Held every March in Pattaya, Thailand, the festival draws the top work from the ad industry in Asia. This year, juries in several categories heaped 14 awards on "Shan Shui," a film, print and outdoor campaign for the China Environmental Protection Foundation (CEPF) that is expected to perform well at other international shows such as the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival in June.
Created by JWT, Shanghai, the campaign communicates to Chinese that the landscape of their country is "Nice from afar, but far from nice." (In Mandarin, the character shan means mountain and shui means water. Together, they mean landscape.)
The ads feature the work of a well-known Shanghainese artist, Yong Liang Yang, and look a lot like traditional Chinese art at first glance. If viewed from a distance, the print ad, for example, appears to be a beautiful, traditional Chinese landscape painting.
But closer examination reveals the mountains are actually factory buildings and the streams are congested highways filled with cars. The TV spot uses the same style of artistic execution.
Last week at AdFest, the campaign won five Gold Lotus awards, five Silver awards, two Bronze awards in the outdoor, poster, print craft, film and film craft categories, as well as two Lotus Roots awards, a new AdFest category recognizing campaigns that utilize Asian culture in advertising.
"It's a beautifully executed campaign and was very popular with the judges," said Farrokh Madon, exec creative director of McCann Erickson, Singapore and a member of the press and poster jury at AdFest 2009. "It's new, fresh and beautiful and I'm sure it will go down very well with western audiences, because it plays on Asian art and is stunningly art directed and executed. It will do well [at Cannes]."
Based on the success of the campaign at AdFest, JWT, Shanghai was named Agency of the Year and CEPF won the Advertiser of the Year award.
Conservation ads are warning to Chinese
The campaign acts as a warning, said Yang Yeo, JWT's Shanghai-based chief creative officer for China. If people don't take action to reduce environmental pollution, China's beautiful landscapes "disappear."
The message is getting through. Like their counterparts in the West, Chinese are becoming more environmentally conscious, and just in time. China's rapid industrialization over the past 25 years has resulted in major environmental problems, including 16 of the world's 20 most-polluted cities, according to the World Bank.
Air pollution is a serious issue in two-thirds of China's 338 largest cities, according to government statistics, and causes diseases that kill an estimated 656,000 Chinese a year, says the World Health Organization.
Almost all the nation's rivers are polluted, and 90% of underground water in cities is affected. Half the estimated 1.3 billion population lacks access to clean drinking water.
CEPF backed the "Shan Shui" campaign to raise awareness about the catastrophic impact humans can have on the environment and implore the local population to stop polluting the country's natural landscape.
Ads broke at the end of 2008, and will run through the end of this year, mainly on outdoor posters and LCD screens in Shanghai's subway system. The film version, for example, ran along an entire wall of plasma screens in the city's People Square station, one of the busiest subway stops in Asia.
The campaign was rolled out as part of Zhi Lang, a public service through creativity program initiated by the stock photo company Getty Images and the outdoor media firm, JCDecaux, as an ongoing exercise. Over the past year, an estimated 10 million RMB ($1.5 million) worth of media space in Shanghai's subway system was donated for various public causes. Full-page ads also ran in local media such as the Shanghai Morning Post, Shanghai Times, and Shanghai Style.
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