China's determination to improve its creative standing in advertising paid off on Wednesday with the country's first Grand Prix, a press ad called "Heaven and Hell" for Samsonite luggage by JWT Shanghai, just three years after mainland China won its first Gold Lion.
So far this has been a remarkable week at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity for emerging markets that are not usually big medal winners. Romania won its first and second Grand Prix trophies, in the direct and promo categories, thanks to McCann Erickson Bucharest, and Cheil Worldwide is taking home the first Grand Prix for Korea -- and Cheil. (After being shut out of the top prize in the first seven contests of the week, the U.S. today swept all three Grand Prix in the Cyber Lions competition, traditionally a strong category for the U.S., and picked up the design Grand Prix, too.)
China has been a quick learner, winning its first Gold Lion in 2008, for an Adidas campaign by TBWA Worldwide, Shanghai. The only other Gold won by an agency in mainland China before this year was a Design Gold in 2010 for DDB Shanghai (Hong Kong agencies have won Gold Lions before, including a press Gold Lion today for a Greenpeace campaign by Leo Burnett Hong Kong and a Gold Lion in 2010 for Grey Hong Kong).
"It's a huge leap forward for China in the festival," said Tony Granger, jury president and chief creative officer of Y&R.
What it is : In intricate detail, the top half of the ad depicts heaven, where passengers on an airplane relax in cool, white comfort. The bottom half is hell, or the baggage compartment, full of tormented souls and several sleek, sturdy Samsonite suitcases that can withstand even the inferno. Any traveler whose bag has ever been abused by an airline would be touched by this ad. "It's a great little demonstration of endurance and quality," said Sergio Alcocer, president and chief creative officer of LatinWorks and a U.S. judge. "Heaven and Hell" also won a Gold in the Outdoor category yesterday.
Why it won: The jury was looking for a "simple, concise, beautiful idea," Mr. Granger said. "This is an exceptionally beautiful piece of work. It stood out from the beginning. The easiest part of our decision making was the Grand Prix. It took 10 minutes."
The jury: Led by Mr. Granger, the jury included a judge from China, Nick Cohn, the executive creative director of Wieden & Kennedy, Shanghai. With the press judging over, Mr. Granger can focus on the other jury he chairs, for the film category.
Controversy or clear winner? Mr. Granger said the Grand Prix choice was made in two quick rounds of voting. In the first one, each judge wrote down his favorite ad on a little piece of paper. Only one ad besides "Heaven and Hell" garnered a few votes, but those judges but came around in the second ballot.
Total number of Lions awarded: Ninety-nine, out of 5,415 entries. One Grand Prix, 10 Gold, 36 Silver and 52 Bronze Lions.
Who else did well: If China hadn't won, the jury's second-favorite ad was from another emerging market, the Middle East. The print campaign by Y&R Dubai in the United Arab Emirates showcased fashionable department store Harvey Nichol's fall/winter collection. Each ad showed an image of a fashion item -- like a pair of leopard-print stiletto heels -- followed by the words "People who bought this item also bought" and a picture of another object like, in the case of the heels, altitude sickness pills.
Mr. Granger said the most-awarded country was Brazil, with 20 press Lions, followed by Argentina, Germany and, tied for fourth place, Finland and Spain.
Who didn't do well: The U.S. picked up only Bronze Lions in press this year, for four agencies: Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore.; BBDO, New York; Y&R, New York; and U.S. Hispanic agency LatinWorks, Austin, Texas.
What they didn't like: The stereotypical print ad consisting of a visual and a tiny little logo in the bottom right-hand corner.
What's ahead: Digital and print are merging. This year, a lot of entries featured QR, or quick-response, codes to download and see a message on a smartphone. "It's just starting," Mr. Granger said. "I think next year you're going to see a huge merging of media, as iTouch technology takes over."