RIO DE JANEIRO (AdAge.com) -- Brazil dominated the second annual Wave Festival for Latin America this week, winning three of the four Grand Prix awards and the Blue Wave prize for an integrated campaign for Coke by JWT, Sao Paulo. Almap BBDO, Sao Paulo, was named Agency of the Year after picking up 19 of the 161 Wave prizes awarded.
The festival was held May 11-13 at the legendary Copacabana Palace, where attendees began and ended the day with breakfast and cocktails on terraces overlooking Copacabana beach.
Brazilian advertising excels at tapping into popular culture, and this year's Blue Wave award for an integrated big-idea campaign went to Coca-Cola and JWT, Sao Paulo, for spotting potential in a perennial, passionate rivalry and debate: Who is the best soccer player ever, Brazil's Pele or Argentina's Maradona?
The twist was that the poll Coca-Cola sponsored for Brazilians -- using Coke bottle caps as ballots -- was between Maradona and Biro Biro, a wild-haired, much less stellar former Brazilian soccer player. The campaign "Biro Biro vs. Maradona" included TV and print ads, as well as online games and stunts, comparing the two players, who had very little in common; one print ad picturing both men reads, "Different styles. Different positions. Different shampoos." Actors disguised as Maradona fans tried to buy drinkers' Coke bottle caps at bars to boost Maradona's tally, while girls known at Biro Biretes, wearing Biro Biro wigs, accosted potential voters in the streets.
Awards shows are being carefully scrutinized this year for declines in entries and attendance. The Wave attracted about the same number of attendees as last year -- close to 500 -- but entries fell 20%, to 1,113, said Jose Carlos Salles Neto, president of festival organizer Grupo M&M, publisher of Brazil's leading trade publication, Meio & Mensagem.
While the economic crisis has affected everyone, a few Latin countries face special challenges. One creative director from Venezuela said clients are spending less because left-wing president Hugo Chavez keeps nationalizing companies, which replace their management teams with Chavez loyalists who cut their ad budgets. The creative director said Mr. Chavez nationalized part of the food operations of one of his clients, Polar, a major Venezuelan food and beverages marketer, earlier this year as part of a broader move to control rice and pasta production to keep consumer prices down.
Venezuelans are also limited to $2,500 a year in foreign exchange, limiting their ability to travel abroad, where their credit cards often don't work.
In commodity-rich Brazil, the economic crisis has been less severe so far than in the U.S., but ad production is down, and festival organizers said some major agencies -- the Brazilian offices of Saatchi & Saatchi, TBWA and Bartle Bogle Hegarty and local shop MPM -- didn't enter the Wave this year.
Grand Prix winners
Agency of the Year Almap BBDO won the print Grand Prix for a series of photographs for Gatorade showing kids winning in various professional sports. Gatorade picked up another Grand Prix, for a TV campaign by BBDO Argentina, Buenos Aires. The cyber Grand Prix went to Aegis Group's Agencia Click, Sao Paulo, for "Punto T-Jet," an advergame for the Fiat Punto that lets users race in real time against a real driver. The digital experience was extended offline via a T-Racer segment in Brazilian reality show "Big Brother."
The outdoor Grand Prix went to DM9DDB, Sao Paulo, for an unusual use of the medium: The agency promoted sound-production company Saxsofunny with the concept "Every image has a sound," using signs made of materials that replicate the sound suggested by the picture on the sign. One ad depicting black logs on crumpled red paper crackles like fire. A drawing of a black typewriter with white keys is covered with bubble wrap that sounds like the tapping of the keys when pushed. In another execution, black clouds and a lightning bolt are drawn on a shiny silver aluminum sheet that rattles like thunder.
No Grand Prix were awarded in the design, promo, direct or radio categories.
Latin America has more than its share of regional ad festivals. The oldest show, FIAP, celebrated its 40th anniversary last week in Buenos Aires, and El Ojo, also in Buenos Aires, is held in the fall. Spain's leading ad awards, El Sol, opened up to Latin American entries a few years ago.