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30.04.06

IN A nod to small Singapore's big contribution to Asian advertising, price senior advertising executives from the Republic have been picked to be judges at one of the world's leading ad-fests - the 53rd Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival 2006.

Ms Linda Locke of Leo Burnett Asia Pacific, Mr Richard Johnson of M&C Saatchi Singapore and Ms Lim San Hoong of 10AM Communications will represent Singapore at the annual festival in Cannes on the French Riviera on June 18.

The three were selected for their extensive experience and skills, said Mr. Eric Lynge, the out-going managing director of airtime sales and marketing for MediaCorp, which is the festival's official representative in Singapore for 2006-07.

"Sao Hoong is one of the pre-eminent creative people within Singapore advertising and Richard is a very well respected and award-winning creative whose work extends into print, TV, radio and online said Mr. Lynge.

He also credited Ms Locke with being "instrumental in the development of the creative industry in Singapore", adding that she was a "tireless supporter of the Singapore creative industry overseas".

Ms Locke, who is executive regional creative director of Leo Burnett in the Asia Pacific, has had prior experience at the fest. She judged the first Cannes print awards in the early 1990s and brings 30 years of ad industry experience to this year's Outdoor category judging panel.

She is pinning her hopes on her agency's own entries, particularly the "Giant Comb" ad for Procter & Gamble Rejoice hair products in Bangkok.

And what might be her criteria for a winning ad? Ideas and execution, that leverage on the environment, but are also "fresh, original, and beautifully executed”, she said.

M&C Saatchi Singapore's executive creative director Richard Johnson said the festival brought together the most creative advertisements in the industry.

"It may not the most difficult to win, but it's probably perceived as the most prestigious - and certainly the best laugh," said Mr. Johnson, who will he a judge in the Direct Marketing category.

Ms Lim San Hoong, cofounder, chief executive officer and executive creative director of 10AM Communications, will help judge the Sales Promotion category.

But fun value aside, such is the respect with which the award is regarded in the industry that winning a Lion has instant effects on one's bottom fine. It means larger salaries and precautions, said Ms Locke.

"For global clients such as Procter & Gamble, it enables them to attract the best global talent to work on their products," she added. "For Singapore as a country, it positions us at the cutting edge of creativity, and that's good for business."

Ms Locke said Singapore tends to do well - given its size - as evidenced by its haul of 13 Lions in each of 2004's and last year's festivals, and two Lions in 2003.

However, it faces tough competition this year. "I think we may find it tougher this year ... ... especially since Thailand and Malaysia have improved tremendously in the last few years,” she said.

But when it comes to print ads, Singapore can hold its own, said Mr. Johnson.

"Many people outside of the industry may not realise this, but Singapore has a reputation as one of the best places in the world to produce top-class advertising," he said. "This reputation has been built upon major wins at international awards."

"Surprisingly, there's always a good turnout from Singapore at the actual festival itself," said Mr. Johnson. "I say surprisingly because it's a b***** long way to go!"

MediaCorp Group chief executive officer Lucas Chow noted that it was a "great honour" to be appointed the Singapore representative of such a prestigious international festival, alongside publications such as USA Today, Canada's The Globe and Mail and Britain's Emap Advertising.

He added that he was "confident that the festival would foster growth and develop promising talents in our local creative industry".