I’ve often wondered if residents of Cannes exhibit the characteristics of migratory birds or Vietnam veterans with PTSD. With the week-long blow-out that is the annual advertising festival, do they rush as far from the city as possible to escape the mayhem or dig out their ear-plugs, abandon all hope of finding beachside parking and just lie in the apartment foxhole until the festival leaves town?

Cannes is the advertising equivalent of Mecca (as most people reading this blog already know) and, like Mecca, there is some expectation that any practising advertising person will make the pilgrimage at least once in their lives. I’ll admit I have not made the pilgrimage – despite numerous protestations in front of several bosses over the years, I’ve not spent a week sunbathing in the South of France, supposedly attending conferences and generally racking up a bar bill that Nicholas Cage in “Leaving Las Vegas” might envy.

I suppose, as the title of this blog suggests, that I question how disconnected the show is from the realities of our day to day business and therefore if shows like Cannes actually enhance or denigrate our profession.

To reiterate, I have not been to Cannes so perhaps its a little unfair to sound off like a Monday Morning quarterback (or back-seat English football coach) but I do slavishly follow the various trade mag reports from the show. It surprises, in fact even saddens me, that mags like AdAge would title an article “Cannes Grows Up as Clients, Creative Collaborate” and that other articles, granted with tongue firmly in cheek, acknowledge that most creatives could give a rat’s ass about the effectiveness of their work and the impact on client sales or brand.

The part that struck home for me was that, after 57 years, next year the festival will finally go to reward creative for it’s effectiveness and not merely it’s creativity. So I ask, could our industry really be so self-absorbed and myopic that we didn’t think effectiveness was our task all along?

My other misgiving concerns how much of the knowledge swirling around Cannes during the festival actually makes it back to the clients or agency folks who didn’t make the trip? How much does the larger industry benefit from having the brightest and the best (or be that most drunken and hungover) in one place for a week of networking and “knowledge sharing”? Sure everyone can recount the various winners (and there were some fantastic examples from Weiden as well as Crispin Porter) but did the full story behind the award get told? Was the thinking behind the creative shared? Is there a chance for all of us to have gotten a little smarter about how these campaigns were formed and how the various parts acted in concert?

Again my Marie Antoinette comment, though in this case its more about the elitism of Cannes and many other shows our industry spins-off each year. Sure you can purchase the inevitable show annuals which contain the awarded creative but very few detail the thinking behind the creative, the strategy or insight which took the work from good to great. The fact is that for many award shows, a small group of international creative directors are the ultimate arbiters of cool and creative is also incredibly old-fashioned and elitist in this day and age. Why aren’t a broader group of industry folks involved in defining the good and bad?

Here comes a blatant plug…recently an old friend Ignacio Oreamuno, founder of ihaveanidea launched the Tomorrow Awards as a way of engaging a broader cross-section of industry folks in determining which creative deserved recognition. But, here’s the kicker, these folks actually had to invest time reading the case studies behind the award submissions before they could make their selections. The objective? Raise the level of knowledge and understanding of each of the public judges. Too often we see just one part of a campaign and judge it in isolation. The Tomorrow Awards forces you to look at campaign submissions in their entirety, read the detailed case studies and actually learn and improve. Two reasons why I think these awards are quite inspired. One, the broader advertising “public” determine which campaigns deserve to get short-listed for consideration. The democracy appeals to me. Secondly, the need to read about each submission, and hopefully learn something along the way, increases the knowledge of the industry (or at least the participants) immensely. That I think is huge!

Dear reader, don’t misinterpret the point behind this post. I love this industry today as much as when I first stumbled into it 14 years ago. However I think it is naive for us to bemoan shrinking client budgets and a marginalization of our craft when our principle award show doesn’t focus on the key reason our clients hire us (and pay us) in the first place. Effective business- and brand-building communications that sell their products in a creative and impactful way. Secondly, that we don’t fashion these events in a way that the entire industry can learn and improve. That just strikes me as short-sighted.

For the record, if anyone out there wants to cover my pilgrimage to the French coast in 2011, I’m packed and ready baby.

Tags: , ,