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.


Anonymous said...

Point taken, but I believe the whole 'clients descending over Cannes' is not improving creativity one bit. Clients just worked out what all agency people have known for a while: You can get your company to pay for you to go to the South of France and get drunk for a week if you pretend you are interested in “creativity.” Clients believe either that creativity and great ideas drive sales or that if you just hit people over the head enough with your message, they can’t help but eventually buy something. That 95 percent of all advertising is absolutely terrible shows you where most clients’ loyalties lay. And the idea that they are going to Cannes in order to make their advertising more creative is as believable as the JWT Ford scam ads.

Anonymous said...

"Account Management types". They couldn't have possibly done anything to help an idea turn into a great piece of creative.

Charles Edward Frith said...

Karmarama could have saved themselves a few quid by reading your Cannes post.

One more point. Big Data is like the Hitachi Wand of advertising. Feels good, takes the pressure off creativity but ultimately makes for bad ideas.

Anonymous said...

Clients have every right to be there. They are the creatives these days.

Ditto said...

I have been a creative lead on that exact same client for nearly five years. Our agency has had globally them for 8 years. And they didn't invite anyone from our agency (or ANY of their numerous agency partners) to their pavilion and party on the beach. See you next Tuesday.

Scamp said...

I don't think we're talking about the same client. Certainly sounds like you had a rough deal though.

Anonymous said...

I think clients don't like agencies very much in general. It's a necessary evil they feel they have to put up with. It's not easy for them to get good work these days. Agencies take too much time, charge a lot and have staffed their ranks with inexperienced (cheap to hire) people. So the work is pretty bad and the rift between clients and agencies grows.

Tom Morton said...

Cannes belonged to the production companies, then the creative departments, now to the industry. And that's what's keeping Cannes going. P&G, Coke and Mondelez have been making real pushes to make better work over the last five years. Visits to Cannes, and picking up Lions, have been central to that. Ogilvy host an epic party where Diddy shows up: that's global management picking up the tab. Free smoothies, radiation-strength wifi and beach access? Thanks to Google, now the world's biggest media owner. The people paying for Cannes are the same people paying for creativity.

Scamp said...

I agree, Tom. And P&G's recent embrace of creativity is a great example. But where were the free smoothies? I could only find the free beer.

Anonymous said...


McCann Health provided fresh juices and smoothies every day from La Maison Bouffe up at down the Croisette in Tuk Tuks! Pays to be an early bird ;-)

Anonymous said...

Why do we all need a shining thing dangled before us as motivation to produce good work?
These days, I don't think campaigns such as 'Dumb Ways To Die' need an award show to confirm their greatness.

Adrian said...

Serves you right for dissing us and leaving our table to 'socialise'

Scamp said...

Hi Adrian

Jaded said...

Cannes has stopped being an award show. Today, it's a communications expo. The clients don't really give a fuck about awards 51 weeks of the year, but in Cannes week they change. Not because they want to push the boundaries of creativity in an R&D sense, but because the head of P&G wants to show the head of Unilever what a big dick he has. Hence the client funded scam. Which is why for the rest of the year, the client believes what Millward Brown says over the opinion of their ECD, mostly. Having said that I sort of enjoyed it this year. But its not about creatives and production companies any more - and that's never coming back, it's about the big multinational advertisers and their ad dollars. And the Cannes Lions organisers wouldn't have it any other way - because that keeps the cash registers ringing.