So it’s finally happened. The avowed mission of the Chillies “to propel Sri Lanka’s advertising and marketing communications industry to world class standards” became reality last weekend with Leo Burnett and Triad winning a silver and bronze respectively at the Asia Pacific Advertising Festival held in Pattaya, Thailand.
In the rather vindictive aftermath of the Chillies, Colombo’s top agencies had awaited Adfest with baited breath, expecting the international ad show to exonerate their victories and vindicate their grouses. Whether these two awards will do so will only be told in time, but the fact that Triad has already taken out a full page ad in Monday’s papers gives some inkling of the need to speak with a louder voice when actions fail.
It was very gratifying to see the Leo Burnett entry (the Magic Coffee Cup POSM done for the launch of a Harry Potter book at Odel’s bookshop) do so well, as I personally thought it was easily the best piece at the recently held Chillies show, even though it was beaten by Triad’s Make-Up. The Silver won at Adfest will certainly make the piece’s less than satisfactory showing at the Chillies more palatable. Basically, the piece was a cup of coffee with a mechanical teaspoon in it that stirred itself as if by magic. The cup was left — along with the book — at various places around the Odel mall in Colombo. A truly great idea which naturally captured the personality and essence of the brand in a way that a traditional POS piece such as a poster or cut-out most certainly would have struggled. The public reaction captured in this You Tube clip indicates its impact. The creative team can feel justifiably proud of themselves, not just for the idea, but for restraining themselves in execution and retaining the simplicity of the piece.
Triad’s ambient entry, Make-Up, had been created as a community service project to prevent the dumping of garbage in Colombo, and was done by giving abandoned building frontage and boundary walls (where garbage was being dumped) a face lift to give the impression that they were in use and thereby discouraging litter bugs. This wasn’t the most original idea (it has been done before in India), but nevertheless won a Gold at the Chillies in March. In Triad’s defence, it had taken the Indian idea a step further by actually transforming the buildings into something special and different, and actually using an illusion to deceive the public into behaving themselves.
So while the long-awaited — and I think inevitable — moment has arrived, it’s time to ask the inevitable question: Now What? Do we pat ourselves on our collective backs (after all, it’s “Sri Lanka Can”, not just “Triad Can”, no?) and say “well done, boys, let’s get back to our usual drivel ’til next year”? You see, the problem is, you can never go back. Now that these two awards have been won, Sri Lanka in general, and Leo Burnett and Triad in particular, will feel the pressure to perform as well or better in the future. And all the other agencies — or at least the rest of the big boys — will need to get up there as well.
However, more importantly, now that the Chillies mission has been accomplished, it remains to be seen if its vision of raising the bar of Sri Lankan advertising creativity will also come true. So far the standard of the tiny award-winning percentage of ads hasn’t been reflected in the rice & curry work we see every day before us; if at all, that standard has dropped somewhat in the past 8-10 years. There has also been a general notion amongst the ad fraternity (particularly the mid- and junior-level creatives) that scam wins and you can’t win if you don’t scam. In that light it’s refreshing to see an Adfest Silver go to a genuine piece of work. I look forward to seeing more such work scoring high at next years’ Chillies as well as at international shows in the future.