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La Comunidad, Grupo Gallegos and Lapiz Score Silver Lions

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CANNES, France ( -- Three U.S. Hispanic ad agencies were awarded Silver TV Lions Saturday night in the best-ever performance by the U.S. Hispanic market at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival.
Photo: Pat Denton
John Gallegos and Favio Ucedo from Grupo Gallegos, Long Beach, Calif., just outside the awards show where their agency won a TV Silver Lion for an Energizer spot called "Mano japonesa" ("Japanese hand"). Click to see larger photo.

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The Lions went to independent shops La Comunidad, Miami, and Grupo Gallegos, Long Beach, Calif., and Publicis Groupe's Lapiz, Chicago, part of Leo Burnett.

La Comunidad
La Comunidad, a hybrid agency started by Argentinean creatives Jose and Joaquin Molla and based in Miami and Buenos Aires, won a silver for the spot "Parents' Day" for Viacom's VH1. To illustrate that VH1's offering goes way beyond just music videos, the agency put a rock star in the mundane setting of a parents' meeting at a school to show that musicians have a life beyond music, too ("Beyond Music" is the network's tagline). Every time the rock star asks a simple question about his daughter Jenny studying a foreign language at school, a blaze of fireworks goes off around him, which no one pays any attention to.

Grupo Gallegos
Grupo Gallegos' winning spot, "Mano Japonesa" ("Japanese Hand"), was for Energizer batteries. In the spot, a man who lost his hand gets a transplanted limb from a Japanese man. The new hand makes him compulsively take photographs everywhere, even in bed with his very annoyed wife. In one vignette, he is snapping away with a bright flash during a movie and an angry man seated in front of him at the cinema turns around and tackles him.

"Most battery spots show an exaggerated passage of time or battery failure, but the client liked that we were able to uncover another twist," said Grupo Gallegos CEO John Gallegos, chatting about the spot over Perriers on the Carlton Terrace. Mr. Gallegos, attending the Cannes festival for the first time, flew in the day before the awards show. Favio Ucedo, the agency's executive creative director, who was at the festival for the second time, said he has rarely attended a client presentation where everyone laughed so much.

Both spots have been big winners on the U.S., international and Latin American awards show circuit this year, and were included on the famous Cannes Prediction Reel that Leo Burnett compiles every year of the 50 spots the agency forecasts to win Lions at Cannes.

La Comunidad and Grupo Gallegos both have creative directors -- Mr. Molla and Mr. Ucedo -- from Argentina and their work tends to reflect the edgier quality of work from that country. (Even Procter & Gamble Co. is benefiting from Argentina's creative perspective. P&G won a TV Silver Lion for Pampers spot "Stairs" from del Campo Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi, the agency that is taking the creative lead on Pampers for Latin America. In the spot -- also on Burnett's prediction reel -- a fearful mother stops her baby from trying to climb stairs. All his life, he is afraid to mount stairs, preventing him from boarding an airplane or even climbing out of a swimming pool. The point is that mothers' should think carefully about doing the best thing for their babies' development, which brings them to Pampers.)

Lapiz, the dark horse
The third Hispanic winner, Lapiz, was more of a dark horse. In a spot for Kellogg's Frosted Mini Wheats called "Fiber Cycle," a round bowl on a white table looks like a washing machine whose cereal-and-milk contents spin around like a washing cycle. The tagline is "Clean your body inside."

In past years, the U.S. Hispanic market has picked up an occasional bronze at Cannes. Last year, a U.S. Hispanic team participated for the first time in the annual Young Creatives contest at Cannes and the Hispanic duo from Omnicom Group's Dieste Harmel & Partners, Dallas, placed second.

Grupo Gallegos' "Mano japonesa" spot has encountered some resistance from Spanish-language TV networks that declined to air it, although, ironically, not because of concerns that the stereotyping of the Japanese as obsessive picture-takers could be racist. Instead, Univision and NBC Universal's Telemundo worried that a humorous spot about someone who lost a limb might be inappropriately during the war in Iraq (the spot broke late last year, and ran on No. 3 network Azteca America and Fox Sports en Espanol). The networks may reconsider when the spot comes back into rotation later this year. Mr. Gallegos said the spot was tested extensively to make sure there no one thought it portrayed the Japanese in a negative light.

The 'Favio touch'
Viewers who look closely at "Mano japonesa" will see what the agency calls "el toque Favio" ("the Favio touch") in which Mr. Ucedo or a member of his immediate family appear in Grupo Gallegos' ads. A pro bono poster ad a couple years ago for the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies featured his daughter, then 8, and the agency's big award-winning spot last year, for Fox Sports en Espanol, starred Mr. Ucedo's sister, a professional actress. (Among other honors in other shows, the spot won a bronze award in Advertising Age's Hispanic Creative Advertising Awards).

In "Mano japonesa," Mr. Ucedo appears as a sleeping man. Unlike his sister, Mr. Ucedo is an extremely bad actor, but a sleeping man was a role he could handle, he said.

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