Last weekend I sat on the judging panel of the International Festival of Media awards. Some 800 entries from 50 countries were submitted by every global media agency network as well as some first-rate creative and digital shops in a World Cup-style playoff of the best of the best.
The competition was incredibly democratic. It didn't matter how big the budget had been or whether the work originated from Stockholm or Sydney. The finest ideas and most inventive media implementation won the day.
The media game, the contest demonstrated once again, has changed massively from even three or four years ago. The category with the largest number of entries, for example, was Best Use of Content. Media has transformed from a delivery system for ad creative to a place where the primary content can embody marketing messages.
I loved a campaign for Pampers in the Philippines that sparked a widespread movement behind "Baby Yoga." The media agency created a daily morning TV program that invited celebrity moms to do exercises with their infant child. The stretching exercises and product integration helped P&G diapers with "stretchy sides" overtake its top competitor in that market, Huggies.
Moving from owned media to earned media, I absolutely loved CoppaFeel!, a U.K. campaign to promote young women's awareness of breast cancer that cost just $16,000 to promote . The campaign, founded by 23-year-old cancer survivor Kristin Hallenga, engaged volunteers during Breast Cancer Awareness month with the goal to "hijack every pair of boobs in the U.K." Promotional stickers and images encouraging women to self-check their breasts wound up on students, celebrities, professional athletes, shop mannequins, statues, posters and social media sites. The campaign grabbed the country's attention, creating a movement that spread like wildfire.
The campaigns that impressed most, however, were sparked with a genuine consumer insight. Whiskas cat food in Australia did exactly that . Its insight was that in a dog-dominated country (50% of Australian households own a dog while less than 25% of households own a cat) most cat owners were embarrassed to talk about their pets in public. The agency planners discovered that cat owners were yearning for a 'safe haven' for cat talk where they could share stories, tips and celebrate their feline friends. They created an online community for owners to talk about their cats and connect with other cat lovers. They created Facebook-type profiles on a Whiskas site to show off their cats. They then asked consumers to vote for the cat that should appear on the front of Whiskas packs. Owners developed their own campaigns in social media to promote voting.
My personal award for the most resourceful campaign went to an agency trying to promote car insurance in Poland by helping drivers realize the effects of reckless driving. They partnered up with the local police in Warsaw! When a police officer stopped a driver for a traffic offence, drivers were given a choice: They could either accept the ticket or enter a special car-crash simulator. These simulators were branded by Aviva; drivers received information on Aviva's services and how they would support them in the claim process. A smashing piece of work!
There were some disappointments. Too many media buzz words used with alarming regularity. Papers that included phrases like "this innovative multi-platform, fully integrated 360-degree program provided a highly engaging holistic campaign that surrounded the consumer whilst delivering amazing ROI" got rightfully marked down by the judges. So too were campaigns that didn't attempt to connect media to a sales or business outcome. Interestingly, the Best Use of Digital category now almost seems a bit quaint, as I could barely remember a single entry in any category that did not have digital well and truly embedded, if not leading the campaigns.
Fellow judge MillerCoors' media director Stevie Benjamin made a great summation when she remarked, "media's role has to advance the message." The winners all demonstrated this in spades.
See more of the world's best here.