Cannes International Advertising Festival

This month our panel discuss the Cannes International Advertising Festival


CR: There’s been a lot of talk about the changing nature of the Cannes festival: what changes have you noticed?

Malcolm Poynton: Cannes leads the way for international award shows in that it embraces the developing channels such as cyber, promotions and of course media too. I don’t know of another show that has that mix and sense of balance within it. Equally interesting is how the work is changing. The film entries were more entertaining than usual – which is fuelled by the internet. To get people to watch stuff on the net, it has to be truly engaging in some way – that realisation is helping clients and agencies understand that the same goes for telly. Viewers are viewers, be it on the net or TV and there’s an increasing appreciation that it’s a waste of time just arrogantly pushing irrelevant and boring messages out there, with no reward for the viewer.

Andy Sandoz: Can’t argue with that. Digital certainly accelerates the gap between advertising and content, especially in more recent years as it moves from a functional internet to a social internet. People want to be entertained, people also want to experience and not be told: the immersion of digital provides this. Certainly Cannes had a strong digital focus this year, both in terms of messaging and forums. However, from my perspective, they are as late as everyone else to understand the strengths that we have been using online for years. The speakers they had were not so much digital experts as people from large media companies purporting to be so whilst trying to change the focus of their business to online.

Tim Ashton: You really don’t know where the best ideas are going to come from anymore. I saw better TV ideas in the cyber shortlist than in the TV and cinema one. The old advertising people still only think about film, which is changing, but slowly. The UK contingent on the whole still don’t go as delegates which seems crazy. I asked a number what they thought of the winners and they didn’t know what to say!




CR: What do agencies get out of entering and attending?

MP: In a word, drunk. Whichever way you look at it – on booze, ego, conversation or inspiration. It’s thorough, unavoidable immersion and over indulgence for all involved.

AS: Agreed: definitely drunk. Although I think the biggest take-out is the networking. It’s impossible not to meet people – it’s nice to chat to peers and contemporaries away from pressures of work.

TA: Increasingly the big agency networks use Cannes as a get together for all their creative directors, which makes sense. Clients are now using the week in the same way. I was with Unilever for two days and it was great to have access to the four top marketing people globally to talk in a slightly more relaxed way, surrounded by creative work and conversation.

CR: If the world outside the ad industry could see the excessive indulgence that goes on at Cannes, would they find it obscene?

AS: Nope, I have not attended too many seminars for, say, drug companies or annual symposiums of botanists but I can imagine the principal is the same. Everyone loves a chance to bang on about what they love to do to someone who is interested for a change. Perhaps if they turned up at the porn festival by mistake?





CR: Has going to Cannes just become a habit now? A bad one?

MP: Let me see, one week in the south of France with all your advertising mates from around the world, loads of brilliant work and some not bad wine – good habit or bad? Nope, I can’t see it ever stacking up as bad that one. Of course any award show could be questioned in this way and if Cannes is merely a habit then it’s one we all seem happy to keep. Let’s not forget that there was quite a serious push in the 90s to break this particular habit and set up an alternative in protest at the exorbitant costs involved. It didn’t happen because it was too bloody difficult to organise, but it did result in Cannes getting their act together a little better.

AS: It’s good to get together and discuss/bitch/poach and drink! Certainly within digital there is little politics between the agencies and therefore a frankness in discussion that is refreshing and healthy. I personally found the seminars very stunted and uninspiring though. Given the mass of talent in one place, much more could have been done to promote debate, inspiration and change. The ones I attended were weak and formulaic with large agencies pushing mantras they looked uncomfortable with in an attempt to look enlightened. They could have been much more reflective of the debates that were going on in the bars.

TA: I thought the seminars this year were great. The JWT one with Martin Sheen and Arianna Huffington was really inspiring.





CR: This year’s Titanium Lion went to a Japanese idea for customising barcodes according to product. Was it a worthy winner? Isn’t the whole category a bit confusing?

MP: The problem so far has been that the criteria changes every year depending on who chairs it. The year before we had a bunch of Titaniums, mostly for nothing more than ad campaigns. At least this year’s winner got lots of people talking. Sure, it’s not an ad, however it is without question a breakthrough idea. Cannes needs to clear up what Titanium is.

AS: As a designer I really like that the barcode idea was recognised. It’s simple and inventive and about time. I like the fact that its focus is change and it needs to be free and undetermined to be so.

TA: The ad industry tends to live in a bubble. They don’t know their design references as well as they should. This may explain their giddy excitement at the Titanium winner. It’s good but a whole page is devoted to the very same idea in David Stuart’s A Smile In The Mind book from ten years ago. Does this matter? The Japanese guys really took the idea on and focused a whole IP around it but I think ad creatives look silly for not having seen this idea before. The US are whipping the Europeans’ arses on new channels, incidentally.

MP: They’re about about five years ahead of the UK. Since BMW films, way back in 2000, they’ve had Audi’s The Heist campaign, Burger King’s Subservient Chicken and the American Express Seinfeld/Superman “webisodes” to name just a few. You’d struggle to name a single European example. It’s where all the growth is. If it has cost the US a Lion or two in the traditional film category this year I doubt that they’re concerned. Winning across the channels must stack up as a better achievement overall.

AS: The US is definitely leading the way. A huge population and time zones all point to digital being more effective at reaching an audience. They tried digital earlier and, realising its success, have much larger budgets which means that the agencies can make much more cool shit! I agree that they probably don’t care about the film drop-off as having awards across channels is only going to increase their reach and, in the end, profit margins.



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