Jeroen de Ruijter (left) and João Inácio – a freelance team from Amsterdam – were invited to participate in the Young Stars competition (part of the Ad Stars festival) in Busan, South Korea, last month – the team got noticed because of the awards they won at the Global Best Digital Advertising, D&AD, Young Cup, and Piaf Awards. According to the team the festival was useful, amusing, and very inspiring. It thus opened their eyes a little further and grew their international network substantially. We asked the team a few question about their stay in Busan.

We’ve never heard of the Ad Stars festival, can you tell us a little about it?
You could say that Ad Stars is becoming the Cannes Lions of Asia. It showcases the best advertising from the world – though obviously most of the work is coming from Asia. The 2012 edition had a record of 10,431 entries from more than 57 countries worldwide.

Why did you choose to go to Ad Stars, if Cannes is around the corner?
Mostly out of curiosity. We’re constantly trying to get out of our comfort zone and find new sources of inspiration. Besides that, Asian advertising is growing immensely. There are lots of opportunities in Asia and we thought it wouldn’t hurt us to do some networking there. And we did; during the 3 days of the festival we met more than 10 executive creative directors, 100 South Korean local volunteers, 46 up-and-coming ad talents, artists, drummers, journalists and chefs.

Was it mainly fun or hard work?
The Asians like to work hard. But we cannot deny it was extremely enjoyable too. What was funny is that we were followed constantly by several assistants. At first this felt special and somewhat amusing, but at some point we realized they were there simply to make sure we attended all lectures and seminars. The hotel had the same strict rules. Every day we were woken by an automatic alarm clock at 7am sharp, leaving us no choice but to wake up and head to the festival. And at the lobby, every day, the volunteers awaited us. They were all lovely, but after the third day we felt kind of trapped within an advertising festival that is supposed to celebrate creativity and freedom.

After the third day we felt kind of trapped within an advertising festival that is supposed to celebrate creativity and freedom

But South Korea isn’t North Korea is it?
Haha. Certainly not. They fed us well, gave us lots of attention, and constantly took pictures with us to share with their social networks. Sharing the pictures was done on the spot – we often watched them furiously typing on their Samsung smart phones – enjoying one of the things South Korea has best; its exceptional Wi-Fi high speed internet, available remotely everywhere, for free.

What’s the difference between Asian and European advertising?
Asian advertising is slightly behind when looking at what has been done in Europe for the last couple of years. But you also see a trend of taking what is good from others and adapting it into their own style. What we also noticed is that they often portray the ideal Western world in their ads – with Western models – which is a bit strange when the actual target audience looks so different. But all in all the Asians have a work hard/learn hard mentality, which makes them progress and assimilate new ideas constantly, taking advertising to a new level almost every year.

What’s the best Korean work you’ve seen during the festival?
Most probably the Mr.Pizza campaign. To further expand their brand pizza to the US – a market that already has so many well known brands like Pizza Hut and Dominos – Mr.Pizza created a hoax saying that Pizza was invented in South Korea. They substantiated this story with university philosophers, food specialists, historians, archeologists, Buddhist scholars, ambassadors and bloggers. All these people came to the same conclusion; South Korea is the cradle of pizza.

How did the competition go?
The briefing could have been clearer, but the objective was more or less to create something that would make Samsung the ‘smart life’ authority. We came up with a smart phone application called SMART that interacts with all your Samsung products in a clever way, making your life easier. We didn’t win, but still think it’s a great concept!

Are you going back next year?
We will be honoured if they decide to invite us again next year. But this time to be awarded for one of our kick ass campaigns. Hahaha.

Some impressions from Ad Stars 2012