belding/jb/mike1st/mark2nd

By JOE BEL BRUNO Staff Reporter

TBWA Chiat/Day enjoyed the ride at the 31st annual Belding Awards, winning the coveted sweepstakes award for its Nissan advertising campaign.

The television commercial features dolls that resemble Barbie and G.I. Joe driving a toy car, and is part of Nissan Motor Corp. U.S.A.'s "Enjoy the Ride" campaign. This was the 10th time Chiat/Day has nabbed the top prize at the Advertising Club of Los Angeles' annual awards banquet.

Out of 34 categories, TBWA Chiat/Day captured eight first-place and five second-place awards. The Nissan spots picked up honors in best television, consumer magazine spread, and direct mail campaigns.

Two other agencies were also heavily rewarded by Belding judges. Receiving five awards each were West L.A.-based BBDO West and El Segundo-based Team One Advertising.

This year's awards ceremony held at the Century Plaza Hotel featured about 1,300 entries, up from about 1,200 in 1996. An estimated 850 people attended the program.

"There were some creative ideas out there this year, but we knew from the very start that our Nissan campaign was a winner," said Rob Siltenan, Chiat/Day's creative director. "There has already been a lot of publicity on the Nissan campaign. It was just a really exciting project that came together well especially with the toys commercials."

One indication that the Nissan promotions were destined for a Belding might have been the string of other awards the campaign has won, he said. Chiat/Day took commercial of the year honors from Time, Rolling Stone, USA Today, and AdWeek, among others.

Siltenan attributed the firm's success to the freedom it was given by Nissan.

"Most of the time clients will inhibit you from doing breakthrough work by requesting so many things be in the ads like features on the car, its style, performance," he said. "In this case, they wanted something different, and wanted it to be highly entertaining."

Other spots include a Nissan that on its own feeds a parking meter and a "Dream Garage" where dozens of vintage Nissans are stored.

Humor also dominated some of the other top campaigns.

Team One's award-winning entry is a series of tongue-in-cheek spots it developed for America West Airlines, aimed at luring customers from cold-weather cities to visit Arizona. In one commercial, residents of Phoenix are seen over-reacting to bad weather a non-threatening, puffy white cloud hanging over the city.

"From the moment that the creative team brought this forward, it was enthusiastically received," said Marianne Bess, management director for Team One. "They were funny, and caught attention. That's exactly what we hoped for when this was being created."

At BBDO West, the firm won for best overall campaign on promotions for L.A. Cellular. The advertisements revolved around words lost during cellular phone conversations.

David Lubars, the company's chief executive officer, said this year's entries were competing under more pressure than in years past.

"The best advertising is not only strategic, but does it in a way that you just can't forget," said Lubars. "That's hard to do in this day and age, when you're exposed to 5,000 messages a day. It really has to be smart, interesting and say something relevant."

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