Ad Track: Winning ads really work for consumers

In an era when ad ubiquity is being met with more consumer avoidance, marketers are trying to make ads that work — literally.

Even in a slowing economy, worldwide ad spending is expected to top $600 billion this year, up from $500 billion just two years ago. That's a lot of messages battling for consumers' attention.

Now some advertisers are trying to create ads that offer consumers something useful with the brand message — something they'll seek out — instead of trying to bombard them with ads they can't escape.

"People today know (it) is advertising. If there's a special approach, people get the feeling they are being talked to in a new way," says Armin Jochum, chief creative officer of BBDO Stuttgart and Berlin.

The alternative approach was on display recently at the ad industry's annual competition, the Cannes Lions festival in France. Jochum was one of 200 judges for the 28,284 entries in 10 ad categories.

Among ads at Cannes that work for consumers:

Uniqlo's "Uniqlock."

Japan's Uniqlo, a global retailer with a flagship store in New York, won the top award for new idea with a downloadable digital clock with video of dancers in Uniqlo clothes. It can be used as a PC screensaver or a mobile screen, or embedded in a Facebook page. The clock, which has sleep and alarm modes, has been downloaded by 32,000 people in 85 countries.

A Uniqlock website has video of dancers (updated as new apparel hits stores) and an interactive world map that shows users on the site and their cities, as well as the time in any city selected. It has had 124 million page views in 212 countries.

"It's viral, it's brand, it's simple, it's beautiful, it's a clock that shows their collection," says Matias Palm-Jensen, an ad executive at Swedish agency Farfar. "It's utility."

'The Times of India.'

A print ad in the newspaper called on "old" and "new" Indians to help make the nation a world power and sought entrants for a TV talent show to find new leaders. Judges picked semifinalists from more than 34,000 entries. Readers voted for finalists by e-mail and text message; the top eight won spots on the 10-week show. The effort took the Grand Prix, India's first in the festival's 55 years, for direct marketing.

Reebok.

The social-networking site goruneasy.com lets runners log their runs, chat, post pictures and find running routes in new cities. The site won a Silver Lion in the media buying competition. Nike also has such a site, which is integrated with its Nike+ shoes and wireless electronic run monitoring.

Axe.

The men's personal care brand offers a mobile application on its Japanese website to put on phones sexy images, ring tones and an "alarm girl" who messages at times set by the user. The messages get racier with each use. The application won a Bronze Lion in the online marketing competition.

Adobe.

People in jobs that require collaboration found an Adobe program fun when it was set up as a tennis match with two players. In Adobe Layer Tennis, which won a Bronze Lion for media strategy, the first player has 15 minutes to create a single layer of art. It is then posted to the Web "stadium" — viewable by others online — and the second player has 15 minutes to manipulate it with Adobe tools and return it to the first player. They volley five times. Simple word of mouth attracted more than 50,000 users to watch the first "match," and 500,000 have watched since.

NEW & NOTABLE

Bust out from the pack.

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