Judges awarded authenticity and realism—from brands as diverse as Toyota and Kleenex-- at the Association of National Advertisers' Multicultural Excellence Awards.
"Given the rise of digital and social media—people are getting their information more quickly—authenticity has become more important," said Manny Gonzalez, senior director-multicultural at
Moet Hennessy USA and one of this year's judges. "Judges gravitated toward the realism."
The Best in Show award went to the winner of the "People With Disabilities" category, for the "Timely Care" campaign for Kimberly-Clark's Kleenex by Chicago agency VSA Partners. One spot, called "Unlikely Best Friends," was about a spirited dog that had lost the use of its hind legs and is adopted and bonds with an equally positive man in a wheelchair, in a story he and his Kleenex-clutching wife narrate.
Samuel Monnie, director, marketing capability at the Campbell Soup Co. and also an ANA judge, said he liked the way the brand lets consumers tell their story, and that the man and his dog "weren't at all limited. They were energetic and outgoing. It was so motivating."
In another spot, a boy consoles with kind words and a tissue a girl on the bus who appears to have been bullied.
"These are everyday moments," Mr. Monnie said. "You can just be kind and human and show a gesture of empathy, and Kleenex helps you with that. When you don't know what to say, it's something you can do."
The awards were given out at the ANA's Multicultural Marketing & Diversity Conference on Sunday night in Miami.
The most-awarded campaign of the night—sweeping the Hispanic, Digital and Significant Results categories--was Toyota's "Mas Que un Auto" ("More Than a Car") effort by Saatchi & Saatchi's U.S. Hispanic shop Conill.
It's a simple idea that grew out of an insight: Hispanics like to personalize their car by giving it a nickname, so the automaker invited Toyota owners to share their car's special name. Toyota sent them a badge with the name to put on the car, and car owners shared their stories on social media.
"What caught our attention was the high level of consumer engagement," Mr. Gonzalez said. "It's the brand building the story using consumer input. People tend to support that which they helped create. And this campaign had the highest level of engagement in the history of Toyota's advertising to Hispanics."
He also liked the diversity of consumers who participated. "It elevates the message when the consumer target sees themselves. We're not all alike. Toyota really hit a home run with this one."
Mr. Monnie said he has used "Mas Que un Auto" in Campbell's impact marketing training, because it's "a rich, compelling story" and "builds affinity with the brand without a classic hard sell."
In the African American category, the winner was Union Bank and its agency Carol H Williams, with a story about a delightful, articulate boy, Moziah Bridges, who started his own handcrafted bowtie business called Mo's Bows at the age of nine, and appeared on "Shark Tank" two years ago, when he was 11. The youthful CEO was inspired by Arthur McGee, one of the first African-American fashion designers, who helped pave the way for people of color in the fashion business.
"It was so inspiring, and also on a deeper note was the linkage back to Black History Month," Mr. Monnie said. "A pioneer in the design industry passing the baton to the next generation was memorable and moving."
He said that Union Bank, a brand he wasn't previously familiar with, "became front of mind to me."
The Asian-American category winner was an Allstate Insurance Co. spot by Leo Burnett in which an Indian father guides his small son through a bustling Indian town as he learns to ride a bicycle, and the father learns to let go. Years later, he is all grown up and has a similar experience as he hands the car keys over to his teenage daughter in suburban America.
The other category winners are:
LGBT: Wells Fargo and BBDO San Francisco for "Learning Sign Language."
Radio: Kimberly-Clark and LatinWorks for "Celebrate Family UNity (FUN)."
Total market: Johnson & Johnson's Tylenol and J. Walter Thompson for "#HowWeFamily."