Romania Wins Big, Taking Home First Two Grands Prixes for USA-Themed Campaign

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Romania was the big winner on Monday at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity as Romanian shop BV McCann took home a pair of Grands Prixes in the promo/activation and direct categories for its American Rom campaign for client Kandia Dulce. It's believed to be the country's first Grand Prix, though it has won a few Lions in the past. In fact, said Festival Chair Terry Savage, "the first Bronze Lion Romania ever won, when they got back to Romania the president of Romania represented the award to the agency. So I don't know what he'll do about the Grand Prix."

What it is: Rom is a Romanian chocolate bar that plays up its patriotism in more than name only, including via its Romanian-flag-themed packaging. But that national tie-in had lost meaning among young people and when the economy took a hit, so did the Romanian national ego. The solution to sagging sales and national pride? A stunt that played off the candy bar's heritage and poked a little fun at Americans, too. BV McCann turned Rom into a USA-themed candy bar, replacing the Romanian flag packaging with stars and stripes and reintroducing the product via an obnoxious Yankee spokesman and a new tagline: "the taste of coolness." After a week of media attention, customer outcry, flash mobs in support of the candy bar's Romanian heritage as well as runs on the "old" and "new" Rom, BV McCann brought back the original packaging.

Jury presidents: Warren Brown, president-creative founder, BMF, chaired the promo/activation jury; Alexander Schill, president-global chief creative officer, ServicePlan Group/Haus der Kommunikation, Hamburg, chaired the direct jury.

Why it won: The promo/activation jury had identified a holy trinity of traits it was looking for in a winning campaign -- an idea that was unexpected, single-minded and effective. As to that first part, Mr. Brown likened the Rom campaign to "almost like meeting your best friend for a drink and realizing he'd had a sex change. It really took you out of your comfort zone. ... You need a little bit of irreverence or anarchy in promo to make the idea truly sticky. The Grand Prix this year captured that." Meanwhile, the direct jury gave the campaign props for its emotional appeal, calling upon the pride of a nation. Mr. Schill gave the jury a golden bullet to remind them they were looking for work that directly hits the heart of the consumer. "Not the brain, but the heart," he said.

Controversy or clear winner? The promo/activation Grand Prix was a unanimous decision; the direct jury was nearly unanimous -- there was only on dissenter on the final vote.

How can one campaign win in two categories? Mr. Schill, when told during the early afternoon press conference that the same campaign had been revealed as the promo/activation prize just a couple hours earlier, had two words: "good jury." But in all seriousness, he said there's a thin line between activation and direct. As for what made it a winner of direct, "if you take away the direct part, the participation of the customer [via the outcry, the flash mobs, for example], then it wouldn't have worked. So they forced the customer to react and to interact."

Total number of Lions awarded: All told, the promo/activation jury handed out 55 Lions; there were 57 Lions awarded in the direct category.

Who else did well: "Musical Fitting Rooms" for Starthub PTE, an online music store, from DDB Singapore, which matched music to people's clothing choices, was the only other campaign the promo/activation jury mentioned as a potential challenger for the Grand Prix; the U.S. had two Gold Lions in the promo category.

There were originally three contenders for the direct Grand Prix, but it was narrowed down through votes. The U.S. captured four Gold Lions in direct; one of those included the early favorite, Old Spice's "Response" campaign, from Wieden & Kennedy.

What the jury didn't like: Tech for tech's sake. After seeing more than 2,000 campaigns, "too many agencies are mistaking technological innovation for an idea," said the promo jury's Mr. Brown. "A lot of campaigns are using technology as a crutch and trying to massage that technology into a campaign." The jury was instead looking for a strong idea that used technology smartly to amplify the message.

Looking to next year: Another memo to future entrants in the promo category: Just throwing a party or giving stuff away and getting people to blog and tweet about it is "not really much of an idea," Mr. Brown said. "A lot of people thought having a [Facebook] page or getting things on Twitter was an idea. And, unfortunately, when everyone's doing it, it's really hard to stand out. They should have spent more time trying to find something interesting to say, rather than latching onto the latest technology."

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