CANNES (AdAge.com) -- In Japan's insanely competitive retail environment, one of the world's most familiar confectionery products, Nestle's Kit Kat, found an unlikely new distribution channel, earning it and its agency, JWT Japan, the Media Grand Prix today at the 56th Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival.
JWT was struck by the Japanese translation of Kit Kat -- Kitto Katso means "surely win" -- and the tradition of sending students good luck wishes before they take tough higher-education entrance exams. So Nestle partnered with Japan's postal service to create "Kit Kat Mail," a postcard-like product sold only at the post office that could be mailed to students as an edible good-luck charm.
"It was a brilliant idea, flawless execution and amazing results," said Nick Brien, president-CEO of Mediabrands Worldwide and president of the media jury. "They created a business model that didn't exist before."
In innovation piled on innovation, Kit Kat Mail was available in 20,000 Japan Post outlets, creating a new, competition-free retail channel where the product was heavily promoted in a place where there were no rival products. It was also the first time Japan Post ever partnered with a private company.
Mr. Brien said Kit Kat Mail garnered $11 million worth of free publicity, and Nestle is keeping it as a permanent product. "Exams are over but people still send it to wish good luck on any occasion."
This year's revamped Media Lions graded heavily on effectiveness, and the jury tossed out terrific ideas they loved that didn't rigorously address execution and proof of results. "The focus was solutions that worked," he said. Even so, there were still a hefty number of Media Lions, 20 golds, 29 silvers and 69 bronzes, up from a total of 55 last year.
This week different juries are picking the same ads as Grand Prix contenders. The other closest candidate for the Media Grand Prix was a heartfelt effort to raise awareness of the forced-into-exile newspaper The Zimbabwean by putting a message about its plight on Zimbabwe's worthless trillion dollar bills and using the currency as a giant poster and a brochure and other media. The outdoor portion of the campaign, by TBWA Hunt Lascaris, Johannesburg, won the Outdoor Grand Prix. In the end, The Zimababwean won gold but didn't muster enough votes to win the Media Grand Prix, because the idea of turning money into media had been used before and so was not entirely original, Mr. Brien said.
Another jury favorite, "The Best Job in the World" for Tourism Queensland, reappeared as a gold winner in media after picking up two Grand Prix yesterday, in the Lions Direct and the new PR Lions competitions. The integrated campaign by CumminsNitro, Brisbane, to promote tourism to Australia under the guise of recruiting for a dream job as a lighthouse keeper, was a contender for the media Grand Prix, too.
Lexus' innovative magazine work
In all, the U.S. won four Gold Media Lions, including Crispin Porter & Bogusky's notorious "Whopper Sacrifice" promotion for Burger King that offered each Facebook user who deleted 10 friends a free Whopper, and a campaign called "Reinventing the Magazine" for Lexus USA by Team One, El Segundo, Calif., that judges said belied frequent talk about the demise of print media. Lexus partnered with Time Inc. to customize a magazine for readers based on information they provided about themselves and multiple databases. Content was drawn from eight different Time Inc. magazines and Lexus ads were tailored to the individual reader in a series of five on-demand issues of "Mine" delivered to consumers in the print or digital form they chose.
"It was brilliant how they were able to bring that level of customization when there's talk about the death of magazines," said Monica Gadsby, CEO of SMG Multicultural and a Media Lions judge. "Consumers' names are even embedded in the ads."
The other two U.S. Gold Media Lion winners were DDB West, San Francisco, for Clorox Co.'s Green Works Natural Cleaner and a Walmart sustainability campaign by Mediavest USA, New York.
Mr. Brien succeeded in raising the bar on requiring proof of effectiveness for this year's Media Lion winners, but is still working on a different challenge: getting more media agencies to enter the Media Lions. About two-thirds of the 20 Gold winners and the Grand Prix were entered by creative agencies such as Crispin and JWT, and only one-third by media agencies, a proportion he said was representative of the 1,840 entries this year.