MANILA, PHILIPPINES — Immediately after guests got off the elevators, the theme of “Beautiful Evolution” shone through at the 25th 4As Philippines’ Agency of the Year Awards(AOYs). At the registration and holding area, animated LED screens displaying the past 25 years of advertising moments donned the walls. Interpretative dancers provided pre-event entertainment, and drinks were ever-pouring to get the festivities rolling. This all flowed seamlessly into the main event hall, where a stunning display of blacks and golds instantly transported the audience to an evening of celebration, prestige, and commemoration — embracing a community of Filipino advertisers who rocked their most stunning traditional or Filipinana wear.
But before the stunning production that night was unveiled, Blackpencil Manila and Leo Burnett Manila were first given the task to conceptualize the big idea behind the whole celebration.
Adobo Magazine caught up with Kat Limchoc, Blackpencil Manila Executive Creative Director, to talk about how the theme came to life through their design. From pitching to the 4As Philippines, to creating seven distinct characters for each of the seven major awards, and to developing a board game that encapsulates the evening’s significance — this is the story of the 2023 Agency of the Year Awards’ “Beautiful Evolution.”
The event, held at The Fifth at Rockwell, was fully decked out to represent the quarter-century of milestones, moments, and award-winning work from the country’s most esteemed advertising agencies.
With it being a milestone year for 4As Philippines and the awards themselves, Kat shared that they were specifically tasked to make the celebrations as grand as possible: “The brief was initially to do a design that features the iconic Agency of the Year trophy with an overall color scheme of gold and black, as aligned with the AOY look in the last few years. But when AOY Chair, Tey San Diego, inspired the management committee to make this 25th year of the AOYs as ‘bongga (extravagant) as we can make it,’ we were inspired to push the design even more, [and] to make it capture a theme of what we were celebrating in this banner year.”
Playing on the years of history behind the evening’s festivities and what it stands for, the overall Big Idea of this year’s AOYs was Beautiful Evolution: “An idea that captures how all of us in the field of advertising has had to evolve in the last 25 years, to keep being able to survive and thrive in this landscape that has transformed and is changing at an ever faster rate,” Kat explained.
Evolution, in this context, not only pertains to the inevitable transformation the industry had to go through throughout its years; it also underlines the evolved practices, tools and trends these years necessitated for advertising practitioners to stay on top of their game. This is all the more true in light of the industry’s recent exploration of generative AI, the implications of broken down silos in media consumption, and so many more innovations advertisers have had to adapt to.
To fully capture this, Leo Burnett Manila assembled a team of designers, headed by Kat herself and Leo Burnett Head of Art Carl Urgino. They were joined by inspired creatives from both Blackpencil and Leo Burnett to craft three design approaches to pitch to the AOY Management Committee. In the end, Beautiful Evolution was a clear winner as it was the only one that, according to Kat, “really hit a chord and caused palpable excitement in the room.”
The aesthetics for Beautiful Evolution blended seamlessly with themes from previous years, elegant with its colors and timeless with its design. But what differentiated this 25th iteration from its predecessors was the added whimsy in its visuals, highlighted by the otherworldly creatures featured in its branding. These organisms effectively elevated the theme, visually contrasting the dark background of mountainside and water and evoking a scene of creation.
The creatures, which simultaneously look natural yet technology-enhanced, represent the accolades that the AOY awards each year: “There are seven major awards that the Agency of the Year gives and we wanted to capture how the main practitioners the particular award celebrates have adapted, depicting them as beautiful, whimsical creatures with very specific evolved capabilities,” Kat shared.
Aside from the usual event graphics, social media posts and other visual requirements, these graphics were also shown on some of the metro’s major billboard sites with animation done by Elesi Studios.
Moreover, the theme also inspired the creation of the Evolution board game which was sent to agencies as part of their invitations to the event. “We wanted even the invitation to be a demonstration of evolution. The idea was to immerse the agency teams in the theme before and way after the actual event,” Kat said.
She added, “We also had some pretty avid gamers on the team, so they seized the opportunity to create an original board game inspired by our advertising world! They had so much fun playtesting amongst themselves and even with their gaming groups, with players from all over the world.”
The game was complete with its own customized board, cards with quotes from the 4As board, and other easter eggs every advertiser could relate to as they took on the mission of overcoming challenges as a team within a ten-minute deadline. It was also launched alongside a companion website with a game timer and a tutorial video narrated by Senior Copywriter Mako Alonso.
Leo Burnett Manila and Blackpencil Manila clearly went above and beyond to make the story of “Beautiful Evolution” as rich and engaging as possible for the Philippine advertising community, even before, during, and after the September 15 event.
This sentiment was shared by some of the country’s most esteemed ad leaders. Kat recalled, “We got such wonderful accolades about how the event looked and felt amazing from friends from different agencies. Melvin Mangada, 4A’s Board of Trustees Chairman [and TBWA\ Santiago Mangada Puno Chairman], told me at the end of the night that people kept asking him who did the designs of the event and he said he kept pointing to me, as the lead of the Leo Burnett [and Blackpencil] Group who worked on it.”
She furthered, “First off, I think Raymund Sison, AOY Panel Head for Production Excellence [and Propel Manila Partner & Chief Creative Officer], who was in charge of heading the event preparations and his team from Propel Manila and Elesi Studios, and events partner Eventscape Manila did a really excellent job of bringing to life the Beautiful Evolution look and feel in the immersive experience of the awards night. All the efforts of so many amazing people working together really brought to life Beautiful Evolution, and with that I think we were able to achieve the ‘bongga-ness’ that our Chairwoman challenged us to strive for.”
With “Beautiful Evolution,” Leo Burnett Manila and Blackpencil Manila effectively propelled the annual event’s meaning to greater depth, honoring the past’s milestones and preparing for the future’s new set of challenges. The theme, through its visuals and created experiences, impressively commemorated the transformations that the Philippine advertising industry has gone through over the past 25 years with 4As Philippines at the helm, rallying a community of creatives — woven together by their rich shared history, collective dreams for the future, and a deep respect for the craft — towards further innovation and evolution.
Campaign by: Leo Burnett and Blackpencil Manila
Executive Creative Director/Copy: Kat Gomez-Limchoc
Head of Art: Carl Urgino
Creative Director/Art: Karen Francisco
Associate Creative Director/Art: Momon Villanueva
Team Head/Copy: Cesar Avena
Senior Art Director: Mawie Borja
Senior Art Director: Justine Fernandez
Senior Art Director: Ciara Baello
Head of Account Management: Judy Buenviaje-Medina
Group Account Director: Earl Dorado
Senior Account Executive: Lara Gascon
Game Board, How-to Video, Timer Video production by Prodigious
Country Head: Sue Ann Nolido
Print Producer: Franco Zamora
Producer: Ethel Javar
Event and Animation Production by Propel and Elesi Studios
Head of Production Excellence: Raymund Sison
Accounts: Earl Guico, Julia Dela Rosa
Director – ER Alviz
Production Lead – Jem De Leon
Animator – Fel Torres
Editor: Josua Olasiman, Louie Lucero
Sound Prod: Kerplunk