Underdogs Prevail at Cannes

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<a href='http://lookbook.adage.com/Agencies/JWT' class='directory_entry' title='Ad Age LookBook'>JWT</a>, Shanghai, took home China's first Grand Prix; its print ad was 'Heaven and Hell' for Samsonite.
JWT, Shanghai, took home China's first Grand Prix; its print ad was 'Heaven and Hell' for Samsonite.

Everyone knows emerging markets are the world's fastest-growing consumer markets and the best hope for multinational companies' future profits, but it was still a shock when the first Grand Prix trophies at last week's Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity went to three countries that have never won a Grand Prix before: Romania, South Korea and China.

First, BV McCann won the Grand Prix in both the direct and promo/activation categories for its "American Rom" campaign for client Kandia Dulce. The agency turned Rom into a USA-themed candy bar, replacing the Romanian-flag packaging with stars and stripes and an obnoxious Yankee spokesman, fueling a New Coke-like rebellion and a popular return to the genuine product. Cheil-Worldwide' class='directory_entry' title='Ad Age LookBook'>Cheil Worldwide grabbed South Korea's first Grand Prix, in media, with a virtual supermarket for Homeplus, its local version of Tesco stores. And China, just three years after winning its first Gold Lion, picked up the press Grand Prix for "Heaven and Hell," an exquisite print ad for Samsonite luggage by JWT Shanghai that contrasts relaxed airline passengers with the hellish baggage compartment, full of tormented souls and sturdy Samsonite suitcases that withstand an inferno.

Marketers are clearly paying more attention to the emerging markets that are increasingly their best customers. Cyril Charzat, senior director of the global Heineken brand, said that within two years Vietnam will be the No. 2 market in the world for Heineken, after the U.S.

As clients continue to be a fast-growing presence at Cannes -- accounting for 20% of this year's 9,000 delegates, up from 15% last year -- more of them are coming from emerging markets, too. China's sportswear marketer and Nike rival Anta was there, and so was Brazil's leading cosmetics marketer Natura.

One reason for the emergence of emerging markets is that, thanks to technology and a move toward ideas grounded in social and digital rather than TV, it simply doesn't require a huge production and distribution budget to bring great work to life. "Digital has flattened the world,"said Havas CEO David Jones. Not only can Americans dig up campaigns on YouTube from formerly-remote places like Romania or Thailand, now "those markets have access to the same content and entertainment the rest of the world does and it's raised the entire creative bar."

Festivals have also added more emerging-market judges in recent years. The 19-person press jury that gave China its first Grand Prix, for instance, included judges from China, Turkey and Dubai.

For emerging markets, this year's festival goes deeper than a fleeting victory. "One of my frustrations was seeing how much Korean creatives lacked confidence and looked to developed markets for ideas," said Bruce Haines, Cheil's Seoul-based global chief strategy officer. "Ideas they thought were award winning, I thought were derivative."

Mr. Haines said he loved that the Homeplus campaign grew out of a very Korean consumer insight and product benefit about time-starved shoppers, and combined it with smartphone technology. Similarly the Romanian idea, about national pride, "was of the market."

Google is now a big presence at the festival. Google won multiple awards, including a cyber Grand Prix for Arcade Fire's "The Wilderness Downtown," and entertained festival-goers with a heat-map mobile site showing where delegates were hanging out, as well as a "creative sandbox" that included a low-key beach hut for relaxing.

The Grand Prix winner in the new creative-effectiveness category was the U.K.'s "Sandwich" campaign for PepsiCo's Walkers potato chips by Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, London, in which Walkers turned the town of Sandwich into the most exciting place in England to prove that its potato chips paired with a sandwich make lunch more interesting. Five other Lions were awarded, including two for the U.S.

Nike's "Write the Future" spot for Wieden & Kennedy won the film Grand Prix, giving the U.S. seven of the week's 15 Grand Prix trophies. The integrated Grand Prix went to "Decode Jay-Z With Bing" by Droga 5, New York.

Procter & Gamble revved up the client footprint at Cannes when the company started sending sizable delegations to the festival in 2003. These days, word-of-mouth and the impressive piles of trophies that Cannes-conscious marketers are taking home helped spur more marketers to attend -- 450 companies this year.

The festival is also quietly upping the client ranks. The new creative-effectiveness category is the only one with client judges. Four of the 20 judges hold global roles at P&G, Philips, Kraft Foods and LG Electronics. And the organizers are seeding future client participation with this year's new week-long Cannes Creative Academy for Young Marketers, for brand managers under 30, headed by Jim Stengel, P&G's former global marketing officer. The first crop of 31 marketer-students are from 12 countries, with about half from emerging markets.

There are so many marketers at Cannes that one American said "It's really a client festival now." Although attendance numbers haven't fully recovered after peaking at 10,000 in giddy, pre-crisis June 2008 then taking a dive in somber 2009 and climbing back to 8,000 last year, the pulsating Cannes vibe is back, especially with the surge of optimistic, emerging-market participants. It's a more measured exuberance, though. "There will be no more $250,000 beach parties," said an agency exec who organized one for his global network at an earlier Cannes.

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