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Finally, it’s all about ideas

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Bold ideas make Cannes the inspiration hub for those interested in the unknown..

Josy Paul

Cannes Lions 2009 is over. The awards have been won. Glory has been got. Fame has been achieved. The discussion and debates are done. The bells and whistles have taken the last flight. What remains are the ideas.

The ideas refuse to leave. They stay with you like a living organism. You see them everywhere. Haunting you, taunting you, pushing you… to find your own. Ideas that shake you and make you rethink about the things you do.

One such idea that’s following me around is what Beacon Communication, Tokyo, created for Yubari Resort. Let’s start with the background.

With a debt of $353 million, Yubari City in Hokkaido, Japan, went bankrupt in 2007. The mission was to promote Yubari, re-energise its citizens, and help make the city economically viable once more.

The idea came from a unique observation. It focused on the fact that Yubari boasted the lowest divorce rate in the whole of Japan and created the idea ‘Yubari — no money but love’. In expanding this idea they created a loveable, yet slightly ironic character called ‘Yubari Fusai’. ‘Fusai’ means both ‘debt’ and “married couple” in Japanese. They then collaborated with the city to create additional schemes that positioned the city as a destination for happy couples — official certificates of happily married couples, branded merchandise and Yubari music CDs, to name a few.

A city built around love and fresh air, no money! The result: it grabbed the attention of media and public. Over $1.5 million was generated in advertising value with exposure including 100 newspaper mentions, 100 online media mentions, 30 TV mentions and 53,100 blog entries. Since the initiation of this project, the annual number of visitors to Yubari increased 10 per cent year on year, whilst $31 million has been generated toward alleviating the city’s debt. Branded Yubari Fusai products that initially were only available in Yubari now enjoy popularity nationwide.

Given the state of the city’s finances the idea had to be low cost but highly effective. Just as importantly, the promotion had to be upbeat and positive. The campaign also needed to protect the sensitivities of the local residents and be sure that the promotion didn’t demean them. The idea of “no money but love” was an honest, yet endearing articulation of the situation they faced.

Ideas like ‘Yubari — no money but love’ make Cannes the inspiration centre for people who love the unfamiliar. As David Droga said about the Titanium Award, “The unknown reminds us that there’s always something better than the trusted comfort of familiarity. The best ideas are the ones that help us extend our worlds — ideas that stretch our advertising horizons, smart lateral thinking that expands our collective canvas and broadens our opportunities into places we didn’t even know existed. Bold ideas that not only make us better as an industry, but motivate us to be braver and more adventurous.”

True courage

You want true courage. You’ll get that in the next idea. Imagine a campaign using the Zimbabwean currency as an advertising medium on posters and billboards to raise awareness of the dire state of the country under Robert Mugabe. An idea so brave, so audacious it makes you want to get up and do something. Let me explain. This is an idea for The Zimbabwean, a newspaper that attacked Mugabe’s regime by using the troubled country’s almost worthless bank notes to make billboard adverts.

The lines used in the campaign included, “Thanks to Mugabe this money is wallpaper,” “Z$250,000,000 cannot buy the paper to print this poster on.” “It’s cheaper to print this on money than on paper,” and “Fight the regime that has crippled a country.” The work, by South African agency TBWA/Hunt/Lascaris/Johannesburg, won the Cannes Lions Grand Prix award for outdoor advertising.

“The need to build both brands and sales is more pressing, but many still see them in opposition. The expectation of results is greater than ever, but ideas that truly activate behaviour are waiting to be created. Connect. Engage. Involve. Activate …” there’s a missionary zeal in the words of the president of the promo jury.

And the jury did a great job picking ideas like Yubari and this next idea from Proximity BBDO Brussels for Dodge. It just cracks you up! Family cars usually have ‘Baby on board’ stickers on the back.

The typical macho on the other hand rather has ‘fun’ in the back of the car. The conception became the concept: Baby Made On Board. The campaign invited their prospects to test the backseat of the Dodge Journey, and make a baby during the ‘test drive’!

‘Baby made on board’ stickers were handed out, e-mails were sent and posters were put out, all leading to the Web site. Here the action was communicated, and visitors were invited to spread the message, by sending an interactive, baby tickling e-card to their girlfriend. Gorgeous Dodge girls playing in the wet drew attention to the showrooms. Predictors were given to every couple that went for a backseat ‘test drive’.

The campaign was more than fruitful: a total of 72 babies speak for itself! The action became the talk of the day on many blogs around the world. It was picked up by national and international media (press, radio), and no less than 1,37,000 articles were published online. The proud parents were gifted a free ‘Dodge Journey.’

Inspiration, direction

I wasn’t even there at Cannes this year. But just hearing and reading about these ideas is a humbling experience. There’s growth, inspiration and direction.

Like David Lubars said in his opening message, “Now more than ever, we need to give clients brilliant and sparkling ideas that can be applied to their unprecedented problems. We need to give them inspired genius executed on shoestring budgets. We need to give them gargantuan ideas that can create sunlight where there seems to be none. The one place to see this type of thinking is Cannes.

“This year Cannes will end up being more than an awards show. It’ll be a primer on how to take the power of creativity out for a ride, press the pedal down, and see what it can do on a bumpy road.”

(The writer is Chairman and Chief Creative Office, BBDO India.)

Related Stories:
Ad industry expects Cannes Lions’ roar to be muted this year
There will be fewer entries at Cannes this year

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated July 2, 2009)
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