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I have always loved “Miss Yuko Yamada looks for her first job,” since Dentsu featured it in its Asian advertising talk at Cannes. I am delighted to report it has won one of the only two golds awarded by the AdFest 2008 TV jury. The other gold went to Maxell’s Forever and Ever campaign. Both of them had me wiping the tears from my eyes. I also cried at Yasmin and team’s Petronas ad for Malaysia’s 50th year of freedom, featuring a little Chinese boy and his Indian girlfriend. I don’t think I’ve ever cried so much at an advertising awards show in my life.

I think this year’s jury prized authenticity in storytelling and the creation of real human connections above the slick and the commercial. The Kleenex Let It Out campaign, on the surface, was a standard executional device: real people talking to an interviewer off-cam. It was the unique human stories that captured my attention; a woman who married a man with cancer, even if he tried his best to break up with her, and a couple who finally got married after 70 years.

I also liked the Wake Up Thailand campaign, out of Creative Juice/G1 Bangkok. They could just as easily run it in the Philippines, as it features corruption and evil public servants. And then there was the Heroes-via-Takeshi’s Castle TVC for a ready-to-drink tea that claimed to help reduce high blood pressure. (That one drew the most laughter from the audience, and from me.)

In Outdoor, what I liked best was the Discovery Channel series from (I think) DDB Auckland. They were science experiments blown up to billboard size. I was not too fond of the sleight-of-eye work that would only make sense if viewed from one angle, but there were many examples of that.

I had to proxy again for the Y&R Singapore/Asia team because okcupid.com won a bronze in Poster campaign. I kept saying “I’m just a proxy” to whoever was handing out the Lotus, because truth be told it was a bit embarrassing to be going up for something that wasn’t mine. Still, the discomfort was more palpable when no one actually went up for something. Phenomena was a no-show even if it won Production House of the Year. Long uncomfortable seconds passed when no one went up to receive the Saatchi & Saatchi Singapore Agency of the Year plaque. (Although someone eventually did.) It almost felt like the agency that didn’t send anyone up wasn’t thankful it won.

Earth Hour out of Leo Burnett Sydney won Best of the Best in the Direct category, which made LB Sydney Direct Agency of the Year. Bascule from Tokyo won Interactive Agency of the Year. JWT is Network Agency of the Year. Guan Hin had the biggest grin on his face as he and the JWT people hit the stage.

I had two favorite campaigns tonight: Nissin Cup Noodle’s Freedom 360ยบ campaign (out of ground Tokyo) and Sony Bravia Color Tokyo! from 777Interactive. Freedom isn’t just a commercial, it’s a 30-minute anime on DVD, a line of jeans, a shared investment between the agency and the client. The Color Tokyo! campaign is a triumph of technology. Use an eyedropper on any of the Sony Bravia TVCs running on the website, drop the color onto an image of the Sony building, and LED lights (I believe they placed 16 million of them) on the building change to the color you choose. In real life.

Sri Lanka brought home a bronze and a silver. The first winners came up on stage waving flags. A guy carried a banner that said “sri lanka can.” Go, Colombo. ๐Ÿ™‚

The Philippines didn’t bring home anything this night, unless I missed something during a restroom run. It’s not easy to admit, but perhaps we are still making ads and not life-touching, life-changing ideas.

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