Where was China at Adfest?

Adidas agency TBWA took home metal, but little other work from China impressed juries

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PATTAYA, Thailand--China was overshadowed by Thailand, Japan, Singapore and India yet again this year at the Asia Pacific Advertising Festival, or AdFest, in Pattaya, Thailand.

The annual event, which is building a global reputation as Asia's Cannes festival, has become a benchmark for comparing the performance of different markets as well as agencies. Agencies and production houses in China and Hong Kong took home 22 Lotus awards (not including finalist mentions) this year, compared to just 13 in 2007, their best collective performance at AdFest so far. Agencies in Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and Guanghzou submitted 620 entries in total.

But their haul included very few Silver and Gold prizes and over a third of the total rewarded a single campaign, Olympic ads for Adidas by TBWA Worldwide, Shanghai. That campaign earned eight awards in the press, poster and print craft categories, more than any other single brand. As the best-performing marketer across all categories, Adidas was named Advertiser of the Year at the gala dinner closing the four-day event on Saturday, March 29.

Ogilvy & Mather picked up awards for marketers such as South China Morning Post, WWF, and and the Shanghai Max Bright Industry Co., which produces electron products like electric bicycles. Bates Asia took home prizes for Mio Technology Corp., which produces GPS technology products, and Zeal Automobile car dealership.

AdFest juries weren't dazzled by China but that's going to change, said Carol Lam, who recently joined TBWA in Shanghai as exec creative director after several years at McCann Erickson, Hong Kong. "China is a big pond with a lot of unmarked territory, and a lot of money is coming into the market."

"I wish we had the opportunities in North America that exist right now in big Asian markets like China and India," said Alex Burnard, associate creative director at Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Miami, who spoke at AdFest.

This year’s lackluster festival demonstrated that 2007 wasn’t a strong year for Asian advertising overall, so there probably won't be big winners from Asia at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival this year.

“It was not a vintage year. I was not impressed by the TV and print work and I have never seen as many scam ads as I’ve seen here. [Asia’s creative industry] needs to sort that out. It makes us look stupid,” said Tony Davidson, exec creative director, Wieden + Kennedy in London.

“I don’t think any of the work will win a gold at any major global award shows,” he said, an opinion echoed by many at the festival. No Best of Show award was given in two major categories, TV and outdoor media.

While the criticism didn’t leave delegates at this year’s festival feeling elated, it did support AdFest’s “reinvent” theme.

“We’re batting below our weight,” said John Merrifield, Singapore-based creative-at-large for Asia at TBWA. The agency is widely recognized as one of the region’s strongest creative agencies after doing innovative campaigns for marketers like Adidas, such as races up the sides of office buildings in Hong Kong and Osaka. “We need to rededicate ourselves. TBWA had a few good years and patted ourself on the back. But standing still is really moving backwards.”

Held annually in Pattaya, a sunny but seedy seaside resort south of Bangkok, AdFest attracted 1,592 delegates from 77 cities this year, down slightly from last year, and 5,148 entries. Although entries were up this year from 5,012 in 2007 thanks to new categories--New Director, Poster and Design--entries fell for major media. The TV category was down to 761 this year from 895 in 2007, Press fell to 1,205 from 1,453, and Outdoor dropped to 495 from 1,392. The number of Cyber entries, however, rose to 449 from 304, a sign of the growing importance of digital media in Asian markets.

“Growth has been static, with fewer delegates than last year,” said AdFest Chairman Vinit Suraphongchai. “I think it’s because of the U.S. recession and the low dollar. It’s harder for agencies to spend money on travel and entry fees.”

The drop in delegates could also be explained by poor timing. AdFest was held March 26-29, overlapping with the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens, a tournament that draws rugby fans from all over the world.

The most awarded agencies were Saatchi & Saatchi, Singapore, which picked up 21 trophies, JWT, Singapore with 14 awards and Dentsu, Tokyo, with 13. By city, Bangkok agencies won the most prizes with 50 awards, followed by Singapore's 47. Tokyo ranked third with 43 awards, although Japanese agencies won the only two Gold awards handed out in the TV category, and swept the cyber category.

(To see photos, video interviews and further information about AdFest winners, click here.)

AdFest winners from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan
(Brand; title; company; city; award)

TV Lotus

Best of Household Products and Maintenance
Kleenex; Young Couple; JWT; Hong Kong; BRONZE
Kleenex; Old couple; JWT; Hong Kong; SILVER

Press Lotus
Best of Sports
Adidas; Olympic Launch-Hu Jia; TBWA; Shanghai; SILVER
Adidas; Olympic Launch-Sui Fei Fei; TBWA; Shanghai; SILVER
Adidas; Olympic Launch-Hu Jia/Sui Fei Fei/Zheng Zhi; TBWA; Shanghai; SILVER

Best of Cars
Mercedes-Benz; The Restless Soul-Oil Painting; Ogilvy & Mather; Taipei; BRONZE
Zeal Automobile; Alice Wonderland/Gullivers; Bates Asia; Shanghai; BRONZE

Best of Electronics
Mio GPS; Road; Bates Asia; Shanghai; BRONZE

Best of Household, Business Appliances, Furnishing & Accessories
Max Bright; Zombie/Vamprie/Ghoul; Ogilvy & Mather; Shanghai; BRONZE

Poster Lotus
Best of Sports
Adidas; Olympic Launch-Zheng Zhi; TBWA; Shanghai; BRONZE
Adidas; Olympic Launch-Sui Fei Fei; TBWA; Shanghai; SILVER
Adidas; Olympic Launch-Hu Jia/Sui Fei Fei/Zheng Zhi; TBWA; Shanghai; SILVER
Adidas; Olympic Launch-Hu Jia; TBWA; Shanghai; GOLD

Best of Cars
Mercedes-Benz; The Restless Soul-Oil; Ogilvy & Mather; Taipei; BRONZE

Best of Entertainment, Recreation and Leisure
The Hong Kong Jockey Club Mark Six; Numbers Add Up; Ogilvy & Mather; Hong Kong; BRONZE

Best of Social Engagements
WWF; Turtle; Ogilvy & Mather; Beijing; BRONZE
WWF; Elephant; Ogilvy & Mather; Beijing; SILVER
WWF; Tiger/Elephant/Turtle; Ogilvy & Mather; Beijing; SILVER

Outdoor Lotus
Street Furniture
Donation Scheme; Ribbon; DDB Worldwide; Hong Kong; BRONZE

External/Street Signs External/Street Signs
WWF; Target Practice; Ogilvy & Mather; Beijing; SILVER

Ambient/Guerilla/Live Theatre
Unicef; Bus Stop Staircase; Ogilvy & Mather; Shanghai; BRONZE

Cyber Lotus
Viral Marketing
South China Morning Post; 2 Billion Readers Campaign; OgilvyOne; Hong Kong; SILVER

Print Craft Lotus
Best Use of Illustration
Adidas; Olympic Launch-Hu; TBWA; Shanghai; SILVER

New Director Lotus
On-Air Spot
IFVA; Birth; Wowwowtank; Hong Kong; BRONZE

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