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Droga 5's 'Jay-Z Decoded' Wins the Outdoor Grand Prix

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Another outdoor win for a New York-based shop. this time the honors went to Droga 5 and Bing.
Another outdoor win for a New York-based shop. this time the honors went to Droga 5 and Bing.

Have New York shops cracked some sort of code in the outdoor category? That seems to be the case again at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. For the second straight year, a Big Apple-based agency has won the Grand Prix as Droga 5 took the top honors for its "Jay-Z Decoded" campaign for Microsoft's search engine, Bing.

Anomaly, New York, was one of two Grand Prix winners in 2010 for its work for Diesel, but the jury said the repeat of a U.S. winner wasn't an indicator that the New York market has a better grasp on the medium.

What it is: "Jay-Z Decoded," a promotion for Bing via rapper and celebrity Jay-Z, worked to connect Microsoft to a new demographic. All 300-some pages of the rapper's autobiography were placed on outdoor spaces, so that fans could actually walk through Jay-Z's life, and where the media didn't naturally exist, Droga 5 created it -- from the bottom of a pool to the apartment projects where Jay-Z grew up. The outdoor executions were part of an interactive game that tied Bing's search and maps functions to new clues released daily as to the location of pages from the autobiography. Simultaneously, the campaign helped increase traffic to Bing and, according to the agency, "helped raised the bar of what a book launch could be."

Why it won: The effort was a seamless integrated campaign that led with outdoor executions. "We were looking for not only the best work, but also the work that showed what the future of outdoor should be," said Jury Chair Olivier Altmann, chief creative officer at Publicis Worldwide. "It flies through every category" and is "an incarnation of the new way we should practice outdoor."

The jury: Mr. Altmann helmed a 16-member jury hailing from a range of countries including Australia, Colombia, Turkey and the Philippines who were all very vocal during a press conference on Tuesday morning announcing the winners.

Total Lions: Cannes rules dictate that two Grand Prix awards can be awarded in the outdoor category, as was the case last year. But this time around the jury felt that no other entries were in the same league. In addition to the one Grand Prix, the jury this year gave out 18 Golds, 33 Silvers and 67 Bronzes.

Controversy or clear winner?: Mr. Altmann challenged the jury to choose winning work that elicited a raw human emotion, such as surprise or shock, upon seeing it. There were no dissenters on the jury that "Decoded" should be awarded the top prize. "It was quite interesting because we had a discussion between us and it was unanimous," said Mr. Altmann. Another digital behemoth, Google, won a Gold for its outdoor campaign by Bartle Bogle Hegarty, London, promoting a mobile search app. Said Energy BBDO top creative and juror Dan Fietsam: "It was a very utilitarian campaign, which we thought was brilliant."

What the jury didn't like: Gimmicks. While the winner in the category was actually a multiplatform campaign, and the outdoor work was integrated with online executions, the jurors decried the use of technology in outdoor advertising for the sake of it. Mr. Fietsam cited work for Samsonite by JWT Shanghai as "beautiful creative" that was "contextually right" and didn't have a "freaking QR code on it." Looking toward next year, entrants in the outdoor category should place a priority on work having an emotional component more so than a digital component.

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