Philippines Wins First Grand Prix at Cannes in Mobile Category

Campaign by DDB Manila Delivered Textbooks Via SMS

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The Philippines has won its first Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity -- and it's all thanks to a clever way of making using of old-school technology. Rather than trying to replace old analog cell phones all over the country, an outpost of Omnicom Group's DDB dreamt up a way to make use of them to the benefit of citizens.

What it is: A simple idea that used old-school cell phones took home the big prize in the mobile category at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity Tuesday. "TXTBKS," developed by DDB Manila, won the Grand Prix. The idea was to solve the issue of the decreasing use of textbooks in a country where many people cannot afford tablets or e-readers and where most families own old feature phones. The campaign, done by client Smart Communications, collaborated with textbook publishers to condense books into text messages. Those messages were then put onto old SIM cards, which were repackaged into "Smart TXTBKS," creating a new brand of textbooks.

The jury: The jury was chaired by Rei Inamoto, VP-chief creative officer of AKQA. He said mobile was an especially interesting category for him because it was so pervasive, but also so new. "I've judged a few categories at Cannes and this was the most passionate jury," he said. "There were a lot of arguments and disagreements." There were no women on the jury. When asked why this was the case, Matias Palm-Jensen, chief innovation officer at McCann Erickson, said that the problem could only be solved by the press going back to their countries and telling their representatives to change the ratio. He added that in Sweden they are mandated to ensure that half their jury members are female. He also said that he should not have to defend the jury composition. "I don't want to feel uncomfortable as a man," he said.

Why it won: Jury members said that the simplicity of the work was what made it win. "I think it's an unexpected Grand Prix winner," said Mr. Inamoto. "It's not the most technically advanced entry, and in fact, it's a little bit backwards." Xavier Laoureux, head of the Digital Arts Network at TBWA, said what was "interesting about [TXTBKS] is that it's the best way to show you can have a mobile idea without pushing the technology side of it. It was not using technology as the end."

Total Lions awarded: 59 Lions were awarded; nine of them were Gold, not including the Grand Prix winner.

Controversy or clear winner? All nine Gold Lions were good enough to have won the Grand Prix, Mr. Inamoto said, but Cannes Lions rules mandated that the work done for charity was ineligible. So while "Reborn," by Duval Guillaume Modem Antwerp for the Organ Donor Foundation, and JWT Beijing's "Baby Back Home" campaign for missing children won Gold Lions, they couldn't win the Grand Prix. Four of the 10 Gold Lion winners (including the eventual Grand Prix winner) were ineligible for the top prize.

Hot topic: The problem of monetization was discussed at length, with Mr. Palm-Jensen noting that many of the Lions winners didn't involve paid media. Dirk Freytag, CEO of YOC AG, said that that issue fits into the central problem with mobile work. "There's no one in the industry that has figured out how to monetize mobile," he said. " There was also the perennial question of what "mobile" really means. At the end of the day, Mr. Inamoto said his suggested definition was, "Is it portable? Is it connected? And is it pervasive?"

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