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Five Great Agency Ideas From Around the World

Takeaways From the Best of Ad Age's International Agency of the Year Contest

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In their entries for Ad Age 's International Agency of the Year contest, shops around the world submitted an array of clever ideas that solved problems for clients. The winner, as profiled two weeks ago, was Japan's TBWA Hakuhodo, and the runner-up was Brazil's F/Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi. But many of those who didn't win submitted ideas you can learn from. Here are five of the best, culled from Latin America, Europe and Asia.

1. What to do with instruction manuals too difficult to understand
Tok&Stok, an Ikea-like retailer in Brazil, used Twitter manuals to demonstrate how easy its furniture is to assemble by shortening instructions to a series of 140-character tweets. Customers who bought a piece of furniture just had to find the corresponding hashtag, displayed on stickers on the furniture and product boxes. Besides driving home the point that this furniture is easy to assemble, the Twitter manuals caught the attention of a younger audience buying their first items of furniture.

Tok&Stok and DDB Brasil also took the easy-to-assemble message to much odder media, like a Tok&Stock business card that turns into a little paper chair if you follow the instructions. And a puzzle, with the same number of pieces as the item purchased, that shows you how to "make" the furniture as you put together the puzzle.

2. To bring back a brand, involve former users in a stunt to draw younger customers.
Another DDB Brasil client, toy maker Estrela, wanted to relaunch its 1980s toy-train brand Ferrorama. To generate interest among a digitally oriented generation, the company's president challenged Ferrorama's biggest online fan group to prove its faith in the toy's return with a mini-journey along the famous pilgrim's route to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. The catch: The little toy train had to travel the last 12 miles of the journey without stopping, even though the fan group had only 120 meters of old train tracks. The journey took five days, as the hardworking fans constantly picked up pieces of track and relaid them ahead of the train. People followed the feat in real time via video and tweets, and could interact with the team through the "Come back, Ferrorama" website.

Estrela relaunched the Ferrorama train set, and the product sold out in a month.

3. To reach young people, link music and fashion.
The iTunes-like StarHub Music Store in Singapore combined music and fashion -- two ways young people often express themselves -- by attaching radio-frequency identification chips to clothing in stores. When a piece of clothing was taken into a fitting room, it triggered an RFID speaker to play a music track in the dressing room matching the garment's style. Then a text was sent to the shopper's phone, offering a free download of the song he or she was listening to. The music and corresponding clothing were divided into 16 genres, including hip-hop, punk, rock pop, folk, ballads and reggae, totaling more than 10,000 songs. The RFID chips were used in eight fashion brands in 42 stores. The effort by StarHub and DDB Singapore had an average click-through of 84% and boosted paid music downloads by 21%.

4. Reinvent a company from logo to flagship store by getting people talking.
Videotron started with a new logo, a cube with an infinity sign, and spread the concept of "infinite power" down to the last detail with help from Montreal shop Sid Lee. One example: For a "Moving Day" campaign in July, when people in Montreal typically move house, popular comedians punked Videotron's unwitting customer-service reps in probing phone calls designed to test customer service (one comic ranted about pineapple juice). After TV spots ran, more than 20,000 appointments for Videotron services were made, a 48% increase.

And Videotron's bright, sleek, high-tech flagship store, a launch pad for mobile services, could give an Apple store a run for its money. From December 2010 through September 2011, Videotron's subscriber numbers jumped 11% for TV services, 8% for internet and 110% for mobile.

5. Make the medium the message to demonstrate a key product feature.
Swedish winters require a rugged car. Volkswagen made a "winter-adjusted offer for a winter-adjusted car" to stir interest in its 4Motion four-wheel-drive feature. DDB Sweden put the car on a billboard plunked in the middle of a frozen Swedish lake. Once the ice melted and the billboard sank, the deal was over.

TV, print, in-store and banner ads all highlighted the billboard, which was streamed live so people could follow its Titanic-like destiny. A contest to guess when it would sink was a natural fit for social media. The billboard submerged April 14, after two months of live entertainment. Sales rose 38% in the first quarter of 2011 from the year-earlier period.

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