In years to come, we may look back at this year’s Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival as a tipping point. This was the year that the change that has been gathering pace in the industry really became explicit.
Up until now, the big prize at Cannes was always the Film Grand Prix, given to the best commercial. It was the grand finale of the week and reflected the realities of the industry – TV commercials were what everybody measured their creative worth by, then came print and poster ads, then everything else. But this year came a change in priorities mirrored by the industry itself. This year, the prize to win was the Titanium Lion. And if you couldn’t win that, the next best thing was an Integrated award.
“The rules for entry state that ‘Titanium stands for breakthrough ideas. It’s an award for work that is provocative and points to a new direction. It’s for work that causes the industry to stop in its tracks and reconsider the way forward.’ For this reason alone I think there is more kudos to winning a Titanium Lion than a Film Lion,” says Gavin Gordon-Rogers, creative director of interactive agency Agency Republic.
The Titanium award was introduced in 2003 but has had a difficult time becoming established as entrants struggled to understand what it was for. Originally, it was simply for “breakthrough ideas” which could be in any medium. Now it is seen more as an award for ideas that don’t fit into the strict categories of TV commercials, posters or press ads – in other words, for the kind of work that most believe represents the ad industry’s future. “Obviously that’s where we should be going and that’s where we are going… some day there will be just one category in Cannes – I don’t know what it will be called but it will be for the best idea,” agrees Bob Scarpelli, DDB Worldwide chairman and chief creative officer, and Film Lions President at the awards festival this year.
The priority for agencies now is not to demonstrate that they can make a beautifully crafted TV spot – clients know that. What is far more valuable to them as a business is to show they have a grasp of the kind of big, cross-media, projects that clients are increasingly demanding.
The Titanium Grand Prix winner this year was Crispin, Porter & Bogusky’s Xbox King Games campaign, which saw Burger King partner with Microsoft to develop three new Xbox games featuring characters and products from the burger chain’s advertising. The games were then sold in store for $3.99 each when a BK Value Meal was purchased. The promotion, which included online trailers, TV and print executions, led to 2.4 million copies of the games sold in just five weeks.
“The Titanium Grand Prix winner from Crispin Porter & Bogusky is a truly outstanding example of a creative agency leading a brave client into unexplored territory,” continues Gavin Gordon-Rogers. “The key word here is ‘brave’. The creatives, the agency chiefs, and most importantly the client have had the guts to go with something new, something they haven’t seen done before. Of course, Burger King is by no means the first brand to embrace gaming. Nestle did it with Smarties Meltdown for the PS2, for example. Lego has been at it since back in 1997. And film studios have long recognised the merchandising opportunity of video game spin-offs. But with the King games, CP&B actually created a new revenue stream, and it’s the fact that this campaign actually turned a profit for Burger King that makes it extraordinary. I doubt any Film Lion winners can claim that.”
The Integrated Grand Prix winner was no less innovative, with Buenos Aires-based agency Vegaolmosponce proposing a new fragrance for deodorant brand Axe, created by mixing two already established scents in the Axe range. “To communicate the concept of ‘mixable fragrances’ we came up with a simple, straightforward and 100 per cent Axe media neutral idea: mixable Axe fragrances wo
uld give guys mixable women,” claimed the agency. “The campaign was based on this simple concept, showing guys in every form of media available that it is good to mix, and even better to mix different kinds of gorgeous women.” Okay, so it’s not exactly a politically correct premise, but the campaign, which allowed consumers to vote for their favourite combinations online or by using mobile phones, proved phenomenally successful.
And the Lion winners in the Titanium and Integrated categories go even further to demonstrate the diversity of work that these categories accommodate. Titanium Lions went to Droga5 for its Tap Project for UNICEF, which saw restaurants in New York sell tap water for a dollar, generating funding f
or a year’s worth of clean drinking water in the Third World in just one day; to Leo Burnett Sydney for its elaborate promotion of Earth Hour, where residents of Sydney turned off their lights for one hour to save energy; and to R/GA, New York for the Nike+ concept, a Nike running shoe that communicates with an Apple iPod Nano and uses a bespoke website to track and record runners’ progress.
In Integrated, the Lion winners were equally varied. Fallon in London won for its Tate Tracks campaign, where musicians such as Graham Coxon and The Chemical Brothers were asked to create a track inspired by a piece of art at the Tate, which was then made available on listening posts for visitors to the gallery; BBDO Argentina took home a Lion for Barrio Bonito, a football neighbourhood created in Buenos Aires and inspired by the Nike Jogo Bonito campaign; and Clemenger BBDO, Wellington, won for its campaign for the World Press Photo Exhibition, which reiterated the importance of the exhibition for promoting awareness of war and politics by inviting world leaders to attend it and then displaying their negative responses around the city alongside the words, “See the exhibition they should be seeing”.
“It’s at the tipping point now, it isn’t a novelty anymore for sure,” claims Alex Bogusky, founder of CP&B and President of the Titanium and Integrated juries this year at Cannes. “I think people are maybe realising that you have to offer some kind of tool or service. It’s good news for consumers, but it’s hard for advertisers – rather than interrupting, you have to put out a point of contact that people are drawn to. The [advertising] landscape just fractures, every new idea makes our job harder, it creates more options for advertisers and more options for consumers.”
Perhaps because of the new skills that these non-traditional campaigns demand, some of the regions that are enjoying the most success in this area so far are those less established in the more traditional forms of advertising. Bogusky points to Argentina and Latin America generally as leading the way – “they are very free in their thinking, and very accepting to new media… they are not so burdened by their past success in other areas,” he comments – while others have suggested other less-dominant ad regions, such as Japan, Korea and China, as places to watch.
This in part may explain the UK’s lack of impact in this arena so far. While some smaller interactive agencies, such as Agency Republic, who created the Radio 1 Musicubes site, and AKQA, who were behind the interactive Yell.Com campaign, are making in-roads, many of the larger agencies are still concentrating on what the UK ad industry does best: beautiful film campaigns. The suggestion is that this may be about to change, however, as agencies realise that, alongside their skills in creating traditional ad messages, they need to offer something more.
“I think the internet has heightened everyone’s expectations of all media,” says JWT Worldwide CCO, Craig Davis. “People expect choice, control and the ability to contribute. There are wonderful opportunities in all this for brands in the creation and curation of content, services and utility. But the bar is, and should be, very high. My view is that communication will continue to be very important, but that a brand’s communication and behaviour will need to be genuinely entertaining, involving and, quite possibly, useful going forward.”
Rather than coming from within the industry, many of these changes are being foisted on the ad industry by consumers, who are increasingly demanding more from brands. “What’s happening in the real world is not being driven by clients or agencies, it’s being driven by consumers – real people with a remote, a mouse and a mobile,” continues Davis. “In response to that, agencies and clients are looking for new ways to make marketing work harder. With that comes a growing appetite for exploration, experimentation and risk-taking.”
And these changes rely, of course, on risk-taking clients, as well as agencies. “Great clients make for great advertising,” agrees Bogusky. “Some agencies are reaching that spot with their clients where they think strategically, they are thinking about the product. Sometimes you can’t separate the marketing from the product – when that happens business really changes, the results are amazing and agencies get invited way earlier to the table. Now we get briefed on product with BK, which is great, but some agencies won’t want to do it, as it will mean big changes.”
All this may suggest that a paradigm shift is occurring in advertising, although with nearly 5000 Film entries at Cannes compared to under 350 Titanium and Integrated ones, it is one that is still in its infancy. Perhaps it is important not to see these non-traditional campaigns as a replacement to film and print commercials, but a necessary addition. “I still think film has a lot of momentum,” says Bogusky. “I don’t see it changing for the next five years but other models are starting to establish themselves. I don’t see film going away though.”
“Whatever you do, you end up transmitting a message,” agrees Juan Cabral, creative director at Fallon London on the Tate Tracks work. “The important thing is to leave people with something: a feeling, a bit of content or even get them involved and let them be part of it. As long as it feels like a gift, rather than an intrusion, I think it’s okay.”