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Spikes Asia 2009

Posted on September 28, 2009 and read 9,255 times

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0 1024 Spikes Asia 2009Ninart Lui
Director of Communications

Launched amidst much buzz from the global creative industry and in an uncertain economic climate, Spikes Asia opened with a big bang and lots of promises to deliver as the premier Asian advertising awards festival that is truly representative of Asian creativity within the region. While Spikes has been in the neighborhood for many years, this is the first year where organiser Haymarket joined forces with International Advertising Festival to host a 3-day festival in Singapore’s Suntec City Convention Center. It was a daring move to shift Spikes Asia to cosmopolitan Singapore instead of leaving it in sun-kissed Bali, leading naysayers to whisper that this alone ensures that the remaining competition in Asia, with their firmly-entrenched beach resort traditions, will still be going strong yet.

So did it live up to its hype or can the competition breathe easy, now that all the festivities are over?  Letting the numbers speak for themselves, 2685 entries competing this year across 21 countries and 980 delegates at last count with a significant number of onsite registrations despite the uncertain economic climate ensure guranteed continuity for Spikes Asia to return with a greater significant impact in 2010, at least in the ensuing economic upturn and ever-growing confidence in the Asian creative industry.

Expertise from the team from Cannes Lions running the event meant world-class standards, yet the festival scored minus points from having the conference venue held in a sterile, business-sy environment which was at odds with the tone of the conference. The venue suffered from losing delegates to the nearby shops and offices and hosting the conference in the business district meant local delegates had to struggle to get away from their everyday office duties.
The full festival programme was a joy to behold, showcasing an excellent lineup of Asia-centric presentations by creative powerhouses around the region. One early highlight for me were Cheil Worldwide’s presentation on Digital Storytelling, since it was so rare and fascinating to witness what is coming out of Korea at the moment. A very cool example that was given a lot of airplay during the presentation was their Nike Women Interactive campaign, which was fresh, engaging and totally cool. Cheil was also the sponsor of this year’s Spikes Academy so we’ll probably be witnessing an even bigger role for them next year.

China received the most airplay, having two back-to-back presentations on the second day of the conference. Tom Doctoroff kicked off the China discussion which was carried on immediately after by Royce Lee of Razorfish, with excellent insight on the trend towards adopting parallel lives online for the modern Chinese youth, as well as going through some of the socio-economic factors behind such trends.  The need for rebellion, expression of individuality as well as a growing sense of familial alienation uncovered a fascinating if slightly disturbing picture of China’s next generation, and insight on how best to shape the digital landscape to suit their unique needs.

China also received significant amount of mentions in other seminars, including R3′s seminar on the Agency/ Client future in both the Chinese and Indian markets, as well as Peter Moody’s seminar for Profero on the last day addressing the obstacles in tackling the Chinese, Indian and Japanese markets. “Factory” in Shanghai was brought out as a case study, but perhaps Daryl Arnold would have been a better person to provide more insight on this particular example.
Japan and India received a fairly equal amount of airtime, with Uniqlo holding a highly popular session on the first day followed by a presentation with Dentsu on the second. While creatives are forever fascinated by the magic of Uniqlo, usage of a translator meant that some degree of audience engagement was lost.

In marked contrast but no less intriguing was Piyush Pandey’s elegant President’s Address on the last day of the conference. Widely regarded as the “Godfather of Indian Advertising”, Pandey captivated the audience with his simple yet powerful message punctuated with many, many examples of mindblowing yet heartfelt work coming out of India. In his measured tones, Pandey stressed on the importance of the extended Indian family, the everyday environment, the colorfully rich culture and heritage of India as crucial wellsprings of inspiration and creativity.

“Less Show More Business” was what the managing committee promised in their opening message in the Festival Programme. Yet what’s interesting to note is by far the most well-attended session was Neil French’s BBC Hardtalk interview with BBC World News anchor Mishal Husain – was this the weakest link, being all “Show”?

Legendary for his ability to create controversy, French proves he’s only gotten more acceptable with age as the audience humored his increasingly condescending and ultimately embarassing comments regarding his views on women in the workplace and his endorsement of scam ads, going as far as to say “I don’t mind kids trying hard and cheating and lying to get to the top”.

However entertaining this may be, French does nothing to better the industry with his views, and god forbid any client hears these views reinforcing such a negative opinion on the advertising industry today. This interview alone generated a flurry of tweets as it was going on, with puerile words such as “bollocks”, “tits” and “wank” making its way into the session, as well as a whole backlash of discussion posted on the web after the conference.

Yet perhaps to take this seriously would be missing the point entirely. Up against such a stellar body of speakers, it might be a good idea to have French onstage to provide that bit of irreverent humor creatives so love. Indeed, why else have the option of having the audience send in questions to ask French during the session if it’s not meant to be conducted in a tongue-in-cheek manner?

However, the one thing that saddens me is the fact that so many more delegates choose to attend this session instead of Sir Ken Robinson’s phenomenal seminar on the power of finding and managing your talent. Sir Robinson argues that while children believe they are creative, adults, don’t. Yet everyone is creative, but talent is often buried deep and not easy to identify if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Case in point – Paul McCartney and George Harrison both went through the whole of his education without anyone noticing their musical talent. That one music teacher in Liverpool in the ’50s had half The Beatles in his class and he did not recognise their talent.

Phenomenal. Yet this was heard directly after Sir Robinson had concluded his seminar – one jury member saying to another jury member: “Who was this who just spoke?” Only to be replied with “Some speaker on creativity. He’s really good.” It’s very telling of the industry, yet perhaps there is hope yet. Thank you DDB for giving us this opportunity.
Morning seminars had poor showings with delegates nursing heavy heads from partying the night before, yet perhaps this is not unsual for festivals elsewhere as well. French’s interview and David Droga’s President’s Address pulled the strongest audience showings at their interview and seminar respectively (no surprise there), yet it was a pity that more people did not turn up for the sole seminar on the importance of design presented by Rodney Fitch, or that Fred Koblinger had less than 20 people in the audience during his closing President’s Address to witness his excellent and beautifully put-together presentation.

The jury panels at Spikes Asia this year were exemplary. Everyone on the panels were well thought out, which resulted in a good mix of international and regional world-class creative industry experts were present to review the entries. However, with a total of 258 Spikes Asia trophies awarded across the 11 different categories, up from a little more than 100 awarded just the year before in Bali, the word “generous” comes to mind.

Some are of the opinion that too many Golds have been awarded, and one common quibble was the treatment of Silver and Bronze work – the names on the screen whizzed by before anyone could properly read them and subsequently had to wait until the end of the awards ceremony to pick up a list of winners. Having the event pushed back to September this year also meant that some of the work entered was already familiar to all, having picked up prior awards, but there were enough examples of regional work that truly served as an inspiration to all.

Excluding New Zealand and Australia from entering work seemed like an unconventional move, but perhaps this paved the way for more exciting trends to emerged like brilliant digital and interactive from China and Japan, in tandem with the truly exceptional use of emotional advertising from Thailand and India. China led the way with a massive 382 entries, with Singapore as the runner up with 369, Japan with 335 and India with 321 – the numbers have reversed themselves from Cannes this year.

The ad that created the most talkback was arguably Melody of Life for Thai Life Insurance Company, which saw Ogilvy & Mather Bangkok scoop the highly-coveted TV/ Cinema Grand Prix. In presenting the award onstage, McCann’s Prasoon Joshi had this to say: “It struck a chord with all of us in the jury. In fact, for the first time, I realized that there is a trend away from humor in Asia. One rarely saw such emotional advertising before. This trend to me clearly stood out.” Coupled with the touching tribute to dearly-beloved Yasmin Ahmad, which also involved good friend Linda Locke reading a poem about death that Yasmin herself had written some time back, this left the mood of the ceremony somber, reflective and even a little tear-inducing.

The other big winner was “The Times of India” which picked up “Advertiser of the Year Award for their “Lead India” campaign, and also earned JWT India 2 Grand Prix for “Teach India”. A campaign driven to raise awareness on child illiteracy, the movement has grown to encompass more than 100,000 volunteers with even a burgeoning waitlist to become the largest education programme in the world. JWT was also named “Network of the Year” with their work in JWT Singapore which took away the Media Grand Prix for “SilkAir Cinema Takeover”, JWT Shanghai with the Craft Grand Prix for “Shan Shui”, and JWT Beijing winning in a few categories for “Nokia N96 Bruce Lee Limited Edition Promo”.

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In true Cannes tradition, the evening events were excellent networking opportunities and a great opportunity for delegates to mingle in relaxed surroundings. The tone was set by the opening night hosted by McCann Eriksson at a Singaporean institution, Lau Par Sat, which allowed delegates to experience “a slice of Singaporean hospitality” amidst signature hawker style dishes washed down with copious amounts of Tiger beer.

Agencies Ogilvy & Mather, Euro RSCG, JWT and XM Asia, Starcom Mediavest, TBWA and BBDO pulling out all the stops and throwing open their doors to resounding approval on the second night. Hosted to varying degrees of success depending on how well thought out the space usage within the agencies were, goods times were obviously had by most who attended which naturally resulted in many lie-ins the morning after. The closing party was a ritzy affair held at the strategically located riverfront Indochine, mere steps away from the award ceremony venue at the Victoria Concert Hall, a recital and concert venue exhuding old-syle glamour.




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