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This year more than ever, culture may play a role in what goes over well with the judges in Cannes.

Creative directors in several countries noted that the worldwide recession has forced agencies in '93 to stick to the basics in advertising, maximizing clients' scarce ad dollars by creating ads with a hard-sell, localized approach. In other words, ads that don't translate well.

Susumu Miyazaki, creative director at Hakuhodo, last year's Grand Prix winner, said Japan's prize-winning chances can be hurt by the fact that many of the country's ads are strictly aimed at, and appeal to, Japanese. It's usually the more broadscale ads understood by several cultures that snatch Lions, he said.

"Because of the ethnic diversity which makes unique cultures in Asia, maybe the only way for commercials is to stay in one's original culture-Indian culture for Indians, Japanese culture for Japanese-and I think it will take some time before we come up with [interchangeable] visuals."

"The commercials that are most widely understood are European- or American-made," he added.

Toni Segarra, creative director at Madrid's Delvico/Bates, agrees, noting that Spanish agencies are keeping a close eye on their clients' local needs. "The fact that we're working in a more Spanish [framework] means that we're becoming more attentive to the consumer than to festivals." An example is the agency's commercial for Amnesty International. The spot, entered at Cannes, shows Holy Week celebrations in Seville, with a close-up of the Christ figure being carried. The voice-over says: "Every year people become emotional about tortures that happened 2,000 years ago. If only they did the same with this week's tortures."

Another example is this year's winner of Spain's San Sebastian Advertising Festival, the country's major ad awards held in April. The winner in the commercial category was Alta Definicion, for Mitsubishi's four-wheel drive Montero. The spot shows a man driving up to a goatherd in the mountains, who starts asking him for news about former Spanish dictator Francisco Franco and long-past events.

"It's a good film," said Cannes juror and Tandem/ DDB Needham Director General Rolando S inz de la Pe¤a. "The problem is, it's very Spanish."

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