'Dumb Ways to Die' Takes Radio Category; Third Grand Prix for McCann Campaign

Aussie Metro Trains Anti-Suicide Push Sweeping the Awards Show

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Radio is alive and well.

That was the message that Cannes judges responsible for choosing winners in the radio category drove home during a press conference at the ad festival in the South of France on Wednesday. Despite the rise in social media, they insisted radio should be viewed by both advertisers and their agencies to connect with consumers -- particularly in developing countries. 

What it is: By now, you've probably read about this campaign from Metro Trains in Australia, which has been a popular pick in Cannes, winning the Grand Prix in the PR and direct categories. The suicide-prevention push is credited with a 21% drop in the rate of jumpers.  

Why it won: Jurors rejected the idea that it won because it did well in other categories and has been a much-talked about campaign. They noted that it started as a radio spot and thus deserved to win for this category. Additionally, jury weighed heavily the fact that the brief from Metro Trains must have been relatively straightforward and boring, so to transform it into a catchy tune that would stick in people’s minds -- and actually resonate enough to prompt a reduction in train-related suicides -- was a tall order. Because the “Dumb Ways to Die” jingle sounds so much like a popular song it blended in with a lot of the music listeners might hear. It would take a brave advertiser to approve that, they noted, and a smart agency to execute it well. 

The jury: The 16-person jury was chaired by Ralph Van Dijk, co-founder and creative director at radio and audio agency Eardrum in London. “We were looking for examples that demonstrated relevance and cleverness,” said Mr. Van Dijk. This jury itself should have won an award for one of the most inventive ideas when it came to the judging process: the addition of a virtual, nonspeaking juror named "Juan," Mr. Van Dijk’s taxi driver from Nice airport to his hotel. Mr. Van Dijk took a picture of the driver and posted it on the jury-room wall. It served as a reminder to keep the listener in mind. 

Controversy or clear winner? It was a close call. During deliberations there was one other campaign that judges considered for the Grand Prix. Auto Tune, a campaign by Ogilvy, London for Dove was hailed as one of the best entries they heard. Said Mr. Van Dijk: “In 30 seconds, that spot managed to move the jury. It was a very effective use of the medium.”

Hot topic: Radio creativity has been criticized for not being creative enough, with Clear Channel's Bob Pittman calling for innovation in the space. Judges acknowledged that inspiring talent to do great radio work is a challenge. Said Mr. Van Dijk: “No one gets famous from doing great radio. ... It's not a sexy medium."   

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