Cheat Sheet on the Adfest
Adfest co-founder Jimmy Lam blew into town last January 23, to see if everyone was all set for Adfest 2006. First, he checked on the aspiring writers and art directors at Camp Creatives. Later that evening, he met with some of Manila’s more senior creative directors at the wine bar Cyrano, to share some strategies for winning in Pattaya. Here are some of his pointers.
Make an ad that a judge wants to see again and again…and again. Last year’s winner of the Grand Prix is an excellent example. By the time the Ajinomoto Stadium spot reached Pattaya, everyone had seen it more than a few times. Of course, the judges had to view it again at the screening and once more at the finalists’ screening, but they never tired of it. Perhaps they couldn’t get enough of that poor desperate boy, bedding the ugliest girl in town, only to find out that the pretty girls were, in fact, the real deal.
Sometimes, an interesting strategy can make your ad stand out. Noble Development’s “impersonators” campaign wasn’t an obvious choice for the gold. After all, who still votes for talking heads?But once the judges understood the merit in being the genuine article, they saw the gem in this ad. If imitation was the sincerest form of flattery, then Noble Development was worthy of an award too.
Production values aren’t everything. Judges look at thousands of ads, most of them with great production values. So impressing the judges with a slick ad won’t be enough. You need a strong core idea. Look at the Saatchi’s energy conservation spot. No special effects, no slick photography. Just a down-to-earth approach, simple dialogue and the signature Thai humor. Yet it clearly deserves the award.
Humor isn’t everything either. A lot has been said about Thai humor in the Adfest. Now, while judges always like a funny ad, slapstick isn’t a surefire strategy. Once again, if the ad doesn’t have a core idea or if the humor is out of place, then it doesn’t stand a chance.
Don’t sweat the little things, especially the subtitles. Dialogue in a foreign language is not necessarily a bad thing. Having local flavor can be an advantage. But if you must translate, because the idea is all in the dialogue, then translate and dub it in English. Don’t get lazy and send a written translation. It’s dark in those screening rooms. Judges won’t bother to read it.The same goes for the subtitles. Art directors, please resist the urge to make them tiny. Subtitles are meant to be read—and read easily. Be nice to the judges, and they may just thank you.
Ground your idea in a universal insight. Of course, some ads just don’t need translation, no matter what language is spoken. That’s because their stories are universal. For instance, mothers are the same everywhere you go. Mothers always want you to call home. And when you realize that the young man in the I-mobile spot has just lost his mom, you’ll want to call home, too.
Spend your money wisely. It’s so easy to think that the Adfest is a numbers game—the more entries you send, the more chances you have of winning. But it isn’t. Be ruthless in looking at your own work; send only what is sure to win. If you have the slightest doubt about an ad, don’t bother.
Now, having enumerated the many ways to curry the Adfest jury’s favor, Lam added one last tip.
All judges are not the same. There’s a good chance that taste of judges in the Adfest will differ from the taste of judges in the Cannes Lions, so what wins in Pattaya may not win in Cannes. Then again, a Cannes judge will not vote the same way as a Clio judge. There will always be a discrepancy. So what else can you do?
See you in Pattaya!