Last week there were a lot of retweets of Dave Trott’s analysis of Cannes (full interview here):
Do you think ad festivals like the Cannes Lions can change this?
No. Ad festivals prevent creativity. You’re not doing advertising for six million people in the street anymore, but for ten people on the jury, and for a few clients. You win an award, because then Martin Sorrell will give you a raise, and Martin Sorrell can go and tell Unilever that he won an award, and Unilever will maybe give him another piece of digital business. How has that got anything to do with the job we’re supposed to be doing?
Despite big, high-profile, ‘proper’ campaigns winning Lions, we still had at least three Grands Prix awarded to work of utter, steaming bullshit: two for the Volvo Paint excretion and one for the Iron Fish mendacity.
Of course there are mixed consequences to this: I guess the publicity around the Iron Fish thing might result in the entrants being stripped of their prize. Or not. It’s not as if Cannes is a bastion of integrity. And I’d imagine that the Paint guys won’t be held to account at all for their truth-fudging lack of creativity, allowing them to pop those two Grands Prix up on a shelf and slurp up the pay rises they bring. Good for them. They played the game and won. And that’s all this is: a game. For every Epic Split or World Gallery (by the way, the Paint thing actually beat the Ice Bucket Challenge in one category. The jury involved should hang their heads in permanent shame for that one) there’s a scamtastic, industry-cheapening cack heap to create a big gain for the people involved but another step back for the credibility of advertising as a whole.
It also undermines the credibility of Cannes and the other winners. Did those press ads for 24-hour cycling actually run? More than once? Did they move the 24-hour cycling needle? Who knows… All I know is I wouldn’t be surprised if they ran once in the creative agency’s in-house magazine, and that’s a shame. Of course this isn’t the first year this kind of thing has happened, but the accumulation of fakery and half-truths has led to a weary cynicism that if you haven’t actually seen the work in the real world then it’s definitely bullshit.
So I’d add to Dave’s point: yes, the whole thing has now become so contorted that we’re holding up little bagatelles designed purely for the twelve people on a jury as the finest our collective minds have to offer; but beyond that the organisers of the Festival are complicit in the perpetuation of this. Clearly the terms of entry are flexible enough for agencies to spin base metal into gold under the noses of the jurors, and until that stops the carousel of bullshit continues.
Does that all have a deleterious effect? Jeff Goodby seems to think so.
And is the national press similarly dismayed? Indeed.
But what do we do about it?
One of the commenters on last week’s Cannes post had this to say:
I just don’t think you can slag off Volvo Life Paint too much though – Grey played the game. Awards are an industry-facing nonsense – and I kind of feel like Grey appropriating a product and using it for a client isn’t all that different to every team in the world scouring Youtube for inspiration and then using it for telly ads.
It’s all cheating. But who gives a fuck, we’re an industry full of cunts innit…
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Stop creating scam.
Stop approving scam.
Stop celebrating scam.
If you’re a juror, stop awarding scam.
If you’re the head of a holding company or chairman of an agency, stop remunerating scammers.
Be the change you want to see in the world.
Be the solution, not the problem.