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.