Online Exclusive: Report From Cannes


Judges Note Growing Importance of Product Placement

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CANNES, France ( -- Procter & Gamble Co. narrowly beat out a small museum in Austria for the Media Lions Grand Prix at this year’s Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival during the festival's opening awards show.
Procter & Gamble took the top Media Lions Grand Prix; Oprah's Pontiac stunt won a gold media lion.
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In a broader trend, judges noted the increasing number of winning entries that featured embedded content as entertainment and advertising converge in the growing industry dubbed Madison & Vine. Ironically, the U.S., the leader in developing branded content, rarely does well in the Media Lions contest, and this year was no different, repeating last year’s poor performance by winning only one of 20 Media Lions.

Oprah giveaway
This year’s sole U.S. Media Lion was awarded for the giveaway of more than 200 Pontiac G6 cars to Oprah Winfrey’s studio audience, engineered by General Motors Corp.'s media-planning agency, Publicis Groupe’s GM Planworks, Detroit.

P&G picked up its Grand Prix for the launch of Biomat laundry detergent in Israel, aided by two insights by Tel Aviv-based office of MediaCom: 15% of Israel's population are conservative Jews who don’t watch TV, and everyone loves a mitzvah, or good deed.

Armed with those insights, MediaCom, part of WPP Group, planned a newspaper, magazine and outdoor campaign encouraging people to donate old clothes, which were washed using Biomat in mobile washing machines taken around local communities on the back of trucks.

“It explored the concept of what is media,” said Mark Stewart, jury president and managing director of Omnicom Group's OMD Eastern Region, New York. He noted that Biomat grabbed a 40% market share in Israel.

'Great and spirited debate'
Media Lions judges laughed uproariously when a journalist asked at a press conference if the jury’s Grand Prix decision had been an easy one. “It was a great and spirited debate,” Mr. Stewart said. After eliminating a Nike Canada campaign by Cossette Media that was the third contender for the Grand Prix, the jury was deadlocked between P&G and a campaign for th3 Liechtenstein Museum by Wien Nord Pilz, Vienna. In the museum’s “Fresco” effort, beautiful murals were displayed in unlikely public places, from the ceiling of an airport to umbrellas, to demonstrate the experience people have in a museum.

The Grand Prix and many other winners were very low-tech concepts in an increasingly digital age, but a significant number had the kind of embedded content like the Oprah car giveaway that will survive even when consumers edit out ads with personal video recorders such as Tivo. One winner, 20th Century Fox, used the Australian version of reality TV show Big Brother to premiere the disaster movie The Day After Tomorrow. Big Brother contestants were stunned to awake one morning to find their house covered in snow. The artificial snow in hot Australia, written into the episode to promote the movie, was a lead-in to the contestants getting to watch the movie’s premiere during the program.

In another winning entry, during TV programs in Colombia the color suddenly drained out of the televised images, and viewers were asked, “Do you want to get color back in your life?” The answer, according to OMD Colombia, Bogota, was to use Clorox to wash clothes. The program resumed with the color restored. Such interference with programming, judges conceded, was unlikely to be acceptable in countries such as the U.S.

Blurring advertising and content
Judges said they did throw out some of the more egregious examples of blurring advertising and content.

Japan won four Media Lions, more than any other country. A favorite from Japan was “Frosty Window” for Knorr soup in which stickers were affixed to Japanese train windows. The images were made to look like the passengers' breath had fogged up the glass in cold weather, and messages like “Are you cold?” which appeared to have been traced on the window, were meant to put commuters in the mood for soup.

The total number of entries in the media contest rose to 1,076 from 875 last year.

OMD Majestic party
As media entries grow, media agencies are even entering the party scene dominated by creative agencies. This evening OMD kicked off the Media Lions celebration by throwing a pre-show cocktail party at the Majestic hotel, hosted by Mr. Stewart, the media jury president. With two Media Lions from Colombia and one from Poland, OMD picked up the most trophies this year by a media agency.

In one conspicuous absence, the festival abandoned last year’s controversial experiment of putting marketers on the media jury. Last year, there were three, from P&G, Ikea and Hewlett Packard.

“On balance we feel it’s a better decision to continue with media companies on the jury,” festival CEO Terry Savage said. “It was also perceived as a bias that Cannes doesn’t need.”

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