Cannes 2012

Google Wins Inaugural Mobile Grand Prix

'Hilltop Reimagined' -- Essentially a B-to-B Campaign --Triumphs Over Toyota

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A mobile-display ad from none other than one of world's biggest mobile-ad sellers, Google, won the first Mobile Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions ad festival today.

In what's essentially business-to-business marketing, Google's winning campaign "Hilltop Reimagined for Coca-Cola" was designed to show adland that online and mobile display advertising iren't as low-rent or constraining as is often thought. For the campaign, Google enlisted creative teams from Grow Interactive and Johannes Leonardo New York to take classic ads from top marketers and reinterpret them using today's digital tools.

"Advertising people are just as viable an audience as anybody else," said jury chair Tom Eslinger.

Google has increasingly become a consumer marketer and big winner at awards shows. The win is a coup for a marketer that 's looking to scale its mobile ads business and convince marketers and agencies to spend more media dollars in mobile after completing a $750 million acquisition of mobile ad network Admob two years ago

WHAT IT IS:

The winner is a digital reinterpretation of Coca-Cola's 40-year-old iconic commercial "Hilltop," which finds a multiracial troop singing "I want to buy the world a Coke." The result took the form of Admob rich-media banner ads running within apps that let viewers literally buy a stranger a Coke by pinging a vending machine. Entirely through the mobile ad, users can pick a city to send the Coke to, append a message and press a button that dispenses a drink at one of the specially designed vending machines in a handful of cities. While Google commissioned the project, Coca-Cola signed off on the campaign.

The Coke ad is part of a wider effort, entitled Project Re: Brief, that also reimagined iconic campaigns from Avis rental cars, Alka-Seltzer and Volvo. Google produced a documentary chronicling the experiment and has screened it in Cannes.

WHY IT WON:

In Google's quest to show the ad community than there's more to display advertising than previously thought, the internet giant appears to have succeeded with the Coke ads. The jury lauded the campaign for both emotional impact and for illustrating just what's possible in the medium.

"Project Re: Brief sticks out because it basically able to show how to use all the different display ads in creative ways," Mr. Eslinger said.

CONTROVERSY OR CLEAR WINNER?

It was an extremely close call—the jury did a tie-breaker vote with gold winner "Backseat Driver" for Toyota from Party Tokyo, but Google ultimately won out. The Toyota campaign is a mobile game to entertain children in the back seat while their parents are driving. The app links to the car's location and creates a driving game based on the actual roads they're on to somewhat mirror what mom or dad is doing in the driver's seat.

"Where does the product and the marketing begin and end?" said Mr. Eslinger. "For a lot of things, advertising is the actual product."

THE JURY:

Mobile's was an especially vocal 12-person jury effusive over a medium that 's gotten lots of buzz but relatively few ad dollars. The jury celebrated the 54 campaigns awarded for representing the full range of mobile media. "The majority of mobile media are represented in the winners, even campaigns using simple SMS as sending a text for donations," said Laura Marriott, CEO-chairperson for NeoMedia Technologies.

They also took their role in setting the course for the future of mobile advertising seriously. "When something wins at Cannes, it becomes the case study for other agencies to sell ideas," Mr. Eslinger said. "This stuff affects our industry and our business."

THEIR ADVICE FOR FUTURE MOBILE ENTRANTS:

In its first year, the mobile category saw nearly 1,000 entries, but the jurors pleaded that next year the Lions festival both provide better descriptions explaining entry categories and the entrants themselves be more mindful of the categories they ultimately enter. "Entrants need to be more thoughtful on where they enter," said U.S. juror Geoffrey Handley, co-founder of The Hyperfactory. "There were some cases of really great work in the wrong category. It's not our job to put it in the right spot. People hopefully will get it right next year and be more thoughtful."

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