NEW MEDIA: SPOTLIGHT ON CANNES MEDIA LIONS - Winning a new-media Lion at Cannes for the right reasons. Alasdair Reid investigates the controversy around the new-media Lion at Cannes

Bit of a result in the new-media section of the Cannes Media Lions last week. The only London agency work shortlisted (the Tate Modern "Warholiser campaign from Naked Communications) not only scooped the prize, but did so by beating the red hot favourite - the much celebrated from Fallon Minneapolis.

It's the sort of decision, with all due respect to the Naked work, that tends to be described as "brave", seeing as the world and its palm pilot has been feting the BMW work as the future of digital advertising. Unsurprisingly, it split the jury too. The minority view, expressed by Dene Dallas, MediaCom's US chief strategic officer, was that the BMW work was too brilliant to go unrewarded.

Nick Brien, the president of corporate business development at Starcom MediaVest Group, acknowledges the pioneering nature of the work, but adds that this in itself made it so difficult to pigeon-hole it.

This was not a million miles away from the official majority take on the work. Gordon Muller, the managing director of Media Direction OMD Johannesburg, says it had basically been entered in the wrong category.

The best use of internet/new media within the Cannes Media Lions was too restrictive an arena and not one that was likely to be able to do it justice. It should, he says, have been entered as a campaign in its totality in one of the more general categories - and it might have gained greater recognition as such.

But John Perriss, the chief executive of Zenith Optimedia Group and the president of the Media Lions jury, says there wasn't much argument in the end.

"We recognised that these were fantastic films. The internet was merely the way that people accessed them. They're streamed movies. Admittedly they may not always be directed by Guy Ritchie, but you can find streamed movies on many sites. BMWfilms is just another website. At the end of the day we were there to judge media awards and in this case fantastic media use of the internet. Warholiser used the internet innovatively to encourage people to use the site, Perriss says.

On the whole, though, Perriss admits he was disappointed by the overall standard of work in this category.

It proves, he says, that the internet has found its niche. "The hype has died and it's just another medium now, he adds.

But that's not to take anything away from the Warholiser. It beat not only BMWfilms, but also a transport safety campaign from Clemenger BBDO in New Zealand, "How Lexus saves the advertising industry from Team One in Los Angeles, the "Gas calculator work for Lexus from Saatchi & Saatchi in LA, and a new clothes collection campaign for Triton from DM9DDB in Sao Paulo. Proving conclusively that it is possible for England to beat Brazil.

Naked's work was part of a campaign to publicise the Tate Modern's Warhol exhibition earlier this year. Pete Lien, a strategist at Naked, reveals that the whole notion underpinning the campaign was the question of how Andy Warhol might have used the internet if he were still around today.

"He was a mixed-media artist with strong opinions about consumerism. So what would his attitude be to the internet which has become a huge commercial platform. It's an interesting thought to work on. And we wanted to make it a bit more interactive because if you want to live in the world of Warhol, you have to go beyond a flat, two-dimensional medium. The other thing we wanted to draw on was the 15 minutes of fame thing. I know it's a bit of a cliche, but it is what a lot of people know him for. So we hit on the idea of letting people Warholise themselves using his style, Lien says.

People could submit pictures of themselves and if they were suitable, the site could create a Warhol-style treatment of the pic - the same image repeated in a matrix and overlaid with bright colours, in the manner, for instance, of his Marilyn Monroe work.

The homepage features a different execution every 15 minutes but the images were all stored in a gallery section and could be retrieved, downloaded and sent to friends. Or mums, obviously. And this, of course, helped in encouraging people to spread the news about what the site was up to.

"The viral side worked very well, Lien says. "And in fact we didn't do any publicity at all for the site. It was beta tested by the web specialist Poke, which sent links to a handful of people they knew in Sweden. Before it had even officially launched it was being inundated with images to be Warholised. During the campaign period the site received 200,000 unique users over 49 days and more than 10,000 photos were given the treatment.

"And there was an interesting push-pull effect with other media. It was interesting watching the activity because suddenly there'd be all these Italians coming on to the site and then you'd realise it was because La Repubblica had run an article about it. It was also interesting to watch the growing numbers of mentions in bulletin boards, Lien adds.

But it's the same old story though, isn't it? It is far easier to produce leading edge work for a non-commercial organisation such as a charity or an artistic institution.

Nonsense, Lien responds - it's actually harder.

"Museums and art galleries don't have big budgets (the Warholiser budget was less than £4,000) and there's more fear of getting it wrong by doing something in a non-traditional way. You're always putting yourself up for the accusation that you're just doing it to be cool and trendy and controversial, Lien says.

- Cannes Media Lions, p20.


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