Guy Venables' AdFest Print Craft judging diary

Guy Venables.jpgOver the past decade Guy Venables (on right) has been a regular delegate and print craft judge at AdFest. This year he again joined the print craft jury under the leadership of Yoshihiro Yagi (center). Here's is Venable's account of the judging experience.

As someone who has attended more advertising festivals than most over the twenty plus years of working in the Asia Pac region I can definitely say that hands down Adfest is truly unique in so far that it is the only festival perhaps in the world that offers totally immersion in regional creativity and culture over 3-4 days whilst surrounded by Asia's creative elite gathered under one roof.

This 'on campus' format metaphorically puts everyone around the same campfire and the festivals fire burns brighter for it as a result. It is in this aspect that it eclipses all other festivals where delegates stay off campus and visit the festival each day.
At Adfest one eats and breathes the business of ideas, creativity and craft from breakfast until bedtime...which can sometimes be quite late as Adfest host many parties and galas for over a thousand creative's with free flowing beer and wine and we all know what happens when a few creative's get together 'for a few beers'. Think, training camp for the annual Cannes marathon and you'll get the picture.

It is not the first time I have judged at international festivals. Having chaired craft three times in the last ten years in Asia, it has been interesting to witness the evolution of the Asian creative industry and the arrival of the festival format prevailing over 'award' nights.  I was particularly impressed that Adfest has evolved a rigorous judging system complete with checks with each jury diligently adjudicated. Our adjudicator was Mike an advertising professor; he made sure that the rules were adhered to. We all universally appreciated his diligence in administering the job of herding a group of creative cats down one track.

This year 57 jurors from 18 countries assembled before the festival for three days of judging, the Design and Print Craft Jury was from 7 countries each juror bringing overlapping and complementary creative skill sets in to the room.  Jeremy Craigen was a superb Chairman of Judges overseeing us all and appearing in each jury room each day, he is an inspiring chap to talk to and wonderful to have spent time with, I rate him up with Neil French who I judged with a few years ago in terms of fun and outlook.

I would describe our Chair Yoshihiro Yagi as humble yet firm in his values and vision and he was an absolute pleasure to work with. There were some comic moments when our Chair and only Japanese judge had to abstain and leave the room leaving 6 jurors from 6 non-japanese countries looking at all the universally understood aesthetic elements of Japanese design and print craft but needing advice on language and cultural context.

GuyVenables_AdFest1.jpgOne of the important things at a regional festival is to make a conscious effort to understand the cultural context of the work, something of extreme significance in one country has no meaning in another and one must be careful to check oneself and view work with as much global understanding as one can gather, hence I like to ask questions like 'is this important in Japan?" or "Do people use this product/service a lot in this country?' or 'is this really such a huge problem in x or y?'  In this this respect Adfest offers a huge education in cultural understanding across Asia. Over the 15 years I have attended Adfest it has proved itself to be not only a wonderful festival, and certainly the most fun, but also a book in the university of life. if you want to know Asia and understand the Asian market then Adfest will give you this in buckets both inside and outside the festival as you are mixing with delegates all day and night.

To win metal at Adfest is a reasonable barometer of what creative work is headed further afield, much of what wins as Adfest wins at Cannes and with Adfest kicking off the regional festivals annually it gives one an idea what Asia Pacific work may get up at Cannes and which agencies and creative's may  be taking 'the walk' in June.

Originally I set out to write about the top three pieces of work I saw at Adfest and the judging experience but as I type this for Campaign Brief Asia it has become apparent that there is a depth of cultural understanding and education at Adfest, it's in every piece of work one sees, in everyone one meets, Adfest is important in more ways to the Asian industry than just being about the work. There are insights into cultures, as well as expressions of creativity, it is easy to be distracted by the great ideas, and great ideas really do stand out and make themselves apparent quite readily as cream floats, at Adfest we are judging the 'crème de la crème' once one is exposed to all the entries it leaves you richer in ways beyond the idea, in the end the great test ideas jump out at you, you know that when there is unanimity from 7 judges from seven different cultures that there is a winner that is speaking beyond its culture.

The pieces that won the Grande in our jury won because they spoke beyond their own cultural boundaries, whilst we had the back up of seeing 'case presentations' (a whole 8 hour day of 2 min video presentations back to back) to educate us as to the context of the work, the work that won needed no explanation regardless of language, the ideas and craft leapt at you and spoke... one just got it. There was such amazing work in every judging category, but here are a few that had judges chatting across juries.

Hibiki_1.jpgHikiki2.jpgHibiki Whisky (Hakuhodo Japan): This work blew the jury away because we all 'got it' instantly  as a piece of non-language based communication, it was the ultimate visual expression of the tones and notes in a whisky blend, providing a visual metaphor for the taste sensation and mouth feel of the product. If looking at it was not enough, then touching the paper and studying each intricate detail created using traditional Washi paper made from fibrous pulp was amazing, it created a 3d relief about 4mm think, we were universally left wondering how it had been created as it looked and felt organic and like every line had been carved by hand. The combination of washi paper and delicate embossing technique and the fibrous nature of the pump which left the edges rough gave it a consistency akin to etched balser wood. The scale of it was also impressive, a wall of visual symphony all leading the eye to the hero bottle etched centre stage. It certainly got us all keen to experience wee a drop of Hibiki.

MotoRepellent.jpgMoto Mosquito Repellant (BBDO Bangkok): A device that is attached to a moped/scooter exhaust that dispurses  mosquito repellant via the hot exhaust that is forced through it. The idea was originally hatched in Sri Lanka by a brilliant creative but laws did not allow it to be implimented there, so BBDO Thailand took it up, with 50 working prototypes made and it tested in the field. We heard how the government was interested, if they do nothing then it would be a shame of the agency does not push it through and present it to be monetised via the manufacturers of citronella products, as a social responsibility product its all there, again needing no explanation against a backdrop of the thousands of people who catch and sometimes die from mosquito born diseases in Asia each year.

D&AD Awards 2014 and 2015 Exhibition In Japan (Dentsu Inc Tokyo): There were two stand outs in the Design and Print category for this suburb design work. The poster category for 'Pure Design' D&AD 2015 lived up to its name, a smile well executed idea where the attention to minute detail in the printing that it left the whole jury in a state of wonder. the 2014 D&AD work won Gold in 'Broadcast/Digital/Motion design in its conveying of the workings of the creative mind 'joining dots and making connections', this message was also extended in to print and direct delivering its message in a simple and stunning way that any creative just got.

Firefly Man (Nitto Tokyo): What a great idea for LED lighting company, bizarre , memorable , great story telling,  even if you don't have subtitles you get it.

Shell We Move (Hakuhodo Kettle Japan): Great idea for a housing company and a well deserved Grande in its category, turning a whole beach in to a ambient media spectacle, gaining press along the way.

I can pretty much sum up all my choices with one criteria i.e. anyone  would 'get' the work without a translator.

Adfest's Vinit and Jimmy Lam have created something unique in the world. Adfest was the first truly regional festival with a sense of creative community, ideas  and the processes involved in the business of ideas and creativity at its heart, a festival that also seeks to unite not only the business of ideas and advertising but also the business of bringing ideas of life via various craft disciplines. They have both helped to put Asia on the world stage.

It is Adfest's 20th anniversary next year, and it deserves to celebrate it's own success. If you are someone who has not attended, I strongly suggest you make the trip, you will come back changed, broader, and more aware of what Asia is all about, you will also come back exhausted and with more friends of a feather from across Asia and beyond.

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