grey London for stationery brand Ryman and designed by Monotype’s Dan Rhatigan, Ryman Eco is a free font that aims to reduce ink waste by utilising the ‘splatter’ from inkjet printers. Letters are made up of keylines instead of single solid strokes, which become filled in at 8, 9 or 10pt sizes.
While it’s not the world’s first sustainable typeface, Grey claims it is the most beautiful and the most effective – in testing, it allegedly used 30 % less ink than Arial, Times New Roman, Georgia and Verdana, and “considerably less” than “the leading sustainable brand”.
The font has since been downloaded over 60,000 times and was recently used by Cornwall Council, appearing in branding for its annual Sustainability Awards.
Creating a design that saves ink, is suitable for display and body copy and remains legible in very small sizes is no easy feat, and it’s an impressive piece of design from Rhatigan. It’s also great marketing for Ryman, ensuring its name will appear in the font menu of every computer it’s installed on, and that the brand is seen to be doing something to offset the environmental impact of some of its products.
Best in Book: Dandelyan Bar identity & launch invitation (Magpie Studio)
Overlooking the River Thames on London’s South Bank, Mondrian London at Sea Containers is the latest hotel from US group Morgans. Housed in the former offices of the Sea Containers shipping company, it features bespoke Art Deco and nautical-inspired interiors by Tom Dixon’s Design Research studio, with copper, monochrome and touches of neon throughout.
Magpie Studio was asked to create identities for the hotel’s restaurant and bars, and for cocktail bar Dandelyan (which serves drinks made using fresh herbs, flowers and seasonal ingredients). In response, it devised an elegant system based on the idea of modern botany.
Menus take inspiration from Victorian field guides, and feature vintage botanical illustrations lithoprinted in fluorescent ink for a more contemporary feel. The illustrations are interweaved with modular typography in House Industries Neutraface 2, chosen for its modern take on a classic British sans. Graphics have also been applied to coasters, matchboxes and debossed business cards and in an added touch of opulence, menus are bound with copper staples, a nod to Dixon’s luxurious interiors.
It’s a beautifully crafted identity, and a perfect example of how to create a luxurious yet playful identity with some personality. The combination of vintage artwork, contemporary type and strong colours mirrors the 1920s-meets-modern day interiors (the space is kitted out with parquet floors, pink leather sofas, Art Deco mirrors and a green marble bar), while also hinting at the freshness and bold flavours of the cocktails served there.
Best in Book: MTV: Always On (MTV)
Richard Turley’s appointment as SVP of visual storytelling at MTV last year made perfect sense. In overseeing the channel’s on-air interstitial and cross platform content he would be bringing his considerable talents, honed as creative director of Bloomberg Businessweek, to another generation and in another media.
Announcing the news, MTV said Turley’s role was to help visualise real-time news, events and trending topics over the network’s TV and digital platforms. Turley and his team have done that and more – in celebrating the work of DIY imagemakers, they have helped put the audience back at the heart of the channel.
Here, television is used as another channel for social media and the on-screen graphics, gifs and animations (more likely to be found on Tumblr or Twitter), range from the political to the irreverent, to the outright weird.
MTV has always championed chaos as a kind of unifying principle and the creative results of this new era – where the audience-as-maker has access to an increasing range of creative tools – continues to surprise and delight.
Best in Book: Pelican Books (Penguin Random House)
The relaunch of Pelican Books was a two-fold operation. Alongside new-look paperback editions for the series, the design team at Penguin Random House worked simultaneously on a bespoke in-browser reading experience that would, they hoped, truly echo the books in print.
The central idea was that the books should be accessible and available to read online; not as an app or ebook, but within a browser. Typefaces which rendered well both in print and online were the starting point (Freight Text and a custom version of Brandon were used), while all diagrams and maps which would feature in the launch series were re-drawn for the screen and optimised to work at any size. Animated gifs were also introduced.
The designers aimed to create the best reading experience possible and, working with the best of print and online in mind, achieved this with aplomb. The books feel individually crafted yet part of an identifiable Pelican collection, while the mechanics of engaging with the texts online – from accessing contents and footnotes to highlighting text and sharing it – make for one of the best digital reading experiences around.
Best in Book: DJ Snake, Lil Jon: Turn Down For What (Prettybird)
A great music video should provide the perfect accompaniment to, and perhaps even improve, the song that it is created for. In Turn Down For What, directing duo The Daniels offer a masterclass in just how this is done. With the video receiving almost 200 million (that’s right, 200 million!) views on YouTube alone, it is now hard to hear the track without imagining its insane visuals. The promo opens on the rooftop of a building where a man (played by one of the directors, Daniel Kwan) is shown in some kind of hypnotic state. Why, is soon made apparent: he has been gripped by the music, and is enslaved to its beat. As the track builds, Kwan is shown bursting into the apartment below, where he grinds furiously against its shocked inhabitant, the television, and the coffee table. Before long, the flat’s owner is infected too, and the duo explode together through the floor. Down and down they go, spreading the song’s dangerous effects to a family eating dinner, before arriving at a house party, where things get really wild. As well as proving an immaculate fit for the song, the joy of this video is in its mix of realism and utter lunacy: for fans of a crazy house party, this takes things to a whole new level.
Best in Book: Depaul UK: Spot 4 Sale (Publicis London)
Among the biggest challenges facing charities today is how to make your particular organisation stand out in a sector that is crowded with equally deserving causes. Clever and agile advertising is required and this inventive ad campaign from Publicis London for youth homelessness charity Depaul UK is a great example. In September 2014, the new Apple iPhone 6 was set to launch in London, and as with previous Apple releases, was receiving significant hype in the media.
Such launches regularly attract people who are willing to queue days in advance in order to be the first to purchase the hot new product, and with this in mind, volunteers from Depaul UK set up a small camp in front of the London Apple store in the run up to the new iPhone’s release. The team was fifth in line – a prized position – and they auctioned their spot on eBay, to an iPhone fanatic less keen on queuing. At their camp, the team had cardboard boxes promoting the eBay sale but also making the point that while those queuing alongside them had volunteered to sleep rough, many young people didn’t have that choice. The eBay sale raised a small sum for the charity (£570) but far more valuable was the vast publicity generated by the stunt, which received wide coverage across mainstream and social media.
Best in Book: Honda: The Other Side (Wieden + Kennedy London)
The Other Side mixes great filmmaking with a simple interactive technique to create a compelling advertising campaign for Honda. The ad promotes the Honda Civic model, as well as its sporty sister version, the Civic Type R. To illustrate the differences between the two cars, ad agency Wieden + Kennedy London created a two-story film, which was directed by Daniel Wolfe. The two sides of the film star the same character, who is firstly shown as a humble dad driving his kids around during the day (in the Civic), and then as a member of a night-time criminal gang (in the Type R version of the car). The campaign was hosted on a website and viewers could flick between the two different stories simply by typing the ‘R’ button on the keyboard – an action that also reinforced the name of the Type R in the audience’s mind. Many car manufacturers have taken to using websites and other digital technologies to promote their products, though often these sites can be long-winded and require a significant time commitment from viewers. This work is, by contrast, short and gripping, with the interactive element not a gimmick or an add-on but a central aspect of the story.
Best in Book: Lurpak: Cook’s Range (Wieden + Kennedy London / Blink)
Sustaining a great ad campaign is no easy task. Like the difficult second, third and fourth albums, it is often tricky to hit the golden notes achieved when a campaign is first released. The audience becomes familiar with your message, and begins to tune it out. But, as this commercial for Lurpak proves, it is possible to create work that takes a familiar campaign to new, and even more exciting, heights. Lurpak has long created cinematic ads of the ‘food porn’ variety.
With the camera focusing in on ingredients as they are whipped, whisked and poured, and turned into delicious meals to eat, it is difficult to watch the brand’s ads without feeling hungry. The Lurpak style has been hugely influential on advertising, and its luscious visuals of food have been much copied. So when it came to introducing a new ‘Cook’s Range’ of products, the brand, and its ad agency Wieden + Kennedy London, decided to ramp things up a bit. With stunning direction from Dougal Wilson, the lowly kitchen becomes a kind of spaceship, capable of taking us to new worlds of taste. Potatoes form a meteor shower, flour explodes magnificently, and incredible meals are shown cooking at super speed. Food has rarely looked this good, and cooking has seldom appeared quite this exciting.
Judges: Vassilios Alexiou, Creative Partner, Dare. Alvaro Arregui, Lead Designer, Ustwo. Chris Bovill, Creative Director, 4Creative. James Greenfield, Founder & Creative Director, Koto. Alex Grieve, ECD, AMV BBDO. Lins Karnes, MD & Executive Producer, B-Reel London. Nils Leonard, ECD, Grey London. Tom Sharp, Creative Director, The Beautiful Meme. Daniela Nunzi Mihranian, Co-founder, Studio Minerva. Patrick Burgoyne, editor, Creative Review. Mark Sinclair, deputy editor, Creative Review. Eliza Williams, associate editor, Creative Review
Credits: Cover: Image from the film Aleph starring Daria Werbowy. Directed by Warren Du Preez & Nick Thornton Jones in collaboration with Analog (CGI & creative direction), Rebecca Louise Law (Installation Artist) and FBFX Digital. See May issue of CR.Thanks to Becky Hendry and the Centaur Events team. Sponsor: Arjowiggins Creative Papers, arjowigginscreativepapers.com