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‘Brands Are Being Tested Like Never Before’

Awards and Events 80 Add to collection

Hwan-Jin Choi, the AD STARS chair person, explains why the awards launched Pivot to celebrate the hard work done in response to Covid-19 and why ‘Corona can’t beat Korea’

‘Brands Are Being Tested Like Never Before’
The annual awards cycle has been truly shaken loose by the Covid-19 pandemic. Awards organisations have been divided as to whether to even go ahead with shows this year. But that’s not the only question they’ve had to tussle with – how do they recognise the work done by brands and agencies to respond to the crisis? 

At Ad Stars, the international award show judged in Busan, South Korea, the team has made the decision to create a whole new category. Aptly, it’s called ‘Pivot’, recognising just how adaptable businesses have had to be, abandoning their existing plans and, in some cases, pending creative to create work that’s relevant and useful.

LBB’s Laura Swinton caught up with Ad Stars’ chairperson Hwan-Jin Choi to find out why it’s so important to capture this creative moment in time.




LBB> Why do you feel it's important to not only welcome Covid-related entries but also to create a particular category for it? 

We decided to launch a special ‘Pivot’ category to capture and celebrate ideas created at this moment in history. Brands are being tested like never before. COVID-19 has triggered a huge shock to the global economy, and the survival of many businesses is at stake. On the other hand, launching marketing campaigns at this time is risky if you don’t use the right tone and messaging. It is incredible to see how brands and agencies are responding to COVID-19 in such meaningful and impactful ways. 

LBB>  The category is called 'Pivot', which suggests the work you're looking to celebrate goes beyond the 'socially distanced logos', to work that has really helped businesses respond and adapt rather than those that have offered more superficial responses. What inspired the 'Pivot' name? 

We chose the name ‘Pivot’ to reflect how quickly brands are changing their game plan in response to COVID-19. Many agencies have had to delay or abandon campaigns that were already in the works, and quickly create campaigns that align with the needs and sentiment of consumers right now. We’ve seen brands pivot their production line to produce PPE (personal protective equipment), or move the customer journey online, or launch public health initiatives to help overcome COVID-19. From tactical campaigns and promotions to product/business ideas that help brands change direction, we hope our ‘Pivot’ category captures the full spectrum of ideas created in response to the coronavirus.

LBB> How will the Pivot category be judged? 

We have recruited over 130 judges who work for creative companies from around the world, and they will be responsible for voting on Pivot winners. All judging will take place remotely this year, of course. Judges will be looking for campaigns that help brands “Pivot” with a new strategy that looks at the changed situation from a new perspective.

LBB> In South Korea, what role have brands played in helping people adapt and cope with Covid-19? 

COVID-19 has changed people’s daily life and consumption habits. Korean brands are trying to solve the problems we face while maintaining consumer confidence. COVID-19 has made people reprioritize their spend, and health products and living necessaries have become a trend. This has caused a shortage of Korean-made goods because Korean products are made safely and transparently. Korean brands have reminded people of sincerity and trust so people can believe and easily buy their priority products in Korea even in the midst of anxiety. They are adjusting well to the daily challenges that Corona has caused. In addition, we’re overcoming it together: the excellent IT technology and communication environment has made it easy to connect business and people, while most companies provide various convenience services that highlight their merits. 

There is a cheering phrase in Korea, "Corona can't beat Korea."

LBB>  Every country and region has dealt with the outbreak differently, with greater or lesser success – and so brands will have different challenges to face in different markets! So it will be interesting to see the range of work that comes in. Do you think it’s important to use this category as a chance for marketers and agencies in different countries to share insights and learn from each other? 

It is part of our manifesto to celebrate creative ideas that reflect each region’s culture and market. We seek to promote a better understanding of the world at a time in history when many people feel increasingly anxious and divided. The situation facing the world may be a little different in each country but we share the same mission moving forward. We hope to inspire others to embrace diversity and develop further by sharing work that reflects a diverse social and cultural spectrum.  

LBB> How do you think this global crisis is going to change the industry long term? 

It’s hard to know what the future holds, but advertising and marketing businesses will probably need to pivot more drastically than ever before. The big and small changes we are feeling now are a turning point in human history where a new world will begin, and everyone is paying attention to the post-COVID era. Agencies are looking for new ways to capture consumers’ hearts. They are moving beyond traditional advertising formats to solve social problems, launch brilliant Creating Shared Value (CSV) initiatives and design purpose-driven brand campaigns. This trend will accelerate even faster now, reiterating the theme of AD STARS 2020: Re:AD – Rethink, redefine and redesign the Ad industry.

LBB> AD STARS is free to enter, as it has always been - but I think it's more relevant now as agencies are facing financial pressures and recession. But it feels particularly important that the Pivot category is free to enter. What are your thoughts? 

By launching ‘Pivot’, we hope to provide agencies and production companies with a global platform on which to raise their profile at a time when they may need it most. This is a difficult time for our industry, so we hope global creators will use this platform to show that creativity shines amid crisis and their ideas can change the world. 

AD STARS has always been proud of our role as a global awards platform that is accessible to everyone. We especially aim to be a festival that contributes to the future and growth of mankind by allowing not only those working in the advertising industry but also the general public to participate for free. 


The deadline for the AD STARS 2020 Awards is 10th July. Almost all categories, including Pivot, are free to enter, although the Innovation and Integrated categories cost approx. US$100 per entry. Submit your work via adstars.org 

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Ad Stars, Mon, 08 Jun 2020 15:16:03 GMT