AdFest judges unimpressed by Chinese entries

And other news in Greater China

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PATTAYA, Thailand--Although Chinese agencies had their strongest performance so far at this year’s Asia Pacific Advertising Festival, or “AdFest,” the country still lags far behind Japan, Singapore and even less-developed economies like Thailand and India.

Judges handed out 182 Lotus awards across eight categories last week in Pattaya, a resort town south of Bangkok, but only 11 went to agencies based in China and Hong Kong, and none of those were a coveted gold or best in show prize. Bangkok was the most awarded city overall, winning 50 awards, followed by Singapore (38) and Mumbai (24), but agencies from Tokyo walked away with the best of show award in five categories--TV, TV craft, radio, cyber and innovation.

Now 10 years old, AdFest is building a global reputation as the "Cannes of Asia," a reference to the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival held in the south of France each year. AdFest has become a benchmark for comparing the performance of different markets as well as agencies. This year’s four-day event attracted over 1,600 delegates, with 5,012 entries submitted by more than 500 agencies in 49 Asian cities.

The most-awarded network in Greater China was Ogilvy & Mather, which won four Lotus awards across three offices. Ogilvy, Beijing picked up a silver in the cyber category for a Motorola campaign featuring Jay Chou. Ogilvy, Shanghai won a bronze in TV and a silver in print for Coca-Cola brands and the agency's Asia/Pacific team in Hong Kong won a bronze for a Coke print ad.

JWT, Shanghai picked up a silver and a bronze award in the outdoor category for the environmental activist group Greenpeace and the Diamond Trading Co., the sales and marketing arm of the De Beers Group, respectively. The WPP Group agency’s Hong Kong office took home a bronze in the TV category for a Nike spot about football, called “Baby.”

Also in Hong Kong, Grey Global Group won two bronzes in the print category for EverSoft facial cleansing foam and Kiwicare ant spray, while McCann Erickson picked up a bronze in TV for Cathay Pacific Airways’ 60th anniversary campaign.

Wieden + Kennedy, Shanghai won a bronze for a Nike campaign in 360, one of three new categories introduced at AdFest this year, along with radio and innovation. The Nike campaign featured true stories of Chinese youths sharing their passion for sports and self-expression through short films, TV, print, outdoor and digital media. No awards went to agencies in Taiwan, although Ogilvy & Mather, Taipei was a finalist in the TV category.

Even though China is one of the largest and fast-growing ad markets in the world, “it doesn’t necessarily mean that Chinese, or Asian advertising, will be the world’s best. Japan has some of the most powerful brands in the world, and the second-largest advertising market in the world, and yet the best Honda and Sony television ads are created in the west, not in Japan,” said Tham Khai Meng, Ogilvy’s regional creative director & co-chairman, Asia/Pacific in Singapore. “Asian advertisers ironically are publicity-shy. That’s the conundrum. The result? Their work doesn’t stand out on the global stage."

But the market is gaining a reputation for innovation, creating a lively mood at AdFest this year. Asia "is the place to be both economically and intellectually, this is where growth is coming from,” said John Hunt, worldwide creative director of TBWA Worldwide in Johannesburg and chairman of the film jury.

"I think China is throwing out an exciting challenge to our industry," said Kel Hook, managing director of Wieden + Kennedy in Shanghai. Filled with fickle consumers attached to new technology, the market "is demanding we embrace change, to be hungry for innovation, to seek a new way for us to create provocative, compelling communications that connect with people on a much deeper level.”

Despite Japan's strength in the TV category, creative work from Singapore and Bangkok continued to outperform the region in the print and outdoor categories. Leo Burnett Worldwide's Bangkok office won the best of show print award for a Clima Bicycle Lock ad, while BBDO Worldwide, Singapore, took the top outdoor award for a Wrangler poster.

Apart from a few standout ads, “the print work this year looks the same to me,” said David Droga, creative chairman of his own agency, droga5 in New York, and jury chairman for both the 360 and Innovation categories. “I wasn’t impressed much by the work from Hong Kong this year, which seems to be going downhill, but China is becoming more competitive.”

Reflecting the immense popularity of mobile phones in Asia, where young consumers use them more as cameras, instant messaging devices and music players than as mere telephones, AdFest turned to mobiles for a unique contest in its Young Lotus Workshop, which became one of the highlights of this year's AdFest.

“Asia is ahead of the U.S. when it comes to the adoption of new media like the internet and mobile phones,” both by consumers and marketers, said Benjamin Palmer, CEO and chief creative officer of The Barbarian Group in Boston and chairman of the cyber jury.

In the workshop, moderated this year by BBDO, 28 young creatives from 14 countries were given 24 hours to complete a 60” commercial entitled, “You can do good things in Pattaya,” a topic assigned by the mayor of the town. Pattaya is known throughout Asia as a seedy spot catering to sex tourism, an image local leaders would like to change.

The ads, many of which delighted delegates and were shown on continuous loop in the exhibition hall, were filmed with the video camera in a Nokia N931 mobile phone and then edited on laptop computers, “an exercise that shows how fast digital media is advancing and advertising skills are changing,” said Suthisak Sucharittanonta, chairman-chief creative officer, BBDO, Bangkok. The videos can be viewed online at enterthelotus-tv.blogspot.com.

“We wanted to give Young Lotus the chance to make consumer-generated content and at the same time, make a real-time film of how they achieved it,” added David Guerrero, chairman-chief creative officer of BBDO Guerrero/Ortega in Manila.

The project was filmed and will be edited into a 30-minute TV program that will be broadcast around Asia on TV stations as well as on MTV's Asian feeds. The competition was won by Team Tokyo, with Team Beijing in second place.


Coke appoints 21 to oversee mobile marketing activities in China
SHANGHAI--Coca-Cola Co. has consolidated its mobile marketing business in China with 21 Communications in Shanghai. The mobile marketing agency will oversee the Atlanta-based beverage giant’s business with mobile operators, application providers and content providers in China and will develop new mobile-based promotions for the mainland, including mobile video, m-coupons and other branded content.

Coke has worked with several mobileagencies in China to execute tactical programs, "but this is is the first time they are appointing a master mobile agency to oversee the full mobile value chain," said David Turchetti, 21’s CEO in Shanghai. The agency's appointment resulted from past work with Coke "on one major mobile program over the past six months. Our collaboration on that first project gradually expanded and culminated" in an agency agreement.

21 staff will not be integrated into Red Lounge, Coca-Cola''s in-house marketing unit in Shanghai that was established last fall to handle marketing for the Coke brand, particularly campaigns related to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, of which Coke is a global sponsor. Red Lounge includes members of Coke's marketing department as well as executives from agency partners such as Publicis Groupe's Leo Burnett and Starcom divisions, Aegis Group's interactive division in China, Wwwins, and Heartland, an independent outdoor media company. But 21 will support their mobile programs.

The number of mobile phone subscribers is expected to reach 560 million by the start of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, according to China’s Ministry of Information Industry. Already home to the world’s largest mobile population, China is expected to see the launch of 3G services later this year, which will further expand the market.


DDB wins Lipton and McDonald's but laid off 15 staff in Hong Kong
HONG KONG--Unilever has consolidated the creative for its Lipton Tea products globally with DDB Worldwide. The Omnicom Group will now handle all products within the Lipton Tea brand portfolio globally.

Although the worldwide account is based in New York, Asia, particularly China, has become a major market for Lipton and “the biggest challenges and growth opportunities are in Asia,” said John Zeigler, DDB’s Melbourne-based president-CEO, Asia/Pacific, so work from Hong Kong, the regional base for the Lipton account in Asia, “may run worldwide. We have already done work for Lipton out of Thailand that has run in international markets and our agencies throughout Asia will develop work for Lipton that’s relevant for Asia and other worldwide markets.”

The Anglo-Dutch marketer has also named DDB’s Tribal DDB as its first, global digital agency of record for the beverage brand. DDB has expanded the Australian-based digital agency into the rest of Asia, led out of Hong Kong for the region. The digital agency was also appointed by McDonald’s Corp. recently to handle its interactive marketing in China.

With the rise of DDB’s below-the-line operations in Asia--Tribal DDB and Rapp Collins, a direct marketing agency--and a shift in focus towards one-to-one marketing in the region, namely in China, Mr. Zeigler has initiated some senior staff changes in North Asia. In particular, DDB laid off 15 staff in its Hong Kong office this week. Many worked in administration positions, but the casualties included longtime DDB executive Richard Leong, head of business at DDB, Hong Kong.

“We’re making a lot of changes internally to reflect the focus of the agency,” he said. “It’s a strategic response to changes taking place in Asia,” where digital media and mobile phones are gaining popularity over traditional media campaigns as a means of reaching consumers.

Hong Kong-based Tim Evill has moved into a oversight role, managing director of global accounts in Asia from CEO of DDB, Hong Kong. The agency also appointed Richard Thomas as president & CEO of DDB Group in Hong Kong, in charge of DDB, Tribal DDB and Rapp Collins. Previously, Mr. Thomas was managing director of David, part of the Ogilvy Group, in Singapore. It also moved Donald Ma to China as managing director of DDB Guoan Communications in Beijing, DDB's joint venture with Citic Group in China, from general manager, Hong Kong.


Star Group launches Indian channels in Hong Kong
HONG KONG--News Corp.’s Star Group has launched Star One and Vijay, two of its Indian entertainment channels, on Now TV, PCCW’s broadband TV service in Hong Kong, home to a large South Asian community. Star One airs Hindi entertainment programs, while Vijay is a Tamil general entertainment channel. Star already broadcasts three Indian channels on Now TV, Star Plus, Star News and Channel [V] India.

Now TV has also launched a video-on-demand service for the National Geographic Channel this week, the third market in Asia to have the U.S.-based media company's service following Japan and Taiwan. It is open to subscription by all National Geographic mega-pack subscribers of now TV, at an additional price of $1.95 per month. The service features an interactive menu and functions, allowing viewers to "Play" or "Pause," "Fast forward" or "Play Back," and "Stop," giving full control of the way they consume National Geographic Channel's content.
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