Cannes: Valente on judging promotions

Surprise is key for me when judging promotional campaigns. And I won't distinguish here between judging work for creative awards or the discussion that goes on in day-to-day agency life as work is being produced - surprise is the key factor.

Surprise means that we perceive a TV ad, press ad, promotion, whatever, as a type of advertainment, something that enhances a brand and makes people notice it for all the right reasons.

Promotions are clues to brand character, enhancing the brand, a token of gratitude for continuing custom.

The signal that such a bonus sends out is one of generosity and confidence - and these are some of the things I look for when judging promotions. A good promotion makes an assumption about me: that I will appreciate a token of gratitude - it's a form of congratulation. A bribe, on the other hand, assumes that consumers will buy something they never wanted because it's now cheaper. That's an insult.

I always look for a pertinent, innovative, efficient idea at the core of a promotion. There are so many ideas to choose from and to look for: a virtual game, collection items, a contest, membership rewards, preferential treatment, a PR initiative, a reward card or ID tag, a gift. All these things can be interpreted as clues to brand character - one of the many scraps and straws from which people build impressions of brands in their heads.

One of the most successful promo ideas ever in my home market, Brazil, about ten years ago, was created with a level of what I like to call "commotion". It broke the rules, but in a confident, distinctive and inspiring way.

It was for a milk company and was based on toys. So far, so normal. These toys could only be acquired through the promotion, with milk packs exchanged for soft toys. Again, so far, so normal. The trick was that the toys were all of different types of mammals. This theme made people want to collect them. A decade later, this unique promotion is still top of mind in the Brazilian market. It was a surprising promotion with a magic element of commotion too - everything I look for when judging work.


Recently, Audi launched a new sports car model in Paris. With it came a specially created CD/DVD collection for Elle subscribers. The music linked the concepts of cars and fashion and was put together by the ultimate sound designer in Paris, who had access to and knowledge of the most promising and creative singers.

When we first saw this idea did we think it was just a promotion? No, it was built on some of those many scraps and straws, referred to opposite, from which people build impressions of brands in their heads. The bonus - the CD/DVD - congratulates and flatters the consumer. We bought the idea, of course. The results speak for themselves.

- Sergio Valente rose from copywriter, to creative director to chief executive at DDB Brasil (formerly DM9). Under his leadership, the agency won Cyber Agency of the Year at Cannes.