Dull Adfest an Indicator of Disappointing Cannes for Asia?

Attendees Say Work Will Not Make It in Major Festivals

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PATTAYA, Thailand (AdAge.com) -- If last week's lackluster AdFest -- the regional ad show that is building a global reputation as Asia's Cannes festival -- is a harbinger, there won't be big winners from Asia at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival this year.
The 11-year-old AdFest has become the benchmark for comparing the creative performances of Asian countries.
The 11-year-old AdFest has become the benchmark for comparing the creative performances of Asian countries.

"I don't think any of the work will win a gold at any major global award shows," said Tony Davidson, executive creative director, Wieden & Kennedy in London, who led the TV jury this year at AdFest. His opinion was echoed by many at the festival. No Best of Show awards were given in two major categories: TV and outdoor media.

"I was not impressed by the TV and print work and I have never seen as many scam ads as I've seen here," Mr. Davidson said, referring to the practice of entering ads that are often very creative but haven't been approved by a client or run in paid media. "[Asia's creative industry] needs to sort that out. It makes us look stupid."

Asian benchmark
Now 11 years old, AdFest is held in Pattaya, a sunny but seedy seaside resort south of Bangkok, and has become a benchmark for comparing the creative performance of different Asian countries. This year AdFest attracted 1,592 delegates from March 26-29, down slightly from last year, and 5,148 entries. Entries were up slightly due partly to several new categories, but fell sharply in the biggest categories. TV entries dropped to 761 from 895 last year, outdoor was down to 495 from 1,392 and press entries fell to 1,205 from 1,453.
Tony Davidson, executive creative director, Wieden & Kennedy, London, and head jurist, was not impressed by the TV and print work he saw.
Tony Davidson, executive creative director, Wieden & Kennedy, London, and head jurist, was not impressed by the TV and print work he saw.

"Growth has been static, with fewer delegates than last year," said AdFest Chairman Vinit Suraphongchai. "I think it's because of the U.S. recession and the low dollar. It's harder for agencies to spend money on travel and entry fees."

Bangkok and Tokyo agencies took home most of the metal, but Thailand had fewer winners than usual. In recent years, most of the buzz has surrounded Thai work, such as a series of spots for Smooth E White Babyface Scrub by Jeh United, an independent agency in Bangkok; Ford's "King Kong" TV spot by JWT, Bangkok; and the spots starring worms for Uni-President's Unif green tea by BBDO, Bangkok. The Thai winners usually go on to do well at Cannes.

"The coup in September 2006 [in which the Thai government was overthrown] had an immediate effect on the quality of creative in Thailand," said John Merrifield, Singapore-based creative-at-large for Asia at TBWA Worldwide. "Thailand has dominated AdFest in past years but advertising is a reflection of what's happening in society. Japan will probably overtake Thailand [as a creative advertising market]."

Japanese domination
Japanese agencies dominated many of the awards this year. Out of 761 TV entries, the only two Gold prizes went to Tokyo agencies: ADK for its Maxell DVD "Forever and ever" campaign and Dentsu for Japanese recruiting site Rikunavi's "Ms. Yuko Yumada Looks for Her First Job."

One of Asia's most tech-savvy markets, Japan swept the cyber category. GT in Tokyo won the Best of Cyber award and a Gold Lotus for Sony Walkman's "Rec You" in the integrated cyber campaign category. The other two Gold awards were picked up by 777interactive in Tokyo for Sony Bravia's "Color Tokyo!" consumer web campaign, and Hakuhodo, Tokyo, for Tyrant Habanero's online game "The Desperate Entry Exam."
Japanese recruiting site Rikunavi's 'Ms. Yuko Yumada Looks for Her First Job' won a gold prize.
Japanese recruiting site Rikunavi's 'Ms. Yuko Yumada Looks for Her First Job' won a gold prize.

"But the mobile entries were less advanced than I expected," said Tom Eslinger, Saatchi & Saatchi's London-based worldwide creative director, interactive, and head of the Cyber jury. "Agencies are using things like QR [quick response] codes but not in ways I haven't seen before."

The Best of Press and two Golds went to JWT, Kuala Lumpur, for an "Oil" print ad for Scott Kitchen Towels. In the poster category, the "Pet Adoption" campaign for the Thai SPCA by Saatchi & Saatchi, Singapore, won Best of Show and two Golds. The agency won two more Gold awards for its work on the Wonderbra 3D effort.
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