Report From The Crystal Lotus Awards

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HONG KONG ( -- AP AdFest, the 7-year-old creative advertising competition held annually in the Thai resort of Pattaya, has evolved into what many view
Photo: AP AdFest
Photo: AP AdFest
The seventh-annual Asian-Pacific Advertising Festival took place in the Pattaya Exhibition and Convention Hall (top). Above, Vinit Suraphongchai, chairman of the AP AdFest Working Committee, speaks from the podium (above).
as the Cannes international advertising festival of Asia.

Located 90 miles southeast of Bangkok, Pattaya is a tropical city with a hotel-lined beach along a curve of the Gulf of Thailand. It was best known in the U.S. as the site of the U-Tapao Royal Thai Navy Airfield -- the facility from which the U.S. Air Force's Strategic Air Command operated fleets of B-52 bombers during the Vietnam War. Pattaya was an R&R mecca for U.S. troops during that conflict.

Crystal Lotus Awards
Now a sprawling cosmopolitan tourist destination, the former fishing village hosts an Asian version of an international advertising festival each March. That Asia-Pacific Advertising Festival continues to expand the scope and promotion of its "Crystal Lotus Awards," which honor the year's best Asian advertising.

This year's three-day event took place last week at the Pattaya Exhibition and Convention Hall at the Royal Cliff Beach Resort Hotel. A total of 160 awards were given out in the film, print, outdoor/poster, best of show and special recognition categories.

Among the event's sponsors were Kodak, Thai Airways, The Bangkok Post, Thailand Singha Brewers and a variety of companies providing services to advertising creative departments.

3,300 entries
AP AdFest is still small compared to the 51-year-old Cannes

Pattaya is a coastal resort city on the Gulf of Thailand.
Lions International Advertising Festival. AP AdFest this year drew 3,300 entries and about 300 delegates.

The weeklong Cannes festival had 16,392 entries and about 7,000 attendees in June 2003. But Cannes is a long and expensive journey for Asian advertising executives. Few Asians attend the festival in the south of France unless they are judges, and Asian agencies rarely take home many Lions, making Asia ripe for a prestigious creative festival of its own.

AP AdFest's biggest winner this year was Omnicom Group's TBWA Worldwide with 13 awards, ranging from network of the year to best of show for both print and outdoor. Havas' Euro RSCG flagship in Bangkok won the best of show for film for its work for Soken Electronics of Bangkok, a marketer of DVD players.

The Asian city that was home to the most awarded agencies this year was Singapore, particularly in the print and outdoor categories -- a total of 53 awards. Thirteen awards went to agencies in Tokyo. The best of show print winner, for example, drew inspiration from global news coverage of the war in Iraq to market collectable action figures for Singapore's Sphere Action Figures. The campaign was titled "As Real As It Gets."

U.S. soldiers' images
The print, poster and point-of-sale ads that broke in December 2003 from TBWA, Singapore, superimposed images of the dolls beside real U.S. soldiers fighting in Iraq. The company said it used the images of active duty U.S. military personnel to demonstrate the action figures' highly detailed appearance.

Despite AP Adfest's growing reputation, this year's judges said they were dismayed by the overall poor quality of entries. Last year Asia was hit by the outbreak of SARS and, like the rest of the world, suffered through the lingering global economic slowdown and the emotional stress of the war in Iraq.

"Clients did not approve much revolutionary work," festival jury chairman Tham Khai Meng said in a statement. "In print, visuals lead to better execution but with little copy support, almost formula-driven. TV film was refreshing, much more so than print, but again it was slim pickings."

Mr. Meng is the Singapore-based co-chairman and executive regional creative director of WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather.

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