The world has recognized Asia's emergence as an engine for advertising growth, but it may not have registered another equally compelling phenomenon: Asia's capacity to upstage the rest of us in media innovation.
I spent last week in Singapore as president of the media jury at Spikes Asia, the region's top awards show, produced by the organizers of Cannes. I was struck by many of the entries' strategic thinking and bold executions. No longer are they playing catch-up.
Asia proves newspapers can be innovative too
While the use of technology from augmented reality to mobile is widespread in the region, the Spikes Asia jury also saw some really nice uses of traditional media such as newspapers.
A campaign to promote a tablet computer in China, for example, stood out for the way it tried to expand the product's market by going after an older, tech-resistant group of government officials and businesspeople. Knowing that this consumer prefers writing by hand over using a PC, the effort touted a handwriting app -- by persuading a major business newspaper to print an entire news page in manually handwritten Chinese characters instead of printed type.
Purchase intent increased to 93%, while sales of units improved by 23%.
Experiential media to sell packaged goods
Procter & Gamble's agencies handling the laundry detergent brand Ariel in the Philippines decked out a chain of Laundromats and dry cleaners as fashion boutiques to promote the idea that "Ariel can make old clothes look like new."
They produced chic designer window displays with mannequins wearing laundered clothes that looked brand new. Inside the re-furbished laundries contained clothes racks displaying washed outfits and changing rooms to try on freshly cleaned clothes. And consumers could carry away their laundry and dry cleaning in large branded store bags. This campaign cleaned up, helping to increase sales of the brand by 16%.
A 3-D campaign across multiple media
The side streets of Mumbai don't always suggest high-tech media campaigns around the corner, but India delivered a 3-D media campaign for the new Audi A8L with legs in multiple platforms.
The campaign, meant to showcase the new model's design and interior, began by sending direct-marketing prospects a pack containing luxury designer 3-D glasses and an accompanying 3-D print brochure. Recipients were invited to view a microsite that played interactive 3-D video.
Other venues for its 3-D creative materials included TV (bundling a 3-D film with new 3-D TV sets being purchased), tablets (as iPad, iPhone and Android apps), Imax film screenings and 3-D displays at car dealerships.
More than 50,000 people joined "Win-an-Audi 3D Starter Kit" contests on Facebook and the campaign achieved half of its annual sales target in the first month of the launch.
Clever social media marketing that grabbed headlines and saved lives
One of my favorite social media campaigns I've seen in a while was created in Australia, an effort to reduce speeding for the Transport Accident Commission. The campaign got the residents of a small town named "Speed" to agree to change its name to "Speed Kills" if it got 10,000 "likes" on Facebook. The campaign got that many within a day of launching, becoming a national media event that got $6 million of media exposure and some 10 million hits on Twitter.
The following month, admittedly, Morgan Spurlock tried a similar concept in the U.S., paying Altoona, Pa., to temporarily rename itself with the title of Mr. Spurlock's new documentary, "POM Wonderful Presents The Greatest Movie Ever Sold."
But the ability to tell a brand story with fresh thought and inventive executions in media is clearly in abundant supply in the Asia Pacific region. You can view all shortlisted entries at Spikes Asia here.