Jacqueline Lai, our editorial representative for Lürzer’s Archive in Asia attended 2012’s Spikes Asia festival. The Taiwanese journalist and former Managing Editor of AdAge China takes us a behind the scenes, including what ads impressed (and didn’t impress) the audience as well as highlights from Rei Inamoto’s (AKQA) "The Future of Advertising isn’t Advertising" talk.
There are two kinds of conversations I’ve had at Spikes - with two kinds of people really: Traditional advertisers and Japanese creatives. What I mostly heard from traditional advertisers was how hard it has become to do creative advertising. It’s now an accepted truth for them that working on a real account is one thing, while winning awards is quite another.
Our good friend Calvin Soh, who was Regional Creative Director for Publicis Asia-Pacific and founder of Ninety Nine Percent, put it quite forcefully: in agencies, everyone only cares about what’s going to happen within the next three months and there was no way you can come up with decent work this way. So it’s necessary to set up a separate team to work on winning awards to maintain a "creative reputation" and, as a result, gain new business.
This may help explain why when it was announced that the Outdoor and Print & Poster Crafts Grand Prix went to Coca-Cola’s "Hands" by O&M, China (again, after Cannes this year). The audience reacted in such an unimpressed fashion that Jury President Amir Kassaei had to take the trouble of explaining onstage why it was awarded Grand Prix. Not that his explanations did much good - Coke "Hands" may be a piece of advertising that may win the votes of the jury, but not the hearts of the audience.
The audience’s winner
The "People’s Choice" winner (of course there isn’t such an award given at Spikes Asia) was practically awarded to a piece of work that was so passionately and loudly applauded when it came up: JPRS (Japan Registry Services) "May Cause Drowsiness" by Paradise Café, Tokyo/Dentsu, Tokyo.
Video: JPRS (Japan Registry Services) "May Cause Drowsiness" by Paradise Café, Tokyo/Dentsu, Tokyo.
I don’t think its popularity needs any explanation. It was just so very funny that I and the girl sitting next to me just couldn’t stop laughing when it was shown even though we knew exactly how the story was going to end. Crazy Japanese work is back! Good for Japan.
I have no idea why, but it just always has been like this: many Japanese creatives are outspoken and direct. Koichiro Tanaka once said that "clients cannot be persuaded". This time, it was Morihiro Harano (Party, Tokyo), Jury President of Digital and Mobile, who told me that it’s very important to say "no" to clients. An example is that the client wanted to use voiceover on the NTT Docomo "Xylophone" spot.
Another conversation I had was with Dentsu Copywriter, Yoji Sakamoto, creator of the Bronze Lion winner for their Tohoku "Six Soul Festival". Yoji really surprised and impressed me when he said he thinks about all the people committing suicide when he creates: "In Japan, there are so many people committing suicide now: earthquake, political situation, aged society, stagnant economy... People’s lives are full of worries, if I can give them a little bit of pleasure each time I have a chance, maybe someone will decided it’s after all worth living on."
The Promo & Activation Grand Prix winner "Ikea Catalogue" by 303Lowe, Sydney, of which the concept was to pay IKEA consumers ‘rent’ for the space the catalogue occupied in their homes. Ikea is all about smart use of space. Consumers took the initiative to register online for their "rent cheque" coupons. It was a great mechanism to tie everything together.
Video: "Ikea Catalogue" by 303Lowe, Sydney
Rei Inamoto, Chief Creative Officer of AKQA, mentioned in his talk "The Future of Advertising isn’t Advertising" that one of the things he envisages in the future of advertising may be like a franchise for consumer to participate in. It may take another few years for brands to actualise the practice to facilitate consumer to create economy value - making real money instead of just cleverly masked coupons as in Ikea’s case.
But things like crowdsourcing and open innovation have already started to take stage. Platforms like eYeka have for the second year been using Spikes Asia to showcase the work created by "consumers." It must be said, however, that the applause the work received in the seminar room was about as passionate as the applause Coca-Cola "Hands" got during the awards ceremony.
Another example which represents "people’s power" and its influence to brand communication was Volkswagen China’s "Hover Car: The People’s Car Project" by Proximity, Beijing, which finally won a gold in Spikes after a four year effort to do so - although it had to be packaged as a one year PR campaign to enter Spikes Asia or any award. (Interestingly, some of the most innovative work doesn’t fit into award entry rules.)
The Austrian mastermind behind it, Goodstein Creative Director, George Warga, has a good story himself: He almost single-handedly sold the idea of open innovation to VW China, which he told me took more than a year and a lot of his personal funding. He then had to tie with a big agency (Proximity) to win a pitch to get the People’s Car idea executed in China.
Having watched its progress with avid interest and known the stories behind the People’s Car Project, I was delighted to see its first win because it you get the stories right - it’s not about using a blogger as poster girl and surround the campaign around her. No, it’s about what open-innovation can do for the brand beyond just advertising.
This campaign also echoes with Rei Inamoto’s analogy for building brand equity: it’s like renting houses vs. buying houses. If a marketer only wants to care about what happens next quarter and put investment into ads, it’s like renting a house. You get to live in it but you don’t get to own it and might be kicked out one day.
But if you invest in building brand equity, the way you buy a house, you come to own the house in the end. Having worked in early stages on what had became Nike+ and Nike Fuelband, Rei told us the whole development process took eight to nine years. Just like in the case of the VW People’s Car Project, the first stage took more than four years - there’s almost nothing sexy to show or enter awards during the time, but when the "campaign" period is over, something remains.