AdFest Highlights Asian Work You May See at Cannes

Japan's Honda, Kirin Ichiban beer and Inakadate Village Are Big Winners At Regional Festival

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Asia's regional ad festival AdFest this week showcased marketers from Japan -- including Honda, Kirin Ichiban beer and Inakadate Village -- who are likely to be worth watching as strong Asian contenders at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

Dentsu Inc. was AdFest's Network of the Year, due partly to the success of its "Sound of Honda" campaign documenting Ayrton Senna's 1989 Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix qualifying lap, which set a record for the world's fastest lap at one minute and 38 seconds. Honda analyzed data for Mr. Senna's accelerator use, gear position, engine rotation, speed and distance, and recreated the legendary Brazilian racing driver's historic lap as part of an exhibition called Ayrton Senna 1989. Alongside a short film, the campaign includes 3D web content and a mobile app that synchronizes the sound of users' own vehicles to that of Mr. Senna's car on the record-setting lap.

The campaign weaves together disparate technologies from recreating engine sounds to displaying a 3D view of the lap and also manages to "stir emotions, which is something still relatively rare in a lot of digital work," said Graham Kelly, regional executive creative director, Asia Pacific at Isobar. Mr. Kelly was president of the Interactive Lotus & Mobile Lotus jury, which awarded "Sound of Honda" its top prize, the Grande Interactive Lotus.

"[Honda] will win everywhere," said Tor Myhren, president and worldwide chief creative officer at Grey Group, New York. Mr. Myhren also chaired the film and radio juries. "Of everything in the show, I was most jealous of this one. It uses the past to move a brand into the future. It is innovative, integrated, and most importantly it took a brand that is not typically associated with performance, and changed perception with one, big idea."

The Asia Pacific Advertising Festival, better known as AdFest, took place this week in Pattaya, Thailand, and was dominated as usual by Japanese agencies Dentsu and Hakuhodo.

Hakuhodo was named Direct & Promo Agency of the Year, thanks to two campaigns, "Rice-Code" for Inakadate Village and "The Photogenic Beer" for Kirin Ichiban.

For "The Photogenic Beer," which took home two Grande Lotus and a Promo Gold Lotus award, the agency "created a way to keep your beer cold for 30 minutes," Mr. Myhren said. "As an added bonus, it also makes your beer look more interesting and has been incredibly popular with young people. This is a great example of how our business can help brands invent products that tap into consumer needs. And seriously, who doesn't want their beer colder, longer? Sold!"

Direct Lotus Gold winner "Rice-Code" is a "simple idea that exists in the real world and was amplified online because people wanted to participate," said Outdoor Lotus jury member Rupert England, executive creative director at FCB, Kuala Lumpur. Hakuhodo turned a struggling village in Japan into a tourist attraction by creating gigantic art with different color rice in their rice fields.

This year's AdFest attracted 1,095 attendees, slightly fewer than 1,146 last year. The drop was attributed to concerns about a slowdown in key growth markets like China, as well as political unrest in Bangkok in recent weeks. The number of entries also fell, to 3,253 from 3,507 in 2013, and overall, the work failed to impress the juries.

"There is a handful of work that is truly world-class and as good as anything our industry has put out this year," Mr. Myhren said, "but the drop off from that work to everything else in the show was steep."