The 2009 Spikes Asian Advertising Festival, which ended in Singapore last Friday, may well go down as a significant landmark in the continent's creative coming-of-age.
Not only were there more than 2,600 entries from 21 countries, but there was widespread agreement that the work was reflective of a broad spread of creative talent across the region.
Indeed, Dave Droga, the Droga5 founder, who was the president of the traditional jury, found work that not only moved him but also that he wished he'd done himself.
What's still obvious, from the way the Spikes honours were distributed, is that Asia's best creative work continues to pour out of small hubs such as Singapore and Bangkok.
Nevertheless, the Spikes confirm that India and China are emerging as creative forces to be reckoned with, while Malaysia and the Philippines showed why they are ones to watch. Meanwhile, as expected, Japanese agencies picked up anything remotely digital.
However, it was also clear that, just as at Cannes, radio remains a medium creatives continue to have difficulty in cracking. No Grand Prix was awarded in the category, the judges declaring themselves uniformly disappointed with the standard of entry.
This new creative order was very much reflected in the success of JWT, which had most to celebrate among the networks, winning four of the nine Grands Prix. This included two for its Mumbai operation and one apiece for Shanghai and Singapore.
Ogilvy & Mather Bangkok won the Grand Prix in the coveted TV/cinema section for its "melody of life" campaign for Thai Life Insurance. "It was an amazing film," Droga (pictured, below) said. "If you are not moved by this, you will not be moved by anything."
BBDO/Proximity Malaysia ended up top of the print selection, taking the Grand Prix for its "Jeep" campaign for Chrysler Korea. Droga described it as: "Work we all wish we had done."
Other notable work in this section included Ogilvy & Mather Singapore's campaign for Ben & Jerry's ice-cream and Saatchi & Saatchi Guangzhou's "safeguard" campaign for Procter & Gamble.
The outdoor Grand Prix was given to Dentsu Tokyo for its "human vending machine world tour" campaign for the local retailer Uniqlo. This ambient campaign saw off more traditional outdoor billboard work from the region, including JWT Shanghai's "Shan Shui environmental art" campaign and Ogilvy & Mather Bangkok's work for the Unilever Comfort brand.
The digital, direct and sales promotion jury awarded two Grands Prix - one for digital and one for direct and sales promotion. The feeling among the judges was that the digital work in general was of a high quality, with the best examples on a par with work from other parts of the world.
In direct and sales promotion, though, work generally paled in comparison with some of the pieces being produced in Western markets. Nevertheless, JWT's "teach India" campaign for The Times of India, which aims to connect children in need of education with those who can provide it, continued its winning ways by taking the Grand Prix.
The jury said it was impressed by the campaign's big idea and its emotional approach. "We were looking for something that was seamless across the board and was made better by every execution, every touch-point," Droga said.
Unsurprisingly, the shortlist for digital was dominated by North Asia, with Japan, Korea and China making up the bulk of the entries.
Ultimately, the digital Grand Prix went to "wish I could be true to myself" by Robot Communications for Sony Music Entertainment. The campaign featured a video that could be played on two mobile phones when they were laid side by side.
"It was a difficult decision," the jury president, Fred Koblinger, the chief executive of PKP Proximity in Austria, acknowledged. "But the Grand Prix winner showed a new approach to communicating in the digital space, bringing people back together in the real world."
The media category threw up one of the biggest surprises, with the Grand Prix going to JWT Singapore for its "cinema takeover" work for the no-frills airline SilkAir.
The much-fancied 2009 Cannes Grand Prix winner "KitKat mail" from JWT Japan came out with a silver Spike and the Axe Japan "wake-up service" campaign from Bartle Bogle Hegarty Asia-Pacific had to settle for a bronze.
Laura Desmond, the Starcom MediaVest global chief executive and the president of the media jury, said: "I think the general standard of entries was good. Is it as good across the board as everyone would want it to be? No. I think there is room for improvement."
What Desmond did find in the media category was campaigns that were clearly created with business results in mind. "The strengths I see in this region are a real focus on integrated work, multimedia, mixed media," she commented. "Plus a real focus on digital and a real strong, robust focus on brand results. We saw some tremendous business cases where media was impacting sales, brand metrics and very important aspects of a client's business."
In the craft category, JWT Shanghai won the Grand Prix for its print ad "Shan Shui environmental art" for the China Environment Protection Foundation. The campaign was also awarded a gold Spike, as was BBDO Malaysia's "Jeep" print campaign.
Finally, in the integrated category, the jury said it was impressed by the big idea and emotional approach of the Grand Prix winner "teach India" from JWT Mumbai.
"It was a big idea in terms of a big emotional approach to a target group, which was the whole country, and it tried not only to do an ad campaign but something to integrate and engage the people on both sides - consumers and products," Koblinger said.
Alex J Kwon, the interactive creative director at Cheil Worldwide, said a common thread among the winners was that most of them didn't think about the medium. "They thought of the idea first and decided to execute it on different media," he said, adding that a large number of entries were from non-profit organisations.
Regarding the overall standard of entries, Koblinger said there were a large number of average campaigns, which did "nothing wrong but nothing outstanding".
"In the end, we had eight bronzes, two silvers and two golds, which wasn't much," Koblinger added. "It was easy to come to a decision on the Grand Prix."
SPIKES: THE BIG WINNERS
Network of the Year JWT
Agency of the Year: Ogilvy & Mather Bangkok
Media agency of the Year: OMD Hong Kong
Advertiser of the Year: The Times of India
Grand Prix winners: JWT (direct and sales promotion, media, integrated, craft) Ogilvy & Mather (TV/cinema) Dentsu (outdoor) BBDO/Proximity Malaysia (print) Robot Communications, Tokyo (digital) McCann Worldgroup (design)