Uniqlo and JWT Win Big at AdFest-Four Months Late

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The prizes at regional Asian ad awards AdFest have finally been announced—four months late—and Uniqlo and JWT are the top winners.

The Japanese clothing retailer and its agency, local Tokyo shop IMG SRC, picked up the Grande Innova Lotus for Uniqlo's "Lucky Switch" campaign, which embeds a branded widget on blogs and websites, converting every image on any site into Uniqlo lucky tickets as soon as the user flips the virtual switch.

"Lucky Switch" is a "unique integrated idea that enables Uniqlo to put their brand on other people's sites, which is quite cheeky," said Brett Mitchell, digital director at Droga5, Sydney, and president of this year's Cyber Lotus jury. The campaign also won the Best of Cyber Lotus.

Three other agencies walked away with Innova Lotuses this year—Bartle Bogle Hegarty, Shanghai for WWF's "Fate's in Your Hands" campaign; Projector in Tokyo for a Uniqlo calendar; and Beacon Communications, Tokyo for Yubari City Project, which helped revive a debt-ridden Japanese city. The Innova category is judged by all the other jury presidents and rewards innovation.

Uniqlo Calendar
Uniqlo Calendar

WPP's JWT, traditionally a big winner at AdFest, won more prizes than any other network, including five Gold Lotus awards.

Unlike other years, winners won't be collecting their prizes in person at an AdFest awards gala. Asia's premier advertising festival, held every March in Thailand in Pattaya, a two-hour drive south of Bangkok, was first postponed until late May and finally cancelled, due to Thailand's political turmoil earlier this year.

The judging was rescheduled for late May in Tokyo, then postponed again when foreign consulates in Bangkok closed, making it impossible for AdFest organizers to get visas to enter Japan.

More than 50 advertising executives finally gathered in Tokyo last week to judge the 2010 AdFest Lotus Awards, marking the biggest international advertising event ever held there.

The global recession took a toll on creativity in Asia as well as entry numbers. The 13-year-old festival received 2,708 entries this year, down from 3,309 last year and an all-time high of 5,148 in 2008. Tokyo agencies sent the most entries—417—followed by Bangkok with 382 and Mumbai at 356.

Thailand's political problems and the recession's impact on award shows aren't AdFest's only challenges. The festival faces increasing competition from Asia's other major regional festival, Spikes Asia, held each fall in Singapore with support from the organizers of the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival. And yet another festival, the Global Advertising Awards, is making plans to launch in April 2011, right after AdFest, and in the same country, on the Thai island of Phuket. According to the organizers, who claim backing from the Thai government and Singha beer, more information will be available on the website in September.

But the challenges facing AdFest didn't dampen enthusiasm among the judges.

Grand Jury President Steve Henry said he was inspired by the experimentation taking place in Asia. "It's been a difficult time for creativity generally for various reasons thanks to weaker financial conditions and changes in the media marketplace."

Certainly in London, Mr. Henry said, "There seems to be low morale within advertising agencies at the moment and yet here in Asia there seems to be more confidence and experimentation."

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