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It wasn’t just a Viagra commercial that got up in the advertising industry equivalent of the Oscars recently. A Dove soap commercial and a TV commercial for sugar laced Coca Cola did too. However the overall winner was a commercial that started life as a viral video on the Internet.

A product-less commercial questioning perceptions of beauty that started as a viral video on the Internet won the top trophy at the advertising industry’s version of the Oscars on Saturday night.

The Evolution ad landed a Grand Prix best commercial award ahead of a Coca-Cola videogame and Pfizer Viagra commercial, which both picked up Gold Lion trophies at the industry’s biggest annual awards ceremony.

The Evolution ad was created by the Toronto office of advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather for Anglo-Dutch consumer products group Unilever.

“It is interesting that this particular piece of film actually started as a viral video on the Internet,” said Bob Scarpelli, who headed the 22-member voting jury.

 

“It maybe is indicative of the times we are in and the way our industry is changing. The way we are communicating with people has changed and will continue to change,” he told a press conference in Cannes announcing the winners.

Unilever’s win follows last year’s success with a Guinness ad created by the London office of Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, a division of the Omnicom Group. That ad was built around a campaign called “Noitulove” – evolution spelled in reverse.

The Unilever Evolution ad, which also picked up a Grand Prix trophy in the online digital communications category, uses time lapse to show an ordinary-looking woman worked over by make-up artists, hairdressers, lighting and digital retouching to quickly become a billboard model – ultimately asking the question: How have we so distorted our notions of beauty?

The short digital film was created to encourage girls to participate in Dove-sponsored “real beauty” workshops in conjunction with the brand’s self-esteem fund.

However, once on the Internet it generated million of hits within a matter of weeks and became a talking point among media commentators and social commentary television shows.

 

The commercial had been widely tipped by advertising editors and commentators to pick up the industry’s most prestigious award.

The ad also triggered numerous consumer-generated imitations, such as one showing a good-looking teenager digitally transforming into an overweight, smoking and drinking slob that became a hit on sites like Google’s YouTube.

Ad executives at the festival were not put off by such maverick reworkings of the hit campaign, saying they simply underscored the rising level of engagement between brands and consumers via digital media.

“We have penetrated a culture in such a way that we all want to play with it,” Babs Rangaiah, head of media and entertainment at Unilever, said during a panel debate at the festival on consumer-generated content.

The New York office of Saatchi & Saatchi won the agency of the year award, ahead of DDB in London and Ogilvy & Mather in Singapore. Saatchi’s success broke a four-year winning run by the Paris office of TBWA, an Omnicom unit.

Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO picked up the trophy for the top network, a new category in the festival this year, ahead of DDB and Saatchi & Saatchi.

To see the Dove commercial go to:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVJoGRp30XM&mode=related&search=

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