Sunday, June 30, 2013

Do Craft Awards Count?

Last week a friend of mine said on Facebook: "Craft awards don't count. Fact."

I sniggered at that.
Maybe because I was brought up to believe that 'the idea is king'. Maybe because I'm from a copywriting background. Or maybe because I'm mildly disgusted that Cannes gave out over 100 Lions for Craft this year.
There's even an entirely separate category for Film Craft, added in 2010. I can't deny there have been some worthy winners. Philips 'The Gift' won the inaugural Grand Prix. In 2011 it was won by Puma 'After Hours Athletes', in 2012 it was Canal Plus 'Bear, and this year the visually stunning 'Meet The Superhumans'.
But do they count as much as the non-craft awards?
Well, John Hegarty always says: "It's 80% idea, and 80% execution," and he normally knows what he's talking about.
And maybe we under-appreciate craft, since the art of it often lies in not drawing attention to itself.
For example, I was recently chatting to someone involved in the post for Sony 'Balls'.
The whole intention, he told me, was to make it seem real - like there had been no post.
But in actual fact there was loads. That ad was in The Mill for weeks.
They took out the mortars that fired the balls. They took out the nets that caught the balls. They took out the balls themselves, in places where there were too many.
And they took out the strings that pulled the frog.
That's right - the frog was on strings.
Blew my mind, when I heard that.

Monday, June 24, 2013

So I Was Dissed In Cannes - By A Client

It used to be just us.

Well... us and the production companies - who organised all the fabulous parties, and paid for our drinks.

But this year, several agencies I know sent more Account Management types than they did Creatives. Is that wrong? Probably.

There were many Planners too; even the Head of Planning at London's Karmarama was there - an agency which has a policy of never entering creative awards. (He just wanted to see what Cannes was like).

And there were many hundreds of clients... one of whom dissed me.

It wasn't a major diss, it was just I could tell he wasn't that interested in talking to me. He has his global I.T. brand to look after, was there with his team, and had little to gain from talking to some random creative director.

But at Cannes I'd always felt I was among my people. Whoever you ran into, you'd have common ground with, and most likely have a good chat with. Does it mean we need to have our guard up at Cannes now?

Would it be better if Cannes went back to being just for creatives?

Actually, no. Thinking it through, I realised that clients suddenly descending on Cannes is about the best thing that could have happened to our industry.

For example, I read an article in one of the international trade magazines which described some of this year's winning work as "client-funded scam". Interesting phrase.

In another piece, an international marketing director talked about giving his agency a special, 'shackles-off' brief, with the aim of winning at Cannes. A European ECD told me that one of his clients had paid the agency $100,000 to make a campaign that both sides knew would not run widely, but was intended to win at Cannes.

Now, I don't want to get side-tracked by the scam debate here. If a client requests an ad campaign, pays for it, and runs it... then that work is legitimate. Even if it is not answering a real business problem. You can think of it more like experimentation. After all, car companies put millions into making prototypes for the motor shows. And these are not just a form of PR, the manufacturers glean important information from the exercise.

We've always argued that clients should be bolder, and invest (at least some) money in highly creative ideas. Now they're doing it. Great work is being made as a result. 

Part of this may be because the business case for creativity has solid evidence behind it nowadays. But I believe most of it is because clients have discovered Cannes, and like everyone who attends, they realise the rosé tastes better when you've won.

And if the occasional diss on the Carlton Terrace is the price I have to pay for clients investing in great creative work, it's surely worth it.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Cannes Stripped Bare - Day 5

This year's seminars have made it very clear that advertising is now all about data.

So, since I've lost my phone and can therefore no longer post photos of what I'm doing, I thought why not just provide the raw data. Quite basic, but I'd say it depicts Cannes 2013 quite well.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Cannes Stripped Bare - Day 4

Auditorium where delegates listen to a speaker pontificate on the future of advertising. Full.

Auditorium where delegates watch the actual advertising work entered into this year's awards. Not so full.
By the way, I must apologise - I had actual pictures of these, but have had to re-create them using Google Images, because I left my phone in a taxi last night. And I wasn't even drunk! Just wearing shorts with wide pockets.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Cannes Stripped Bare - Day 3

One of the highlights of attending Cannes is that everyone gets a goodie bag, just like at the Oscars.

At the Cannes film festival last month, attendees were provided with a swag bag containing handcrafted jewelry, spa and bath products, fine art photography and more, in a package valued at $1,180.

So it was with some excitement that I opened the Cannes advertising festival gift bag.

And I wasn't to be disappointed.

Every delegate receives this exclusive plastic fan, kindly sponsored by Korean Air.

No more sweltering at the beach. Simply move the fan in a back-and-forth motion for an immediate cooling effect.

Also, this ball.

Crafted from hand-selected polyurethane and designed to fit perfectly in the hand, it's not just an advertisement for kiip's Mobile Forum (Tuesday, 9.30am - unfortunately I wasn't able to be there) but also a versatile entertainment system, which can switch seamlessly between either throwing or bouncing mode.

Those who claim the 2,500 Euro cost of attending Cannes is excessive, may not be aware that as part of the package, each attendee receives a specially-designed T-shirt. The T-shirt is available in a variety of sizes - I went for Medium.

And finally, at the Cannes festival of creativity, no delegate need go hungry. So long as he or she likes marzipan. There was also a weird chocolate pie thing, not shown because I ate half of it in a weak moment.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Cannes Stripped Bare - Day 2

As Advertising Creatives, we are permanently searching for the new and innovative - our job is a neverending quest to do something that no one else has done before.

And that's why we refuse to follow trends.

Sorry Google Beach. Sorry Grand Audi Room. Sorry Spotify Garden. Sorry all the other brands that are trying to gain currency with creatives in Cannes. Ray-Ban owns this town, with near 100% top-of-shirt awareness.

All pictures from last night's Campaign Brief cocktail party.

Cannes Stripped Bare - Day 1

So here I am in the SOF, where many delegates are writing informative blog posts about the state of our industry. I thought about doing that too. Then I thought 'nah'.

Welcome to 'the other side of Cannes' - guaranteed no coverage at all of jury rooms, seminars, or award shows.

Those of you who are stuck back at the office, working, may be feeling ball-shrinkingly jealous of the glamour we delegates get to experience.

And so you should!

Check out my hotel, for example.


Situated on an award-winning industrial estate just outside Cannes, it's right across the street from one of the region's most prestigious tile manufacturers.


And a bus-wash.

But this is no ordinary bus-washing facility. That's a Mistral XB2 right there. State-of-the-art stuff.

Now let me take you inside the hotel.

Thirsty? Not a problem. Simply select a beverage from the minibar.

This place has every amenity.

Be sure to check back tomorrow, for my first party report!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Is The Era Of Scam Coming To An End?

One of my favourite campaigns at the awards this year is DDB New York's 'First World Problems' for WATERisLIFE. It's brilliantly clever, and brilliantly executed.

But interestingly, five years ago this campaign would have been scam.

It would have been entered in the TV category, having run once on an obscure TV station at 3am. No one would have seen it other than awards juries. It wouldn't have got PR, and it wouldn't have raised any money for charity.

Today, it's real. Over 2 million people have seen the film on YouTube. Many others have interacted with the idea via Twitter. It's got tons of PR, and raised real money for the charity.

So a welcome side-effect of the rise of the internet is that good ideas can become real, be seen, and actually have an effect in the world.

They don't have to be scam.

In fact since any video can be put on the internet and potentially find an audience, there is by definition no longer any such thing as scam in TV, which is a really welcome development, I reckon.

Though the press category is another matter of course...

Monday, June 10, 2013

Likeable Ways To Die

So D&AD is this week, and Cannes next week, and it looks like 'Dumb Ways To Die' is going to clean up at both.

In all the discussion of why it's so good - great animation, great song, clever strategy - there's one aspect that's been overlooked: it's just so damn likeable.

We don't talk about likeability much; perhaps we should.

It's a better-understood concept in Hollywood. Producers there are acutely aware that most popular movies are built around a likeable character - e.g. Han Solo, anybody played by Bruce Willis, Tony Stark, anybody played by Tom Hanks.
I met John Mescall (creator of Dumb Ways To Die) at an awards do recently and was struck by what a likeable chap he is. In fact, one of the industry magazines voted him 'most likeable person in advertising' last year.

So it's perhaps no surprise that he created such a likeable ad.

But what if you're not the most likeable person in advertising? Is there a formula for making our work likeable? What are the ingredients?

I'm going to suggest two (happy to hear more ideas also).

The first one is vulnerability or failure. Superman (as Clark Kent) is shy, and he is also vulnerable to Kryptonite - these help make him likeable. Indiana Jones is afraid of snakes. The characters in Dumb Ways To Die are all idiotic failures. 

My old mate William Fowler has written about how we are drawn to failure. "Let’s try a quiz," he writes. "What was the name of the boy who flew too close to the sun? What about his father, whose flight was successful? Name the two sister ships of the Titanic. Name one perfectly upright tower in northern Italy."

The difficulty of course is that clients always want to portray their brands as perfect. Worth bearing in mind that as humans we recoil from perfection, and find the wonky appealing.

The second factor is attractiveness. We like Jerry Maguire (even though he's a bit of a cock) because he's played by Tom Cruise. We like James Bond (even though he's a bastard) because he's handsome. And we like the characters in Dumb Ways To Die because they're cute.

Northern Planner was getting at something similar when he wrote a post about how the best archetype for a brand was "Victoria's Secret model."

So there you have it. Of course we still need to worry about things like media strategy and messaging. But let's not forget to be likeable.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

The 37 Richest People In Advertising

Businesser Insider have just released their annual list of the 37 best-paid people in advertising.

There is only one woman on it (No.17 - Mercedes Erra, the 'E' in France's BETC). Right, because science has proven that possession of two x chromosomes is a huge inhibitor of advertising ability.
And all 37 executives on the list are white. Surely fair - advertising talent and skin pigmentation are clearly correlated.

Interestingly, the list finally resolves a question we've all pondered: "Who earns the really big bucks - suits, creatives, or planners?"

Answer: none of the above.

The best-paid people in advertising are the finance guys!

Digging into the backgrounds of those on the list, we can observe that only three are former account handlers. Five are strategy types, but before any of my planner friends get excited, none of them are ad strategists - all five are from consulting. 

Three are lawyers (Omnicom group general counsel, etc), one is from a marketing background (Kevin Roberts, worldwide CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, at No.9), three are media types, and two have backgrounds that I couldn't determine, during my approximately ten minutes of total research.

Meanwhile, a whopping 18 of the 37 highest-paid folks in our business have a finance or accounting background. Hurrah! And what's more, the bean-counters score four of the top five spots, with big guns like Martin Sorrell, John Wren, and Michael Roth (the head of Interpublic).

But I've saved the biggest flaw until last.

It's outrageous, I'm sure you'll agree, but somehow a creative person has snuck on there (Jacques Seguela, the 'S' in Euro RSCG, now chief creative officer of Havas Worldwide, at No.28). A creative person, on the list of the highest-paid people in the ad industry? But what possible value do they add?

To the young creatives reading this who harbour a desire to one day pull down a million dollar a year salary, the path is clear - chuck in your job and get an accounting qualification.

And most of all, please bin your skinny jeans, get rid of that ridiculous facial hair, and try to model yourselves a little more closely on the true heroes of our industry - men such as David B. Doft, and Randall J. Weisenburger.

David B. Doft CFO (chief financial officer)
of US-based network MDC Partners
(No.36, earned $714,144 last year),

 Randall J. Weisenburger, CFO of Omnicom
(No.5, earned $10.6 million last year)