When the press rewards digital

The Epica Awards – the global creative prize judged by journalists – took place in November. So which digital gems did they select?

da Mark Tungate , Adforum

Nobody who has worked in journalism for any length of time would understate the impact of digital technology on their job. The monochrome world of newspaper reporters knocking out stories on typewriters, or even on bulky computer terminals, has been utterly replaced by one of mobile devices, social media, online video, podcasts, influencers, paywalls and the contagion of “fake news”.

So it would be understandable if a jury of journalists felt a little ambiguous about choosing the world’s best digital campaigns. Fortunately, the Epica jury this year was largely populated by representatives of a new generation who grew up with digital. They even gave the Digital Grand Prix to a project that made creative use of data – in order to urge German travellers to consider a vacation closer to home.

However, they certainly did not shy away from projects that captured the darker side of the digital world. No less than two campaigns from Monica Lewinksy’s foundation against bullying were awarded prizes. The first is a film, “Epidemic”, which repeats itself in order to reveal the truth behind the disturbing story. It won a Silver.

The second, a Bronze winner, is simply an incisive idea that required a level of commitment from a number of celebrities.

As well as bullying, racism was on the agenda. One of the jury’s favourite ideas came from Serviceplan and Rolling Stone magazine in Italy. Called “Burn Racist Giga”, it encouraged racists to look at content that appealed to their twisted sensibilities, while at the same time rendering their mobile devices useless in record time. The jury did stop to ponder whether such material should be circulated at all – but the sense of justice the idea provoked was more powerful than their doubts.

Less controversial but even more intricate was the “Go Back To Africa” campaign by FCB/SIX, which flipped those words of hatred on their head to encourage black travellers to visit the diverse and rewarding continent. It won a well-deserved Gold.

Not that ideas have to be so broad and complex. Here’s a very simple use of text that reminds travellers to reach out to the lonely during family vacation season.

Needless to say, jury members were drawn to projects promoting press freedom. They awarded a Gold to Publicis Mexico for #StillSpeakingUp, a Twitter project in which murdered journalists apparently returned from the dead to encourage others to continue the fight against corruption.

Tragically, school shootings in the United States continue to make headlines, and the following film from BBDO New York hits home in a risky and impactful way. What starts like an ad for “back to school” equipment takes a chilling turn.

You’ll be pleased to hear that there were some projects from the lighter side of life. Remaining in the U.S. for a moment, take a look at what happened when Volvo Trucks and Forsman & Bodenfors gave some long-distance truck drivers some relief for their aching backs. The online video is cracking entertainment.

Finally, the jury revelled in this sumptuous online film for Hennessy cognac, from DDB Paris and directed by that up-and-coming tyro Sir Ridley Scott.

Let’s raise our glasses to a warm, colourful and above all peaceful festive season.