The most striking feature of the "Money Goes Digital" campaign by OMD New Zealand and TBWA/Whybin, both Auckland, was that tiny ads were stuck on genuine banknotes as peel-off stickers, with the approval of New Zealand's banking authorities.
"We were very impressed with that negotiation," said Media Lions jury President David Verklin, chairman-CEO of Carat Americas and Carat Asia Pacific.
The campaign also featured a mural made of 30,000 Post-It notes that looked like a pixilated banknote on an outdoor site at a train station, allowing commuters to take the message with them.
Mr. Verklin said that three or four campaigns emerged early as possible Grand Prix winners, but that by the second day ASB Bank was in the forefront. The other three contenders were campaigns from Japan for Ikea and Hitachi, and a very simple newspaper ad for Mont Blanc fountain pens from South Africa. For that ad, titled "Love of Writing," by Jupiter Drawing Room, Cape Town, a South African newspaper allowed the agency to write out by hand an entire actual page of editorial in an issue of the paper to demonstrate the ease and pleasure of writing with a Mont Blanc fountain pen.
For the opening of Ikea's first store in Japan, Tokyo agency ADK blanketed the area within a 15-kilometer radius of the store with eye-catching out-of-home ads, ranging from installations of Ikea-decorated rooms to wrapping all the balconies in an apartment building with Ikea banners. One truly amazing idea from Japan was Tokyo-based Dentsu's inspiration that a new Hitachi washing machine would make a great time machine in movie. Dentsu was involved with the making of the "Back to the Future"-like movie, and secured a starring role for the Hitachi washer as the time machine. Hitachi was even included in the title of the 90-minute movie.
"Media is becoming the new creative," Mr. Verklin said. "In many cases it's media that's leading the strategy."
Mr. Verklin said he was impressed by how much more advanced mobile marketing is outside the U.S., especially in Japan. "We were stunned by the Japanese approach to mobile," he said. "Mobile is the next big battleground. The U.S. is really behind on mobile and digital."
He cited several examples. The mobile phone was a control device in a Bronze-winning effort to build awareness for Tokyo shopping district Akarium. Agencies Hakuhodo and 777 Interactive, both Tokyo, designed light boxes along an avenue. As people walked along, they could use their phones to light up the avenue. Another winner used the cellphone to deliver content in the form of animated comic books. And one winner used QR technology, increasingly popular in Asia, in which users point their cellphone at an outdoor pictogram, take a picture of it, and are connected to a website.
At the Media Lions press conference, Mr. Verklin, enthusiastic by nature, was optimistic about the future of media and its growing role as the starting point and creative focus for campaigns. "Media is a ball," he said. "This is the way to go. You don't want to write ads. You want to be a media guy!"
The 50 Lions plus a Grand Prix were the most a Media Lions jury has ever awarded, Mr. Verklin said. Countries that rarely show up on any winners' list, such as Romania and Lithuania, are taking home Media Lions this year. The U.S. picked up only one Gold Media Lion, no Silver Lions and six Bronze Lions. The most-awarded country was Japan, with seven Media Lions, including two Golds.
OMD was the most-awarded network, with eight Media Lions and the Grand Prix. The Media Agency of the Year award, for most number of Lions for an individual agency, went to OMD USA, winner of the only U.S. gold and two bronzes. OMD, New York's Gold was for a consumer-generated spot for Frito Lay's Doritos that ran on this year's Super Bowl.
With five of Cannes' nine creative contests already judged, the U.S. has won no Grand Prix prizes yet (the tally is two for New Zealand, in Media and Promo Lions, and one each for Spain, South Africa and Australia).