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Opinion and Insight

Democracy and Difference as Ad Stars Gets Under Way

Busan-based advertising festival, Ad Stars reveal record numbers of entries and announce plan for museum of advertising as jury members praise ‘democratic’ show

Democracy and Difference as Ad Stars Gets Under Way

Ad Stars’ 10th anniversary show got off to a noticeably positive start when the awards body and festival revealed a record number of entries. A whopping 21,530 entries, up from 18,063 in 2016, means the show is now the biggest in Asia, in terms of entries.

The festival kicked off with an enormous cake-cutting ceremony, which saw a large group of dignitaries slice up a special birthday rice cake. Speaking at the opening ceremony, Busan’s mayor and the Chairman of the Ad Stars Organising Committee, Byung-Soo Suh was enthused about the festival’s growth, saying, “Ad Stars is celebrating its 10th show, and Ad Stars has grown from being the only advertising festival in Korea to one that attracts attention worldwide.”


The fact that entries to the festival are free is likely to be one of the contributing factors to the growth. The show and festival is backed by the South Korean Government’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and by Busan Metropolitan, in the hope that it will educate the public, stimulate the local creative economy and raise the profile of the country.

According to Helen Pak, President and CCO of Grey Group Canada, who attended the festival as an Executive Judge, this gave the show a particularly distinctive feel in comparison to other advertising shows.

“Certainly, we’ve seen a lot of work that has won in other award shows, but what I find really refreshing at this show in particular is that there’s more of a democracy and openness to advertising,” she said. “The fact there is no entry fee, the fact that the show is open to the public is very refreshing. If you think about the advertising world, it’s very insular. We talk amongst ourselves and pat each other on the back and know each other’s’ work, but when it comes to sharing what we do with the public, beyond screens, beyond the placement of ads it’s really interesting that we’re able to share this with a bigger community here.”


The organisers expect up to 20,000 people to pass through the hall at Busan’s Bexco conference centre over the course of three days. And from the small boy strapped into a gyroscopic VR experience to the elderly couple having a go at augmented reality gaming, it’s clear that the show is just as much about sharing the industry’s innovations and educating the public as it is about bringing advertising folk together.

Wain Choi, SVP and CCO at Cheil Worldwide, also one of the Executive Judges, also praised the festival for not only educating students but celebrating and exhibiting their work.

“If you get to the exhibition hall, there’s a special set up for student work, which is quite different from the other shows that I’ve judged and it allows the future of our creatives, not just in Korea but there are people coming from throughout Asia. If you walk through there are a lot of bright eyes hoping to be here [where we are] some day... It’s really, really different from any other shows.”

And while the show is an international one, Wain noted that the quality of Korean creative had improved drastically compared to his experiences judging in the early years of the festival, saying that in many cases it stands ‘shoulder-to-shoulder’ with work from anywhere else.

Aside from the work, the first day of the festival was spent exploring the so-called ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’, the age of AI and machine learning and how it relates to creativity. Google Korea’s Global Director Young Jae Baek gave a detailed breakdown of the tech behemoth’s progress in the field of machine learning.



And though the festival has just started, it seems that organisers already have their eye on next year’s show. Hwan Jin Choi, Chairman of Ad Stars Executive Committee and Professor at Hanshin University, revealed big plans ahead.

“In terms of 2017 Ad Stars, we have refocused on the connection between creativity and technology. In this regard, we are preparing for a special session on ‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution’ and also we are preparing for ad tech,” he said.

“The scope of advertising is infinite as you already know, and we have a plan to hold a Video Stars – like Vid Con in the USA – and I think it will expand the scope of the festival. And beyond the one-time event we have a plan to build a advertising museum in Busan as a permanent event for Ad Stars.”