Ads from across the pond

The Walker presents the 24th year of the British Television Advertising Awards.

by Conrad Schoenleber

WHAT: 2010 British Television Advertising Awards

WHERE: The Walker Art Center âÄì 1750 Hennepin Ave.

WHEN: Many dates through Jan. 2, starts Friday, Dec. 3

COST: $10


It hardly seems normal for someone to pay money to watch a commercial, but in the case of the British Television Advertising Awards, people do âÄî and with enthusiasm.

Every December, thousands of Twin Cities residents make their way to the Walker Art Center to pay for the chance to see the best that Britain marketing has to offer. For many people itâÄôs the only time they will make it to the Walker all year.

âÄúWeâÄôve always had this interest in design and crossing over with advertising,âÄù Dean Otto, associate curator for film and video at The Walker, said. âÄúWithin the Walker we really love the British Television Advertising Awards because we really felt like there was a really great sense of ingenuity. ItâÄôs quite popular not just within the advertising community, but also within the anglophiles and film fans.âÄù

The ads themselves range from serious to cheeky but are, for the most part, humorous. DonâÄôt be surprised to see a little bit of skin either, as television regulations are less strict in Britain than they are here for us yanks. From flash mobs to a thousand-strong karaoke show to LED-lit sheep, thereâÄôs plenty to enjoy. Even if one isnâÄôt entertaining, theyâÄôre only about two minutes long.

Each year the British advertising award committee puts out a call for submissions. The best are then selected and shown at an award ceremony in London. Screenings then move to the Museum of Modern Art in New York. From there they travel to several different museums and film centers across the country.

âÄúThe Walker screenings are very unique in that it has become a phenomenon here,âÄù Otto said. âÄúWhile the Museum of Modern Art has two showings, the Walker is running 56.âÄù

The cult status of the screening draws many different types of people to something that would typically be an industry event. Viewers come to see the best that British wit has to offer. Do LondonerâÄôs pay to watch our Geico commercials? Probably not, but that wonâÄôt stop the screeningâÄôs fans from attending.

âÄúIt has such a different sensibility seeing all that work together in a sold-out audience with people reacting to the work,âÄù Otto said. âÄúThe audiences really make a big difference just in the way that people are viewing this.âÄù

The Walker treats the screenings like a night out at the theater with updated offerings. The Garden Café, located right outside of the WalkerâÄôs cinema, offers pub fare and drinks, which are a dollar off for anyone attending. Ticket prices also include entrance into the Walker galleries.

For many families, seeing a holiday move is a tradition. The British Television Advertising Awards may not be quite the same thing, but it offers a similar festive atmosphere for those looking for some atypical fun.