Since its debut as The British Television Advertising Awards in 1976, the annual celebration of innovative television advertising in the U.K. has become a cherished event in the U.S.; especially at The Walker Art Center, which was one of the first museums in the U.S. to host the annual screening and has continued the tradition for the past twenty-eight years. And the appeal is still there. From cheeky humor (sorry, humour), to spectacular production qualities, to surprising cameos and disturbing PSAs, the Arrows push the envelope of what television commercials can do on a regular basis (as opposed to the U.S. market, which only saves its best commercials for Super Bowl Sunday).
What can you expect from this year’s crop? Well, several frequent winners of The Arrows returned with new spots (retail giant John Lewis, legendary department store Harvey Nichols, supermarket chain Aldi, Thompson Travels, Lurpak Butter, Honda, Audi, Volkswagen, Lynx body spray, Channel 4, Guinness, etc.) with some new winners. You will see some disquieting PSAs (including a brilliant one for St. John’s Ambulance and a disturbing one against cyber-bullying). You will see some famous performers (including Jason Sudekis as an American football coach learning proper football that features a nifty Americanized primer on the Premiere League, a fun PSA starring the original Danish cast of The Killing, and a voiceover by none other than Garrison Keillor). You’ll see a platypus living the hipster life, chickens working it out to Diana Ross, and a Shetland pony dancing to Fleetwood Mac. And you will see things that you will question (“Why do people eat beans on toast?” “What is Marmite?”). In short, you will see fantastic examples of commercial short narratives that we Americans only wish we could pull off on a regular basis.
What you won’t see this year are the commercials I have put in this post. All of these are acclaimed commercials from last year, but they did not win the Arrows. Instead, they won the Craft Awards; the Golden Globes equivalent to the Arrows’ Oscars, which celebrates the individual craftspeople as opposed to the production houses. Rather than spoil this year’s commercials, I thought I would share another group of winning commercials to give you a sense of what you will see when you go to the Arrows.
The 2014 British Arrows Awards will be screened at the Walker Art Center from December 5 to January 4. Tickets for each screening are $12 General Admission and $10 for Walker Members, students, and seniors and can be purchased at The Walker’s site.