Cannes 2011

With a 'Piece of Magic,' Network BBDO Wins Cannes Radio Grand Prix Again

Jurors Were Impressed by South African Shop's 'Postmodern' Campaign for Mercedes

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Network BBDO, Johannesburg, impressed jurors with its flair for darkly comedic copywriting in a series of radio spots for Mercedes-Benz dubbed "Accident Avoidance Features."

The campaign took home the Grand Prix award for radio on Tuesday at the 58th Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity , and in so doing, made the South African outpost of the Omnicom Group agency network the winner of the coveted trophy for a second time. Last year, radio jurors did not award a Grand Prix; Network BBDO won the Grand Prix in 2009 for a campaign for Virgin Atlantic.

What it is : "Accident Avoidance Features" is a wry, perhaps borderline creepy set of ads for Mercedes-Benz's accident avoidance systems in a counterintuitive way. Says the script of one of the spots in the campaign, called "Love": "Now she whistles love songs to me as she cleans her gun. I think she's had me micro-chipped because I once woke up groggy on a vet's table and because I beep every time I exit a shop. Airport security has become unbearable. She eats buffalo wings without spitting out the bones. None of her shirts have sleeves. She knows stuff about me that I haven't even told her. Mostly banking codes. And I'm pretty sure she sleeps with her eyes open. To think, if I'd been driving a Mercedes-Benz with Blind Spot Assist, one of their smart accident-avoidance systems, we never, never would've met." (The narrator delivers all that in a monotonous voice-over.)

Why it won: It was fresh, made jurors laugh and was simply unlike anything else they heard from other entrants. "It's an idea that 's coming in from left field," said Eugene Cheong, the jury chair, who currently serves as regional executive creative director of Ogilvy & Mather Asia Pacific. "Many ideas are really straightforward and direct. ... We felt this was postmodern and coming through from such a different angle. It's a piece of magic."

The jury: Led by Mr. Cheong, this year's radio jury was made up of 14 members who were sticklers for the rules. Their motto was "We will not allow any great work to slip through the gap."

Other Grand Prix contenders: The jury reported liking two other radio entries out of Asia that displayed a "sophisticated" brand of humor. One was for a radio campaign called "Killer Bees," created by Y&R Thailand, Bangkok, for health drink Mai Tan, while the other was for a paint shop in Signapore called Samroc Paint & Hardware, done by Lowe & Partners, Singapore. Another that won fans was a campaign for the Cine Las Americas film festival by U.S.-based Hispanic shop Latinworks.

South Africa shines: Network BBDO Johannesburg nabbed the top prize but others shops in the country were winners, too, including DDB Johannesburg, Lowe Bull in Capetown, 140 BBDO Capetown, and FoxP2 Cape Town. The country has a history of doing well in radio, as every year for the past five South Africa has brought home at least four Lions. Jenny Glover, creative director at Network BBDO, who was a juror, said South Africa's dominance is no fluke. "We don't do a lot of TV. ... Radio is budget-friendly, which is important in South Africa at the moment." She added: "If you're doing 100 radio spots a year as a creative person, you might have 90 that are rubbish. ... It's a numbers game."

Lions totals: Overall, an even 50 trophies were given out in the radio category this year; one Grand Prix, nine Golds, 16 Silvers and 24 Bronzes.

Tips for next year: Judges seem to be gravitating toward out-of -the-box ideas and a focus on copywriting. The jury said entries from Brazil and Latin America were largely unappealing because they used a very "basic" brand of humor, rife with sound effects and slapstick. Out of the Indian market, meanwhile, the entries generally focused on singing radio spots, which was also viewed as too traditional. And jurors made no bones about it when it comes to translating the ad into English. "Get the translation perfect. Otherwise, don't bother," Mr. Cheong said.

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