There's TV, Too, but Asia's AdFest Is All About Innovation

In Region of Early Adopters, Entrants Shoot Commercials With Cellphones and Power Planes With AA Batteries

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PATTAYA, Thailand -- Festival goers weren't likely to see the world's best TV or print ads there, but last week's Asia Pacific Advertising Festival was a window into an ad world where awards for innovation and use of new media may come to overshadow those for traditional advertising.
Riding High: Panasonic and Japanese ad agency Hakuhodo orchestrated this stunt for Oxyride.

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Better known as AdFest, and regarded as the Cannes Lions of Asia, this year's festival added an innovation category, won by an electrifying Japanese stunt involving the first manned flight in a battery-powered airplane, and a young-creatives competition to film an entire commercial on a cellphone that will air on Asian TV as a reality show.

"Asia is ahead of the U.S. when it comes to the adoption of new media," said Benjamin Palmer, CEO-chief creative officer of Barbarian Group, Boston, and chairman of the cyber jury.

Digital lives challenge marketers
Asian countries such as Japan, South Korea and China are among the most advanced mobile and broadband markets in the world, posing a challenge for marketers trying to keep up with consumers' increasingly digital lives.

In the Young Lotus competition, moderated by BBDO Worldwide, AdFest challenged 28 young creatives from 14 countries to create and shoot a TV commercial using the video camera in a Nokia N931 mobile phone. They had just 24 hours, including time spent editing the footage into a 60-second commercial. The whole project was filmed and will be edited into a 30-minute TV show that will air in Asia on MTV and local channels.

All the young creatives' commercials had to use the theme "You can do good things in Pattaya," suggested by the mayor of Pattaya, the Thai beach resort where AdFest is held. Pattaya is notorious throughout Asia as a seedy spot catering to sex tourists, an image local leaders are eager to change.

The finished spots were shown on a continuous loop in the AdFest exhibition hall and were one of the highlights of the festival. The Young Lotus winner was Team Tokyo, consisting of two young Japanese creatives.

This year's 10th annual festival drew more than 1,600 delegates -- up 15% from last year -- and 5,012 entries from more than 500 agencies in 49 Asian cities. Entries grew 6%, partly due to the addition of several categories, including the 360 Lotus for integrated campaigns and the Contagious Lotus for Innovation, sponsored by the online publication Contagious.

Batteries beat the Wright Bros.
The Best of Show award for the innovation category went to Panasonic's Oxyride dry-cell batteries for a bizarre stunt called "Oxyride manned flight project" that asked the question "Can a man really fly an airplane powered only by batteries?"

The surprising answer was yes. Panasonic and Japanese ad agency Hakuhodo, Tokyo, worked with the Tokyo Institute of Technology to develop a plane that ran on 160 AA-size Oxyride batteries. The one-seat plane weighed a carefully calibrated 119 pounds and was piloted by a student from the Tokyo Institute of Technology who weighed 117 pounds. The plane took off and flew 428 yards at an altitude of about 20 feet at Okegawa airport, north of Tokyo. The flight lasted 59 seconds, and went about 150 yards farther than the Wright brothers' manned flight in 1903 in the U.S., even though they used a gasoline engine.

The Oxyride project was broadcast in Japan as a live, documentary-style program and was streamed online at the same time it aired on TV, capturing the imaginations of Japanese consumers and boosting Oxyride's brand awareness by 30% to 85%.

"[Oxyride] was the ultimate product test and created its own momentum," said David Droga, creative chairman of Droga5, New York, and jury chairman for the innovation and integrated-campaign categories.

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Laurel Wentz contributed to this report.
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