Epica became a reality on December 3 1987 at a prize-giving ceremony in the Brussels headquarters of the European Commission. The competition’s signature crystal pyramids were handed to the winners by Carlo Ripa di Meana, who at the time was the commissioner responsible for information, communication and culture.
It was a prestigious debut – and an appropriate one, since in those days Epica was purely a European competition. It went international many years later, in 2012. But it has had a jury of journalists from the very start.
Let’s return to the past for a moment. That first year, 192 agencies from 17 countries entered. The Grand Prix – it was called the Epica d’Or at the time – was awarded to the film “Points of View”, created for The Guardian newspaper by London agency Boase Massimi Pollitt.
By choosing that winner, the journalists on the jury were setting the scene for what was to come. Epica has always been about offering an alternative point of view; a different angle on creativity.
Picking up a special Epica award to celebrate the film’s 30th anniversary recently, its director Paul Weiland paid tribute to the two late, great creatives who made it possible: John Webster and Frank Budgen. Their idea seems even more relevant today, in the era of “filter bubbles” and “fake news”.
The preface of the very first Epica Book was written by Ronald Benson, then director general of the European Association of Advertising Agencies. He wrote: “Regardless of the approach, the basic task confronting the creative team is always the same, and a fresh, original creative solution will always stand out regardless of its place of origin…”
Nothing has changed, and Epica’s jury members go out of their way to reward ideas that have never been seen before. Which explains why so many of Epica’s winners go on to reap other creative prizes throughout the year and rack up impressive scores in The Gunn Report.
One question that often emerges in connection with the awards is what “Epica” actually stands for. It may interest you to know that the competition was originally organised by the Association pour la promotion de la Créativité Européenne (APCE). Swap those letters around a bit and you’re almost there.
Today, however, I think we can be more definitive. EPICA: the Editors’ and Publishers’ International Creative Awards. Here’s to another 30 years.
THE VIEW FROM THE JURY
We asked some of the longest-serving Epica jury members for insights into their favourite winners from the last 30 years.
James Schwartz-Lanham, former editor of the Portuguese magazine Marketing & Publicidade, says: “The Grand Prix I most remember is Jean-Paul Goude’s masterpiece for Chanel’s Égoïste men’s cologne in 1990. Unlike so many other fragrance ads, Goude showed not the man, but his effect on glamorous women. And, what an effect! ‘Égoïste. Où es-tu? Montre-toi misérable!’ Those girls were mad at – and about – our hero, of whom there was no sign except for a sneaky hand.”
Michael Weinzettl, editor-in-chief of Lürzer’s Archive, remembers when a BBC Radio Scotland campaign unexpectedly won the Film Grand Prix in 1995. “At the final jury meeting the campaign came out of nowhere. It was all animated typography and graphics – not flashy enough to get the jury's attention the first time around. However, Lewis Blackwell, then editor of Creative Review, pointed out to us what we had missed. Upon a second viewing a majority of the jurors agreed to put it among the Grand Prix contenders and it quickly won the majority of votes for the top award.”
Polish jury member Agata Małkowska-Szozda, of the magazine Press, says: “Epica is a trendsetter, not a trend follower. This was most obvious during the 2007 edition when ‘Gorilla’ by Fallon won the Grand Prix at Epica – and then the film Grand Prix at Cannes almost six months later. The debate on the Epica jury was fierce, but in the end the majority decided: ‘Gorilla’ was fantastic. OK, it didn’t say anything about the product, it was pure image. But on the other hand, what can you say about chocolate that’s new? So instead of runny chocolate and happy people, you had a gorilla ecstatically playing the drums. It was completely absurd. And completely brilliant. By the time it got to Cannes, the ad was well known. But when we gave it our Grand Prix, we were taking a risk.”
Marjan Novak, publisher and editor of Marketing Magazin in Slovenia, picks the 2012 Wrangler campaign “We Are Animals” by French agency Fred & Farid. “You’re sitting in a dark room for hours, dead tired, and then it comes to you – that’s it! A subtle, wonderful idea, a little bit philosophical, connected with the times and, yes, cool…That’s my memory of ‘We Are Animals”. I still love it. It’s murky, a little unpleasant-feeling, with some sadness, some joy. Was it the year? My personal life? It just clicked.”
Agatha adds: “Epica jurors are impartial, objective and not tied to any advertising agency. We argue a lot – not in the interest of any particular agency, but sincerely and openly to ensure that the best ads win.”
Mark Tungate is editorial director of The Epica Awards.