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Outsider Chagrins Agencies, Takes Top Ad Honor


A series of off-beat commercials for the ABC-TV show "Twin Peaks" that posed the much asked question, "Who Killed Laura Palmer?" walked off with the West Coast's most prestigious advertising award Wednesday evening.

The win marks the first time in the 25-year history of the annual Belding Awards competition that the coveted "sweepstakes" prize for the best TV advertising campaign was not won by an agency. The 1990 prize was claimed by ABC Television's on-air promotion unit.

The outcome leaves the Los Angeles advertising community--which has long prided itself on its creativity--with egg on its face.

"Not one agency in town was deemed good enough to win the big tamale," said the chief executive of one of the largest agencies in Los Angeles who asked not to be named. "It's the ultimate embarrassment."

Still, the chairman of this year's competition tried to put the best light on the situation. "Agencies don't have proprietary ownership of ideas," John Hirschboeck, president of Team One Advertising, said in an interview. "Great ideas can come from anywhere."

This year, however, not very many came from local ad agencies. So poor was the quality of the 1,950 entries that the judges--a dozen ad executives from outside California--handed out only 31 Belding bowls--nearly 40% fewer than last year.

Several of the biggest agencies in town did not win any Belding bowls--or even any of the consolation prizes. Among those that went home empty-handed was Foote, Cone & Belding. The competition was named after the late Don Belding, co-founder of the agency.

Chiat/Day/Mojo, which won the big prize last year for its Eveready Rabbit campaign, received 10 Belding Bowl awards for several of its clients. Rubin Postaer& Associates and Team One Advertising each won three prizes. An agency that specializes in creating ads for minorities, Muse Cordero Chen, won two awards.

But the spotlight shone brightest on last summer's TV spots plugging "Twin Peaks." The show, co-created and directed by David Lynch, is about a small Northwest town's reaction to the unexplained murder of its high school prom queen. The show, which was temporarily canceled after earning lousy ratings, returns to ABC tonight.

The ads feature various people offering their own theories on who killed Laura Palmer and why. One focuses on a woman who theorizes that something in the coffee is responsible. "Coffee drinkers in this place are either crying or having nightmares . . . or having sex in the afternoon."

None of the winning ads show any stars. "The stars of the show are not very well known," explained Oren Aviv, 29, who just left ABC as director of special projects to join Walt Disney Co. as vice president of creative services. "We thought if the spots showed regular people instead of the stars, they might appeal more to viewers."

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