“Good boys go to heaven, bad boys go to Pattaya.” And so do the Asia Pacific region’s admen and women, to attend Adfest.
The four day event was held as usual at the city’s Exhibition and Convention Hall, on the hills overlooking the notorious Walking Street and the Gulf of Thailand.
The region’s cultural diversity was evident both among attendees and in the work on show.
Adfest’s Lotus Awards attracted more than 3,000 entries from about 300 agencies throughout Asia Pacific market. This year’s Grande Lotus for Film went to Japanese agency Nitto for its “Firefly Man” spot for Odedel: it features a man who turns into a firefly to help curb his family’s power consumption.
Japan also scored gold with Shiseido’s popular “High school girls?” spot from Watts of Tokyo.
Coincidentally, his agency won the Grande in Adfest’s exclusive Lotus Roots category, which looks at the relevance of the work within local contexts, with a campaign raising awareness about the taboo of menstruation in India.
Once again, the lectures on the main stage gave attendees a chance to keep tabs on industry trends. One of the most appreciated speakers was Luke Ritchie, executive producer at Nexus Interactive Arts, who talked about how augmented and virtual reality are redefining design and user experience. For example, screen-writing for VR must take into account side-events happening around the user while keeping him in the main story arc.
Sergio Spaccavento, executive creative director of Italian agency Conversion, gave a rich and entertaining breakdown of the use of humor in advertising, from the required structure of a joke to the different mechanics that create laughter. In other words, he shared with a captive audience the ground rules for writing something funny.
While several talks reflected on the state of advertising and its future, two in particular offered striking takeaways. Paul Kemp-Robertson, co-founder and editorial director of Contagious in London, reminded us that marketing is inherently “anti-creative”, as the first instinct of brand executives is to maintain safe, stable and predictable results. Yet creativity rests on experimenting and exploring uncharted territory. As a result it is systematically annihilated in the board room – a status quo no longer sustainable in an era of rapidly changing consumer behavior.
Meanwhile, Mike Edmonds, executive creative director at Meerkats in Perth, explained how brands are trying too hard to create intimacy and respect among their audiences. These efforts are beginning to sound unauthentic to an increasingly defiant public, as exemplified by a campaign that used stock images and inspirational music to address deep questions on the human condition, only to sell potato snacks. Brands should instead focus on the “true truth” about their intentions and values, said Edmonds, and determine where these overlap with those of the consumer. That sweet spot, as narrow as it may be, is the secret to credible and effective communication.
There was much to take home from Adfest: a Lotus for the luckier ones, but at the very least some insights, ideas and business cards. And also, if you happen to be one of those bad boys, a major hangover.