What Epica Taught Me About The World

November 16, 2015 / Features

By Alex Reeves

Cultural learnings of the world for make benefit glorious industry of advertising.

I spent last week in a dark, soupy room in a Parisian conference room with a rabble of assorted journalists who had been assembled as the pre-selection jury for the Epica Awards. As the only creative prize awarded by journalists working for marketing and communications magazines around the world, I was proud to be part of it. It has a unique impartiality because nobody in that room had any personal connection to the work we were judging.

Over the week we voted on over 3,000 pieces of advertising. It was exhausting but enlightening. As Epica is a truly international award, we saw entries from the most unfamiliar markets (at least to this London ad industry journalist).

I noticed that not only was there good work coming from unexpected countries, but they also taught me a lot about the cultures that they were made in. Good advertising won’t work if it doesn’t understand its audience, so commercials are a brilliant tool for learning about the world.

I am saving you watching over 3,000 ads here, by bringing you the most interesting and odd ones that you won’t have seen.



Denmark isn’t making enough babies

Apparently the Danes need a bit of encouragement to make more Danes. There are also some good facts about sex in this campaign. People have 28% more sex in a sunny location on holiday and exercising together increases chances of having sex. Useful knowledge.



Kazakhstan needs to stand united

I don’t think I’m alone in saying I know very little about Kazakhstan. And I expect Borat wasn’t the most reliable documentary source on the subject. So it was interesting, if sad, to learn that they have serious racial tensions that the government are trying to soothe through nostalgia. This campaign harkens back to the hard times directly after the break-up of the USSR, when the nation pulled together to help each other. The hope is that reminding the people of their past unity will bring the different ethnic groups closer again.



Lebanon don’t like black cats
…But New Zealand do

Superstition is a funny one, but it’s hard to work out how the black cats being unlucky thing somehow morphed into them bringing good luck. Anyway, this is probably a fictional event, but it’s interesting to learn.\



Argentina’s mechanics are just like everyone else’s mechanics

Our international jury had a good laugh at these ones. They’re built on an observation that’s valid in every culture around the world – mechanics will always try and fleece you. There’s something reassuring about that.



The United Arab Emirates have similar taste in films to the West

This was just one execution from a very funny campaign for cinema chain Du. It’s interesting to know that people watch the same sorts of films on the shores of the Persian Gulf as they do in the West. And it’s good to know they find the same sorts of films ridiculous.



Norway is full of people with good intentions and unrealised dreams

I must admit I have a stereotype about Norwegians being offensively good-looking, outdoorsy, active sorts of people, so when this ad implied that some people don’t go through with their exciting hobbies, it made me feel a bit better about my own lazy lifestyle and lack of staying power.



Sweden have a very dark sense of humour

It probably has something to do with the dark winters they get, but a lot of the Swedish ads we saw were very gloomy. Even when they’re joking they keep it disturbing.



But they’re also pretty chill when it comes to sex and sexuality

The Swedes clearly take pride in their social equality and apparently don’t mind taking a subtle pop at Russia, which is undoubtedly a little behind on such issues.



Russia is a very macho country

This is just one of the many Russian ads we saw in which men were men, in the old-fashioned chest-beating, sausage-loving sort of way.



Egypt have a strange taboo around saying mothers’ names

To Westerners like me, this seems bizarre. None of jury had ever heard of this taboo before so it raised a number of eyebrows when we first saw it. My mum’s called Sarah by the way.



Thailand really push the boundaries of advertising

One of the great things about watching advertising from around the world is the abundance of WTF moments. This is one that stands out. Imagine a UK client agreeing to this idea.

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