A campaign that used mobile technology to literally lighten the load of public school students won for the Philippines its first ever Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, the highest honor given by what is considered in the industry as the Oscars of advertising.

The initiative called Smart Txtbks, spearheaded by creative agency DM9JaymeSyfu and wireless services leader Smart Communications, Inc., beat a hundred other entries in the mobile category of the 60th Cannes Lions, which included submissions from Adidas, Google, McDonald’s, and Nike.


Smart Txtbks involved the conversion of textbooks and workbooks into SIM content that could be read by public school children using affordable analog phones. The SIM cards replaced the voluminous school books the children had had to carry every day, which caused back problems and physical deformities in some of them.

DM9 proposed the idea of condensing book content to Smart in late 2012. They collaborated with book publishers to load materials into SIM cards provided by Smart. These were then distributed to several public schools all over the Philippines.

The results: In the participating public schools, students’ bags became lighter by 50 percent, school attendance rate was at a high 95 percent, and average test performance hit 90 percent.

In an interview with online publication AdAge, Cannes Lions jury member Xavier Laoureux said what was “interesting about [Smart Txtbks] is that it’s the best way to show you can have a mobile idea without pushing the technology side of it. It was not using technology as the end.”

Smart Public Affairs Head Ramon Isberto said Smart Txtbks shows how mobile technology, even “low-tech” analog phones, can help improve people’s lives.

“Smart Txtbks is relevant in a country where majority of the people still use feature phones, and where many families cannot afford e-book readers and tablets. We are happy that our partnership with DM9 has brought pride to the country, and has helped make learning easier for thousands of Filipino children,” he said.

Merlee Jayme, partner and chief creative officer at DM9JaymeSyfu, said: “Our happiness comes from the fact the country’s biggest telco got the biggest global award. Plus, you can’t help but feel elated when Rei Inamoto, the chief creative officer of AKQA and the Cannes jury president for the mobile category, said, ‘This Grand Prix may not be the sexiest and shiniest piece of work but it surely is the most beautiful idea I’ve ever seen.’”

“Winning our second Cannes Lions award for Smart is indeed a rewarding achievement, proof of our strong partnership,” added Alex Syfu, partner and chief relations officer at DM9JaymeSyfu.

In 2011, DM9JaymeSyfu’s “Limestone” billboard for Smart and the Department of Tourism, which showed how Philippine destinations can compete with the world’s best at a fraction of a cost, won a Bronze Lion in the outdoor category.

This year’s Cannes Lions received more than 35,000 entries from 92 countries. Winners were announced recently in Cannes, France.