Japan Not the Only Big Player at This Year's AdFest

Agencies in China -- Led by JWT, Shanghai -- Collect Awards at 'Cannes of Asia'

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PATTAYA, Thailand (AdAge.com) -- Japan, a perennial winner at the Asia Pacific Advertising Festival, or AdFest, again took home some of the top prizes this year.

Jury presidents singled out a safety-awareness campaign created by Japan's Dentsu Razorfish called "Melody Road," giving it the Grande Innova award, one of the top prizes at the AdFest gala dinner on March 21. Dentsu's Tokyo office was named Interactive Agency of the Year, and ADK, Tokyo, won a Gold outdoor Lotus award for its work for the opening of an Ikea Kansai store.

Shan Shui campaign for the China Environment Protection Foundation

JWT Shanghai's 'Shan Shui' campaign for the China Environment Protection Foundation

But Japan is losing its dominant position at the "Cannes of Asia" to the region's economic powerhouses, China and India.

JWT was named Network Agency of the Year for the second year running, largely because of the success of its China offices. JWT, Shanghai, won 11 awards in several categories for its "Shan Shui" campaign for the China Environment Protection Foundation, which was AdFest's Advertiser of the Year.

"China is ready for creativity, mostly for global brands and public services," said Suthisak Sucharittanonta, chief creative officer at BBDO Worldwide, Bangkok, who judged the 360 and Innova categories.

'Only outstandingly good piece'
The "Shan Shui" campaign was "the only outstandingly good piece" in the press and poster category, said jury member Farrokh Madon, exec creative director of McCann Erickson, Singapore. "I didn't see that many entries from China this year as I saw last year, but definitely China is beginning to come of age."

JWT's Beijing office also won numerous awards for its "Bruce Lee" campaign for Nokia Corp.

China "is doing really, really well this year," said Ruth Lee, chief creative officer, DDB Worldwide, Hong Kong, a judge in the outdoor category. Following the success last year of TBWA Worldwide's Olympics campaign for Adidas in China, "two years in a row we are doing quite well, she said. "I hope it will demonstrate to the whole world that Chinese advertising is getting, if not better, equally as good as any other country in Asia."

In the outdoor category, Ogilvy & Mather, Beijing, won the Best of Show award for its New Citizen Program series, which also won two Silver Lotus awards.

At the dinner on the final night of the festival, TBWA Group's office in Auckland, New Zealand, won an Innova Lotus for its Adidas campaign, and McCann Worldgroup in Hong Kong was awarded for its "Flirting With Sound" campaign for Elements shopping mall. Phenomena, Bangkok, was named Production Company of the Year for the second year in a row, while Clemenger BBDO, Melbourne, Australia, was named Direct Marketing Agency of the Year.

JWT, Beijing, won numerous awards for its 'Bruce Lee' campaign for Nokia Corp.
JWT, Beijing, won numerous awards for its 'Bruce Lee' campaign for Nokia Corp.
In the film category, judges handed out just 37 Lotus awards from a total of 443 entries. The Best of Show went to ADK, Tokyo, for its "LaLa Reports" campaign for LaLa, a monthly Japanese manga magazine aimed primarily at teenage girls, which also picked up two Silver film Lotus awards.

Impact of economy
With the developed world sinking further into an economic hole, Asians are looking inward for inspiration as well as growth, a trend reflected in AdFest's "Made in Asia" theme this year. The organizers also introduced a new category in 2009, called Lotus Roots, which symbolizes the proud heritage of creativity and diversity in the Asia/Pacific region, said AdFest President Jimmy Lam.

AdFest received 3,309 entries this year from 337 agencies in 33 cities, a major decline. Last year, AdFest attracted 5,148 entries, and in 2007, it received 5,012.

"The recession has had some impact. Some agencies did hold back and didn't send delegations to AdFest," said AdFest speaker Tomaz Mok, managing director of McCann Erickson Worldwide's General Motors business in Shanghai.

"I think this year's work definitely reflects the recession, [resulting in] less entries and quality. [I'm] glad the AdFest organizers could survive the crisis this year," Mr. Sucharittanonta said.

Agencies and production houses in Bangkok, Tokyo and Singapore submitted the most entries. Alongside JWT, Shanghai, the agencies with the most awards were Saatchi & Saatchi, Kuala Lumpur, which also won 11 awards, including the only Gold Lotus in the press category for its "Page Numbers" campaign; Leo Burnett, Mumbai (10), which picked up three Silvers and a Bronze in the press category for its "Bajaj Exhaust Fans" campaign; and Dentsu, Tokyo (9).

In addition to the low turnout both for people and entries, many AdFest delegates said the quality of the work was disappointing this year.

AdFest has been "really quiet compared to last year," said Yang Yeo, chief creative officer at JWT, Shanghai. "I haven't seen anything and thought, 'Wow, that's fantastic.'"

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