Advertising Industry Oscar Goes to Unilever's 'Evolution'

CANNES, France -- A product-less commercial questioning perceptions of beauty that started as a viral video on the Internet won the top trophy at the advertising industry's version of the Oscars Saturday night.

The Evolution ad landed a Grand Prix best commercial award ahead of a Coca-Cola videogame and Pfizer Viagra commercial.

"It is interesting that this particular piece of film actually started as a viral video on the Internet," said Bob Scarpelli, who headed the 22-member voting jury. "It maybe is indicative of the times we are in and the way our industry is changing. The way we are communicating with people has changed and will continue to change," he told a press conference in Cannes announcing the winners.

The Unilever Evolution ad, which also picked up a Grand Prix trophy in the online digital communications category, uses time lapse to show an ordinary-looking woman worked over by make-up artists, hairdressers, lighting and digital retouching to quickly become a billboard model -- ultimately asking the question: How have we so distorted our notions of beauty?

However, once on the Internet it generated million of hits within a matter of weeks and became a talking point among media commentators and social commentary television shows.

The commercial had been favored by advertising editors and commentators to receive the industry's most prestigious award

The ad also triggered numerous consumer-generated imitations, such as one showing a good-looking teenager digitally transforming into an overweight, smoking and drinking slob that became a hit on sites like Google's YouTube.

Ad executives at the festival were not put off by such maverick reworkings of the hit campaign, saying they simply underscored the rising level of engagement between brands and consumers via digital media.