Monday, June 22, 2015

'Twas The Night Before Cannes



I reckon this year's Cannes will showcase the best work our industry has ever produced.

Buoys that detect sharks, children's books that are also eye tests, radio stations for dogs... the sheer creativity is staggering.

But so is the irrelevance.

This article by Havas strategy dude Tom Goodwin, published in The Guardian a couple of weeks ago, gained wide attention. Its title: 'What if Cannes Lions celebrates the worst, not the best of advertising?'

Goodwin's argument is that much of the work at Cannes isn't solving real business problems, and isn't being seen.

It's a tough, tough bind. Last week I was searching for an old commercial, and found it as part of an ad break that someone had recorded from about 1997. The production values were miles ahead of what we have today. And while the work was arguably nothing more than a succession of high-quality pub gags, it was entertaining stuff.

But the point is that this work was being widely seen. (TV audiences were huge). And it was solving real business problems. (Admittedly, business was a lot simpler then. A category disruption meant someone adding alcohol to lemonade, not developing an app that eliminated an entire industry).

I'm not too worried about Cannes. The festival is well organised, it's a lot of fun, and is doing a great job of its core mission - to celebrate and inspire creativity. (Although it's not a good sign that people are taking the piss out of it - witness this Grand Prix Generator thing).

But I am worried about our industry.

We need to ensure our creativity is as relevant and as widely-seen as our clients need it to be, or I fear we may one day look back on Cannes as little more than a highly public suicide note.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree. While I see a lot of the work is amazing and innovative, it's come from the agency being clever and managing to pull off prototypes. It's not that clients are necessarily wanting a drone that creates apps which blast lasers to the moon. Or whatever it is. Cannes is more about, "hey look what our agency managed to pull off", more than, "here's our solution to a real problem from our client".

Anonymous said...

But then we could argue that Cannes, celebrate advertising creativity not business solving. Which is fine by me.

Anonymous said...

A BIG problem with Cannes is that it's now the "Festival of Creativity", which is a rather pathetic reach to make advertising creatives feel better about themselves. Now, ideas only need to be judged as "creative" rather than as solving marketing problems, which completely changes what everyone is aiming.

If it was truly a Festival of Creativity, shouldn't it be judging movies, poetry, books, plays, art, etc that are actually done for creativity's sake?

But we are supposed to be solving marketing problems, not just coming up with whacky, zany, look-at-me ideas that are mostly only seen by award juries.

In fact, it's pretty amazing how blind the judges are to these obvious creative concoctions.

Steve Dodds said...


Cannes is a cancer on our industry. The article by Tim Goodwin is the best thing I've read about it in years.

If you really feel the need for a jolly, go to the Kinsale Sharks, where at least there are nice people.

Otherwise save your money. Hire a new junior team. Save some puppies. Whatever.

Anonymous said...

It would be very worrying if Cannes became about creativity without any point. It should be about creativity that has some useful outcome surely. The problem with all the "we compressed 10,000 Coke cans and turned them into butt plugs for dogs" type ideas is that the outcome and usefulness is highly questionable, despite the slickly made case study video designed to convince naive judges otherwise. For me Cannes has become a lot less interesting over the years because genuinely clever well-crafted ideas with a point are few and far between. Cannes is in danger of becoming an irrelevant festival of over-engineered novelties and silly gimmicks.

Anonymous said...

don't forget Cannes is shitload of politics where jury members from one network deliberately vote against other network with a blatant excuse of "competition".

what's that got to do with celebrating creativity, nobody knows.

besides I've been lucky to accidentaly overhear some jury's discussion few years ago. what I heard still makes me puke every day.

as commenter before me said: Cannes is cancer on our industry.

Anonymous said...

And the ultimate irony here is Havas is just as guilty of everything that was mentioned in Tom Goodwin's article.

fedex said...

I don't believe "business was a lot simpler then". It still is. We are complicating it with apps and engagement and category killers. It's about simplification and persuasion, no matter what media you use. But lately technology and awards come before ideas.

Anonymous said...

Think Cannes is becoming more like the advertising couture show. Like Gaultier's dress made of bread, there’s a lot of super-cool, prototypes that may or may not have any practical value.

I’d be interested if there were briefs for some of these projects. Did Volvo task the agency with making roads safer for cyclists? And the S-truck is cool, but I can’t imagine Samsung briefed the agency looking for ways to improve the safety of Argentine roads. How do these projects take shape?

Scamp said...

I'm guessing that there weren't briefs for these projects. But I reckon that's okay. A good agency SHOULD initiate ideas for clients without being asked.

The prototype point is an interesting one. Cans of Life Paint are obviously not Volvo's core product. But making a side project that people think is cool, could help sell more of their cars. Same goes for an out-there Stella McCartney dress at a fashion show, which gets PR, and causes more people to buy her $75 fragrance in a department store.

Scamp said...

Some guy called Jeff Goodby just said basically the same thing as me, but in a much more engaging way.

http://blogs.wsj.com/cmo/2015/06/24/outside-voices-is-cannes-getting-bigger-and-smaller-at-the-same-time/

Anonymous said...

I don't think this is an exception. It typifies what the festival represents...

http://www.mumbrella.asia/2014/07/bbdo-singapore-guinness-cannes/