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Everyone stop what you’re doing: Sir Martin Sorrell has something to say.

Do you ever notice how Martin Sorrell’s predictions always get quoted in the press despite being utterly crapulent?

Every few months he comes along and predicts recessions to be certain shapes (‘L’, ‘V’, ‘Bath’, ‘Dog’, ‘Fanny’ etc.), then we watch as at least one of the several possibilities comes true. It’s like aiming at a target with a shotgun: only a complete idiot could fail to hit the bullseye.

But, y’know, he’s Sir Martin Sorrell, and people have to fill media sections of newspapers with something, so they keep on quoting the guy who can see the future about as well as Stevie Wonder can see his socks.

This time he’s telling us how much advertisers and readers will be looking forward to a Sun on Sunday.

I guess he’s right. It will indeed sell quite a few copies to the many people who miss reading that newspaper that listened in on the voicemails of a murdered teenager and printed the diary of a bereaved mother without her permission just to make some more money for a billionaire. But then I could have predicted that. In fact that’s what I just did a couple of sentences ago, because it’s completely fucking obvious.

And yes: advertisers will also be looking forward to placing their messages somewhere that lots of people will read them. The SoS will be an extension of The Sun, so if compamies don’t have a problem advertising there on Thursday then they’re unlikely to have a problem advertising there on Sunday.

Unlike Dickhead (see the comments section of the ‘Brand of the Free’ post below), I don’t have a problem with him ‘abusing his knighthood’. I find knighthoods quite funny because they have little or no actual value: a bunch of people think you did something good or owed you a favour and decided to give you some letters to go before or after your name. Nothing else changes. You get no more power. Many, many, questionable people have been given them and some people use the award as an excuse to behave like giant bells. So where’s the merit in that?

Anyway, back to Sir Martin of Sorrell: of course the diminutive tycoon wants to promote the Sun on Sunday. It means that WPP’s clients will be spending more media and production cash through his agencies, lining his pockets still further AND giving him the opportunity to slurp Murdoch’s bunghole again.

What could possibly be wrong with that?



The value of Cannes

Despite the fact that I’ve written 1,479 posts about awards, I now feel the need to curl out another one.

That’s because there have been a few recent developments on that front:

Wieden and Kennedy recently floated the idea of skipping awards.

Publicis have decided to give all of next year’s awards a miss.

WPP are considering not going to next year’s Cannes.

There seem to be different reasons for this: W&K wanted to find different ways to recognise creative excellence, including running full page ads thanking/congratulating teams responsible for good work.

Publicis want to spend the awards money on turning themselves into a ‘platform’. Here’s an explanation: Some of the key features of this AI-powered professional assistant include the ability for employees to apply to work on projects across the globe, an idea derived from a global talent survey that Publicis conducted roughly eight months ago. One major insight from the survey was that many of the youngest employees wanted access to projects all over the world. “It might be a copywriter in the Philippines, but who says they won’t be the one that’s going to crack that Tide brief in New York for the Super Bowl,” Carla Serrano, chief strategy officer of Publicis Communications, said.

Here’s a rather awkward film with some people explaining what it’s supposed to be:

And WPP think Cannes is ‘too costly, too scattered and should return to its roots of solely promoting agencies’ creativity.’ Apparently they’re a bit pissed off with the increased significance of Facebook and Google in the South of France.

So three reasons to give Cannes/awards a swerve.

Let’s have a look at the pros and cons:

W&K’s heart seemed to be in the right place. They want to recognise creatives, just in a way that might be better than the flawed method that is the expensive, ultimately meaningless crapshoot called ‘awards’. But when they asked their staff there was widespread antipathy. It seemed to the younger creatives that the senior ones who had made their name/fame/career on awards were pulling up the ladder. Would these alternative methods work? hard to say. Do awards work? They seem to.

So they changed their mind:

Since backing off the idea more than a year ago, W+K has continued looking for internal ways to supplement the role that award shows play in the industry. Doing so also helps the agency stay focused on finding new ways to keep its staffers loyal and engaged.

“There’s a lot of talk about millennial employee retention: ‘Do you want to take your dog to work?’ ‘Do you want a skate park and yoga?’,” (Joint CCO Collen) DeCourcy said. “These people want to be known. They want to be famous. They work hard enough, so they deserve it. So we were trying to figure that out, and quite frankly, we still are.”

Hmmm… There’s a lot of stuff in there. Is taking your dog to work (a very common thing here in LA) or having a skate park (really?) supposed to equate perk-wise to being able to enter awards? And is a person’s wish to be ‘famous’ a valid reason for their place of employment to shape things around such a wish? Apparently ‘They work hard enough, so they deserve it’.

Do they? Not to be deliberately obtuse but if hard work led to fame my cleaner would be on the front of every paper in the country. Which leads me to question this entire chain of logic: why do creatives deserve fame or notoriety for the ads they create? Why are awards the only real driver of such fame? Why is effectiveness seen as a poor cousin to ‘creativity’? Why aren’t we arguing that testimonials from satisfied clients or sales increases should be the justification for fame, promotions and raises? I’m not saying any of those things are good or bad, but sometimes we seem to accept certain situations without giving due consideration to the alternatives.

Which leads us (kind of) to the Publicis thing. There’s a lot of chat about improving creativity in the above link, but will Marcel do that? No idea. It’s a step into uncharted territory. And I suppose that’s a good thing, considering how much we generally lament people who always choose to stick with the same path.

On the other side, this is apparently a financial decision, with award entry cash being redirected towards Marcel. So there’s no ideological strategy underpinning this move; it’s merely a case of not having the cash to enter awards and set up Marcel, so they took their reddies from the award pile and gave it to the innovation pile. But is it really that expensive to set this thing up? Publicis’s Cannes entries/attendance alone was apparently over twenty million Euros. If Marcel costs that much I have a bridge I’d like to sell to the Publicis top brass. This seems like a convenient excuse to rob Peter to pay Paul. Tough titty, Publicis/Saatchis/Leo Burnett creatives.

…Leading us to WPP and Mr. Sorrell. He’s threatening, in a somewhat terrifying manner, to pull out of Cannes:

“If we would be starting the concept again today, what would we do differently?” he added, saying he would prefer it if the conference took place in another city and at another time.

Really? That’s all he could come up with? A new date and location? How would that solve anything? And, by the way, he said exactly the same thing last year.

Look, I’ve slagged him off a bit in the past, but I have an open mind to this guy who can’t really be as underwhelming as he seems and still earn £210m. So come on, Martin, think of a good reason to blow Cannes off, or simply come clean that you’re shitting yourself at the prospect of Facebook and Google eating your lunch in the near future. We won’t think any less of you. Maybe.

So there we are. A bit of a mixed bag, the upshot of which is that Cannes will certainly be enjoying the investment of W&K and WPP next year, and tonnes of MUCH BETTER WORK from Publicis in 2019.

Phew!



Cannes you see the point in getting annoyed?

Here’s an article about Cannes that makes quite a few points about why it’s losing its way, but the main one is that no one seems to know or care about the actual awards.

And here’s another that says Marin Sorrell is ‘maybe…maybe… maybe…’ thinking about considering contemplating entertaining the idea of perhaps quitting Cannes.

Golly!

Apparently it’s turned into a big networking exercise that’s full of talks and celebrities and costs a lot of money.

Also: bears defecate in wooded areas and the Pope is a big fan of Catholicism.

So I’m not sure why this year has led to more of these articles. Cannes has always been a colossal booze-up masquerading as an expensive networking exercise masquerading as some sort of celebration of the best advertising has to offer. I believe different people get different things out of it and those things are clearly valuable enough for the attendees to take the time and expense to fly in from LA or Sydney or Tokyo.

Has it lost its ‘relevancy’ (and more to the point, when did the word ‘relevance’ transform into ‘relevancy’?)? Is the data side of the business being sufficiently represented? Is it worth listening to Richard Littlejohn and/or Katie Hopkins talking about anything other than their imminent plans for suicide? Is Cannes a topical allegory for the bloated EU?

If people care less and less about actually seeing the awarded work then there’s a very simple reason for that: unlike 10-15 years ago much of the work can be seen on several global websites that collect the best work throughout the year. The work that is enjoying a surprising debut on the Croisette is almost certainly the kind of depressing scam that feeds into the tedious circle-jerk that leaves many of us cold.

Have a watch of Rory Sutherland for some fine wisdom on the subject:

So it’s the same as it always is: plenty to complain about if you’re that way inclined, but I kind of see it as a version of Chelsea FC or the films of Michael Bay: many people see the appeal, many do not, but neither are going away anytime soon, so what’s the point in getting your knickers in a twist?



Hiding the cash in plain sight

I was listening to this football podcast the other day. It’s an interesting analysis of why Jose Mourinho’s appointment as the new manager of Man United makes a certain kind of sense that may not be immediately apparent to the majority of football fans.

(For those of you who aren’t into football, allow me to give you a quick background to this situation: cast-iron, 24-carat thundercunt, Jose Mourinho has been a ridiculously successful manager, winning league titles wherever he goes, and occasionally the Champions League, too. He’s also been a toxic mess, sacked three times for being shit after he was good, and for creating schisms and hatred amongst his players, then leaving the clubs in quite a mess. By now everyone knows what they get from appointing him: a desperately insecure man who has to make every situation about himself, while throwing scoolground-level barbs at other players and managers. He also creates teams that occasionally play very good football, but more often simply spoil things for the other team, creating fucking boring games that are played by some of the most skilful players in the world.)

Anyway, the podcast suggests that actually managing a football club (not just the team, but the entire enterprise) to trophy-winning success is a very difficult thing to do. What is much easier is to spend a ridiculous amount of money on ‘star’ players and managers to keep people watching all over the world. Maybe Man U will win things with Mourinho; maybe they won’t, but it doesn’t actually matter because the aim of Man U’s Executive Vice-Chairman is to make money off the ‘brand’. If Man U stay ‘big’ then they can leverage sponsorship and other commercial deals to ensure that the cash flows in, no matter what happens on the pitch. They’ll probably spend another £100m-£200m this year, taking player spending in the last few years to over £400m. But if that nets them £800m in deals, it’s all good.

The men who took over Manchester United several years ago are the Glazer family, who actually leveraged the money they needed to buy the club against the club itself, leaving it in colossal debt, which they’ve been paying off ever since. But apparently that doesn’t matter because it hasn’t affected team spending, and the Glazers appear to be cool with doubling down on that stance by making it ALL about the money. Football has been big business for a couple of decades now, but this situation is simply growing beyond anyone’s imagination.

So Man U are playing a different game: use the football to bring in the money, which is the opposite of the previous practice of bringing in money to support the football. And this is all a longwinded way of saying that people may not be playing the game you think they are. Does BBH’s transition to a ‘Sports Management’ agency that doesn’t seem to give a toss about TV ads a new way of playing a different game that has nothing to do with great work? Does Martin Sorrell give the first toss about how good his companies’ ads are if they’re making loads of cash in other ways? (Last year I spookily asked if WPP was following the model of a football club, kind of the flipside to this post.)

In these days of huge amounts of cash and power sloshing around in channels of subterfuge it’s hard to know exactly why trusted institutions are behaving in unexpected ways, but it really just comes down to that quote from All The President’s Men: follow the money.



Advertising no longer in the advertising business, but still firmly in the talking shite business.

Here’s the latest pronouncement from Martin Sorrell, the ex-accountant with a background in Economics.

One of the things he says is that ‘we’re not in the advertising business anymore’. I don’t think I’m way off the truth to assume that ‘we’ refers either to his many WPP agencies, or possibly the industry as a whole. Apparently data has taken over and ‘John Hegarty wouldn’t recognise 75% of what we do’.

Now, far be it from me to suggest this is all a load of headline-baiting bollocks, but this, like most of what Marty says, is a load of headline-baiting bollocks. Data has been part of advertising for many years. It’s one of those things that fuels the planning department and allows them to tell you all about the quant vs the qual. So what’s changed? Apparently we’re using more of it and its importance is growing, but does mean WPP’s agencies are no longer in the advertising business?

Of course not.

It just means that WPP’s agencies are now making more money out of creating and selling data to its clients and Marty’s speech helps make them feel comfortable about that so they then spend more.

Do Y&R, Ogilvy and JWT’s global agencies still create actual ads? Yes. So are they still in the advertising business? Yes. So is Marty talking crap again in order to make more money? Hmmmm… I wonder…

And if you had any doubt, have a read of the final quote in the piece: “In that cocktail it’s very tough to grow your top line and you have to contain your costs… companies are pulling in their horns and becoming very risk averse.” (My italics.)

As Jessie J so eloquently asserted, it’s all about the money, money, money and sometimes that means certain people have to be all about the bollocks, bollocks, bollocks.



Is WPP like a football club?

Here’s an interesting post about the downside of hiring a big network agency to do your advertising.

The gist of the argument goes that by paying Martin Sorrell $66m, a large chunk of WPP’s clients’ fees are going to people (mainly one particular person) not directly involved in the day-to-day business of the agencies: namely, to improve their clients’ businesses through advertising and related services.

I see the point, but I think there are less visible ‘benefits’ (I use the inverted commas to recognise that many of these ‘benefits’ are subjective) apparently not considered by the author. Many of the systems and processes created by WWP, perhaps instigated or approved from the top, might go some way to streamlining wastage and saving time/money for clients (possibly not, but for the purposes of this post I’m being the devil’s advocate). In addition, large organisations might be able to attract better talent all the way through the organisation, either through the more attractive career path, the greater compensation, or both. Again, you could argue that the ability to do that trickles down from the top, with Martin/John Wren etc. hiring very good people, who hire very good people, who hire very good people.

Perhaps there are also economies of scale that allow for better facilities or reduced fees that may or may not be passed on to the client. Many clients also like to walk into swish receptions and speedy glass elevators before being metaphorically fellated (or cunniliguified?) by the discovery of extra thick chocolate on their meeting biscuits or account people who will pick up their dry cleaning.

But this is actually a little more complicated than that. Apparently the cash doesn’t just go up a funnel to Martin’s wallet; it’s actually part of a long-term incentive scheme that sees him do well when WPP does well. So… is it client money finding it’s way directly into the pocket of the bloke at the top, or is it just a reward for making the whole company richer, along with its shareholders? And where does one end and the other begin? It’s WPP cash that’s making up that $66m, but is it client cash?

Perhaps the argument is like that of a football club: lots of season ticket holders complain when their seat prices rise but the club doesn’t spend the extra cash on things the supporters benefit from, such as better players. But a large club needs many other elements to be successful, such as sponsorship, corporate entertainment and branding in places like Singapore. Does a more expensive season ticket pay for a business class seat for a club executive to travel to Jakarta and arrange for a sponsorship from a tyre manufacturer, thus bringing in the £20m required for a new defender? Some fans talk about ‘net spend’, which says that if a manager spends 100m on transfers but brings in 80m by selling players, he has only made a net spend of 20m. But there are so many other expenses in these large corporations that you really have to look at all the ins and outs to make a proper analysis of where the P and L happens.

Does Martin Sorrell’s ‘spousal travel’ budget (the £274,000 he expenses for his missus to travel with him) lead to him being more relaxed on trips, thus in better form to win a big global pitch for his holding company? Do his nice suits create the right impression at a corporate retreat, inspiring his top mangers to do better? Who knows? But the only measure that matters in this case is WPP’s share price. Whatever the thousands of factors that contribute to that share price are, the only deal was this: share price up, Martin’s money up.

If you are a client who thinks your money is being somewhat wasted by paying a lot to a man at the top, then don’t spend that money in that place. Of course you’ll get better ‘value’ by going to a start-up, but you won’t get all the extras, or the security.

You pays your money, you takes your choice.



Cannes: dear oh dear…

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.

Peace out.

x



What is your corporation really doing to you? And what are you doing to it?

Michael Lewis, ridiculously excellent author of Moneyball and Liar’s Poker has written an excellent column for Business Insider that examines the consequences of people who join the finance industry, only to be altered profoundly and negatively by the experience:

The question I’ve always had about this army of young people with seemingly endless career options who wind up in finance is: What happens next to them? People like to think they have a “character,” and that this character of theirs will endure, no matter the situation. It’s not really so. People are vulnerable to the incentives of their environment, and often the best a person can do, if he wants to behave in a certain manner, is to choose carefully the environment that will go to work on his character.

Just so you know the lens through which I read the article, I don’t think that we’re significantly compelled by our genetics to behave in certain ways. Yes, genetics have an effect, but since you can shape and change your genetic make-up as you live, I’ve always thought that (to quote a quite brilliant Economist ad – you remember them – by the equally brilliant Tim Riley) it’s Nature vs Nurture: away win.

So the idea that a somewhat well-intentioned person might enter the lion’s den of global finance and not be changed (damaged?) by it seems to me unlikely. But how does that happen, and is it happening in your industry?

Mr Lewis’s article gives some disturbing and thought-provoking reasons for the effect that occurs in the financial sector, but one in particular seemed an interesting corollary to the insidious nature of many of today’s giant corporations:

The people who work inside the big Wall Street firms have no serious stake in the long-term fates of their firms. If the place blows up they can always do what they are doing at some other firm — so long as they have maintained their stature in their market. The quickest way to lose that stature is to alienate the other people in it. When you see others in your market doing stuff at the expense of the broader society, your first reaction, at least early in your career, might be to call them out, but your considered reaction will be to keep mum about it. And when you see people making money in your market off some broken piece of internal machinery — say, gameable ratings companies, or riggable stock exchanges, or manipulable benchmarks — you will feel pressure not to fix the problem, but to exploit it.

So do you love the agency you work for?

And would you care if your agency went bust tomorrow if you had already secured a good job elsewhere?

And would that caring be down to anything other than the fact that your friends would lose their jobs and therefore find the near future somewhat difficult?

I’ve loved many places I’ve worked at, including the current one, but I’ve also seen how large corporations can suddenly decide that its employees are expendable. And what does that do to people? It makes them care less about the corporations they work for and makes them concentrate much more on what’s in it for them.

In the above Lewis paragraph you can swap ‘gameable ratings companies’, or ‘riggable stock exchanges’ for scam ads and many staff not giving a shit about whether an ad shifts product so long as they get a big client on their CV or work with an edgy director.

As many of you saw in the David Abbott memo I posted last week, some companies used to have an ethos that people could stand behind, a North Star that could guide every difficult decision. Now the North Star is more often than not the generation of cash, and it’s hard to swallow being called in to work late nights or weekends so that Martin Sorrell’s Cannes yacht has enough fuel to move another 500 yards.

But no one comes into any industry to be thusly jaded. It happens because your surroundings shape you, minute by minute, millimetre by millimetre, and by the time it’s bent you out of the shape you wanted to be, it often feels like it’s too late, and that’s to the corporation’s detriment as well as your own.

But does it really matter?

Yes it does, because it reduces the chances of you or your corporation realising your possibilities.

You create your company and your company creates you. You create your circumstances and your circumstances create you. It’s kind of chicken and egg, but it’s always going to be within your power to make the most of the situation in which you find yourself. You can be a fluffier chicken or a tastier egg. Don’t be shaped by something that doesn’t work for you. Shape it back until you have the context that speeds you on to your possibility.

You have nothing to lose but the shitty life you never wanted.



Growth is killing us

A couple of weeks back we had the great Steve Harrison in the agency to talk about the great Howard Gossage (Steve will happily pop round to your agency to do the same. Comment if you want me to put you in touch).

In the Q and A at the end I said that one of the many things Howard was remarkably prescient about was his desire to keep his agency small. He worked in an old fire station in San Francisco and never employed more than a few people because he couldn’t see the point in growing. He was the font of quality, aided by a few others; why dilute that by increasing in size?

These days that idea is ridiculous. Of course, if you are doing something well you do more of it and earn more money. Then you get more people to join in and do the work you can’t do and earn even more money (never mind the question of diluting the quality of the work). And on and on until you become Martin Sorrell.

It is taken for granted that what human beings want is ‘progress’, but that is defined as ‘moving onward or forward to a destination’. The problem here is that we have no destination. In general, people just want more than what they have. The idea that anyone should be satisfied with the way things are and just stop is a bit of an odd one to get your head round. You can’t just stop. That’d be crazy. What would you do? How would you be able to afford a bigger TV or go on more holidays or just be more ‘successful’?

But the problem is, as Steve said to me, capitalism is just one big Ponzi scheme and at some point we’re all going to realise that we can’t just keep taking to make more. Whether it’s the massive and obvious destruction of the environment (have you seen the weather lately?) or the terrible consequences of financial and political greed that millions of people continue to suffer, this love of progress doesn’t seem to be improving the world (see here for why the introduction of agriculture screwed the human race in so many ways). Of course, making progress in civilisation, learning and creativity are not bad things in themselves, but marching on to ever greater levels of consumption will have to end somewhere disastrous.

Like many things happening right now (any support for Mitt Romney, climate change, Rupert Murdoch not being in prison etc.), I don’t really understand why nothing is being done. Why aren’t we collectively demanding justice, or an improvement to the way we live on this planet?

My little effort is this blog, but beyond that I feel pretty powerless to stop what appears to be a great slow slide into oblivion.

If I’ve got it all wrong, please let me know in the comments. I would love to believe it’s not as bad as it seems.



Tactical Voting at cannes: storm in a rosé glass

So there’s some big hoo-ha about the tactical voting that went on at Cannes this year. Apparently all the WPP offices got together and planned to ‘kill’ Omnicom, the holding company of DDB, TBWA and BBDO. DDB’s Worldwide Grand Creative Poobah, Amair Kassaei said, ‘I have since been notified by no fewer than 12 jury members that people from other holding companies this week are being briefed to kill Omnicom, especially BBDO, DDB and TBWA, this is a fact.’

So that’s pretty bad, isn’t it? After all, in a world beset by venality and corruption, advertising awards, particularly the Cannes Advertising Wankathon are the last bastions of evenhanded judgement and scrupulous fair play.

Or rather it isn’t. I’ve heard of and witnessed plenty of jury decisions that had nothing to do with the quality of the work. One guy got a silver instead of a gold because he left the room halfway through judging to attend to some work emergency. People have been denied Pencils because they’ve already won too many of them. Undeserving ads have won Grands Prix because people on the jury were trying to block the favourite and keep its CDs on the lower rungs. And that’s leaving aside the whole issue of ads made entirely for juries (love those highlighter pen ads from Chile). A few years ago an agency spent over $1m to make an ad a client didn’t ask for and didn’t pay to run that went on to win two Grands Prix. Nobody batted an eyelid.

And as far as Cannes goes, when I was a BBDO CD we had a worldwide conference where all the work we were about to enter at Cannes was circulated amongst the BBDO Cannes jurors. There was no suggestion of this being corrupt – it was just a way of making sure our work could stand out a little more amongst the thousands of ads a Cannes juror has to sift through. If an ad was crap of course it wouldn’t get a BBDO juror’s vote, but if the jurors could be more aware of a good ad then where’s the harm? Some ads get a ton of random pre-Cannes publicity from trade press previews that are are little more than return favours for a big lunch. Surely that’s far more ‘corrupt’.

But that aside, let’s get some perspective: the whole thing is a game. If you want to take it seriously, be my guest, but if you view it as a fun little bunfight where lots of highly-paid people try to beat each other to meaningless metal lions then this whole ‘kill Omnicom’ thing is all a bit pathetic (in the interests of full disclosure I should point out that I am an Omnicom CD). It’s be nice to think that every single ad award was a clear, neutral judgement of pure quality, but if you believe that you probably still write letters to Santa.

Kassaei continues: “The problem we have at the moment is, Cannes used to be the World Cup of advertising because of the qualification and the result of the juries, and at the moment I don’t have a feeling we are at the World Cup of advertising because a lot of people are playing politics instead of judging the best work of all.”

Good heavens! Is Cannes really not the World Cup of advertising? Has it really begun to morph into the Eurovision Song contest, where shite song after shite song was awarded victory with absolutely no complaint, but when neighbouring countries started to vote together people were up in arms as if it really really mattered?

If you entered something in Cannes this year and are dismayed that your money might have been wasted because of this ‘corruption’ then you shouldn’t be allowed to have control of several hundred Euros. And the whole crapolafest is brought into sharp relief by the fact that Martin Sorrell of WPP (the Omnicom killers) also believes that his agencies have been the victim of tactical bloc voting in the media awards.

So everyone’s messing around with everyone else to make sure their team wins.

And the woods are packed with bear shit.