LONDON: A shark detector campaign for Australian mobile provider Optus has won the Grand Prix in the 2014 Warc Prize for Innovation, which was awarded at an event in London last night.

With Clever Buoy, Optus and its agency, M&C Saatchi Sydney, created a smart ocean buoy that detects sharks and sends warning to lifeguards. By improving safety, Optus became culturally relevant, reaching over 19m people on social media and earning media coverage, and demonstrated the value of its network.

The campaign, one of six gold winners, also picked up not only the $5,000 Grand Prix but also the Product/Service Innovation Award, worth $1,250, for the best example of innovative use of media.

In all, a total of 17 papers, from a shortlist of 28, won Gold, Silver and Bronze awards. These came from seven different markets, including Australia, Brazil, India, Peru, Romania, the UAE and the UK.

There were also four Special Awards; judges decided not to include the Special Award for Co-Created Innovation, feeling that many campaigns had demonstrated participation rather than true co-creation. The full list can be seen on the Prize website.

Two other Gold winners also picked up Special Awards: Kan Khajura Station, an entertainment channel from Hindustan Unilever accessible via mobile and based around missed calls, took the Channel Innovation Award.

Peru's University of Engineering and Technology took the Technology-led Innovation Award, for the best application of new technology in a marketing context. This saw the creation of a unique billboard that produced drinking water from the air in order to attract students to its 2014 intake.

The Category Innovation Award was won by the homeless charity Depaul UK, which also picked up a Silver for its reappraisal of its entire fundraising strategy which led to the setting up of a business that sells cardboard boxes to home movers.

The remaining three Golds went to Virgin Mobile Australia for Game of Phones, which created a mobile gaming battleground in which consumers competed for prizes; to SmartLife, a UAE non-profit organisation, which created an interactive work of art to raise money and awareness about the education of blue-collar workers' children; and to Lifebuoy, the Unilever soap brand which used a hand hygiene message to save lives and increase sales in India, focusing on the children of a single Indian village.

Speaking at the prize announcement, Nigel Jones, global chief strategy officer at FCB Global, pointed to "utility" as a theme that emerged strongly from this year's entries. "Most of the winning case studies have utility built into them," he said. "Utility is a big part of innovation today. When I came into the industry it was more about insight."

Daniele Fiandaca, former head of innovation at Cheil Worldwide, argued that the ad industry had failed to keep up with innovation in other sectors. "There is a risk that people see tech as innovation. But innovation doesn't have to involve tech. Quite a few entries on the shortlist did not use technology."

Data sourced from Warc