Farrokh Madon: An inside view of Outdoor and Print advertising at AdFest 2018

Farrokh.jpgFarrokh Madon is Chief Creative Partner at J. Walter Thompson Singapore and he reports for Campaign Brief Asia from AdFest 2018.

Sitting inside an air-conditioned room with 6 guys, knowing there's a lovely beach outside, can usually be classified as legal torture. Thankfully the 2 days spent judging the best Outdoor and Press work in Asia-Pacific turned out to be good fun. The jury members came from countries as diverse as Singapore, Australia, Thailand, Japan, India and Bangladesh. We didn't agree on everything. (Certainly not on our favourite dishes at lunch.) But every judge respected the opinion of others. This made it one of the most enjoyable judging experiences I have ever had.

Looking at the breadth and quality of all the entries, gives a judge a rare overview of the category. It shows what we as an industry should do more of, what we could avoid and where brighter opportunities exist.
Here are my Top 7 Learnings from judging Outdoor and Press at Adfest 2018:

1)   SIZE MATTERS: It's always about big ideas. But when a big idea manifests in a large installation, the impact is exponentially magnified. Greenpeace's Dead Whale in the Philippines is a classic example of a big idea with a massive impact. Imagine going to the beach one morning to see a giant whale washed ashore. Imagine discovering, on taking a closer look, that the whale is made out of rubbish dumped in the sea. Clearly you don't have to imagine why this won 2 Golds. The social and viral potential of this dead whale was far larger and wider and succeeded in making Marine Conservation a topic on the agenda at the ASEAN leaders' meeting.

2)   BEFUDDLING BILLBOARDS: If size magnifies a big idea, it's hard to understand why in the whole of Asia-Pacific there were only a couple of billboards that tried to be creative. The Volvo billboard smartly harnessed the power of lightning to highlight the "pure power" in its cars. It was the only billboard to get a Metal. I would implore creative teams in Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines and other countries with many billboards to please push for ideas as big as the canvas they have with billboards. You will rarely get a bigger opportunity to stand out.

3)   THE MARRIAGE OF A GOOD INSIGHT WITH BIG DATA MAKES FOR BEAUTIFUL BABIES: Adidas' Green Light Run was an idea that left me green with envy. I wish I had done it. It took the insight that runners hate to stop on a run but are forced to stop at traffic lights in cities. Then it crunched data from the Tokyo City Department's over 15,000 traffic lights and their timings to give runners routes to run, so they could avoid a red light. If they needed to up their tempo to beat the light ahead, hey, that could only improve their timings and fitness. Love it. A deserving winner of the Outdoor Grand Prix and a good marker of the road down which the future of advertising lies.

4)   GO FURTHER:  Outdoor advertising isn't limited to a 6-sheet or 12-sheet poster or a billboard. You are outdoors. The whole wide world around you can house your idea. Expand your thinking. The rewards can be out-of-the-box ideas that are surprisingly fresh.

Swann Insurance's Inconvenience Stores actually asked motorcyclists to ride further to get the household necessities. Many did. The rewards were not just a great motorbike ride but also discounts. A great way to rekindle the love of riding a bike with a marketing need.

Another idea I loved was Cruising Jeans, where a brand outfitted a sailing boat with denim sails and then sailed around Japan. At the end of the voyage, the weather-beaten denim was cut into limited edition jeans. Not just did this bring a fresh approach to limited edition fashion products, it also created a new category in denim. I want a pair.

5)   LO-TECH CAN BE FRESH IN OUR HI-TECH WORLD: The Panasonic Posters created a meaningful Point-Of-Sale in which they used a rather lo-tech approach to show a hi-tech benefit: Surveillance for Security. Countries that often complain of low budgets should take inspiration from this and think of smart ways to innovate with small budgets.

6)   PRINT & POSTER CRAFT IS DYING:  Or at least it was taking a holiday in Tahiti. Because I didn't see it in the convention hall or the beach in Pattaya. There are still many people in our industry that have skills that enable crafted communication that instantly catches the attention of passers-by and readers. Please don't turn your back on those skills just because it seems "cooler" to win in some tech categories. Please remember that your skills can make these media more relevant in today's age. And your ignoring them will only hasten their demise.

7)   NO MEDIA IS AN ISLAND: The dynamic data landscape we live in gives us rare opportunities to blend data with traditional skill sets of film making and print craft. There's no reason why a great outdoor idea can't involve Cyber/Social/Mobile with Outdoor/Print communication. Going down this road can be extremely rewarding.

I hope this helps the many who couldn't make it to AdFest, to still get an idea of what was at the show. Hopefully you can make it there in the future. It is a show hosted by hospitable folks, who are passionate about advertising. See you there next year.

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