Cannes ad winners judged on results as well as creativity

Advertising going forward will be judged as much on big results as it is on big ideas at the world's biggest creativity competition, where, for the first time, winning entries are being based on business results.

Campaigns that won big Tuesday at the 56th Annual Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival: The Zimbabwean newspaper that used devalued currency in billboards, posters and flyers to help demonstrate economic hardships that have taken a toll on residents and newspaper circulation.

The campaign took a Grand Prix in the outdoor category and nearly won the Grand Prix in media. Instead it took a Gold Lion in the media competition. The Grand Prix for media went to a simple one-piece mailer for Kit Kat in Japan that built off a long-standing tradition to wish children well during final exams.

Media entries were scrutinized amid new criteria to demonstrate quantifiable results or get pulled out of the running. The new criteria also applied to direct and promotion competition but media is one of the most important categories at Cannes. It represents the strategy behind where ads appear and how they are used.

"The ones that got tossed out had not demonstrated or demonstrated little effectiveness," says Nick Brien, global president, CEO, Mediabrands, N.Y. "They were pure creative ideas that lacked media innovation."

Ads need to spur consumer action or reaction — whether it's buying a product, participating in the campaign by making it viral or being part of the audience or clicking through an ad.

The Kit Kat mailer was distributed in 22,000 Japanese post offices to reach the friends and families that send good, old-fashioned, hand-written notes through the mail at exam time. Kit Kat translated means Kitto Katsu — or surely win — and Nestle and agency JWT, Tokyo, saw the candy bar as an opportunity to wish children well or to "win" on exams.

The plan included Kit Kat displays in post offices and a one-piece mailer complete with postage, candy bar and a card on which to write a note. The campaign generated more than $11 million in free publicity and other business results that were undisclosed.

"We saw Kit Kat as an integrated idea that had brand marketing, promotion, digital and customer response," says Brien. "It demonstrated a fully holistic approach and yet broke new ground in how media could become a powerful utility."

Powerful was also the theme behind the winning campaign for The Zimbabwean, a newspaper for Zimbabweans at home and abroad. Ads, by TBWA\Hunt\Lascaris in Johannesburg, that ran in South Africa included billboards, wall murals direct mailers, flyers and publicity using actual devalued Zimbabwean dollars. The newspaper is charged a 55% import tax for distribution in Zimbabwe, under the leadership of President Robert Mugabe.

Big headlines such as "It's cheaper to print this on money than paper" and "Fight the regime that has crippled a country" were printed on the bank notes. The newspaper's website received 2 million hits during the campaign and has helped boost newspapers sales.

Other winners:

• The U.S. scooped up 20 more awards including media Gold Lions for Lexus, Burger King, Wal-Mart and Clorox, which also took a silver Gold Lions for its "reverse graffiti" campaign. The marketing used its Green Works products to clean up urban landscapes. Six U.S. brands including Nike, and CW show Gossip Girl also won a Silver Lion in media.

•HBO won a Gold Lion for an interactive billboard to promote its show, Big Love. Everyone has something to hide is an ongoing them in the show about polygamy. The billboard let people plug headsets into pictures of the show's characters. But rather than hear secrets about the characters people hear secrets from other regular folks, meant to represent a cross-section of viewers.

"It's a great interactive piece," says Jose Molla, executive creative director, La Communidad in Miami and a judge on the outdoor jury. "Sharing secrets was very in tune with the show. It takes a traditional format and turns it into something that goes well beyond that."

•Warner Bros. won a Gold Lion in outdoor for a creative record launch for Oasis. The band released four songs to street performers who played the songs and included information about the new album as they played.