Cannes Must Broaden Its Definition of 'Creativity'

An Ad Age Editorial

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It's that time of year. The end of awards season brings a flock of men and women sporting thick-rimmed glasses and just-so-ironic T-shirts to Cannes. There, they will drink themselves silly and toast another year of stellar creative work. No doubt, they deserve it. They've worked hard to pursue creativity in a sometimes-thankless and repetitive industry.

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But it's also the time of year for us to worry that Cannes risks becoming less a grand festival of marketing creativity and more like a Roman orgy conducted as the empire edges ever closer to the abyss. For, as the rest of the world changes, too many in the advertising industry seem content to keep partying like it's 1999.

There's reason to hope that this year Cannes will evolve to encompass a broader definition of creativity. While we'd love to see something as genre-bending as the Nike Plus campaign take home the Grand Prix, we'd be content enough if Bob Garfield is proved right in his prediction that Ogilvy Toronto's "Evolution" effort for Unilever's Dove will take top honors.

It certainly would be a step in the right direction, considering last year's winner was a TV spot for beer. Perhaps not so ironically, the Guinness work from Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO was called "noitulovE" and showed evolution happening in reverse. Yes, it was a brilliant bit of creative, and it practically swept the award season. But, as Yahoo's Jerry Shereshewsky bemoaned after the spot won at the One Show, "We're still doing 1950s advertising!"

As mesmerizing as that Guinness spot was, it was decidedly last century -- and undoubtedly very expensive to create and to run.

No one would argue that Dove can't afford a huge budget or top-of-the-line production quality -- indeed, the actual execution on display in "Evolution" is no less impressive than the special effects in last year's Guinness spot.

But what's most impressive about the "Evolution" campaign is that it was born online and rocketed around the globe. During its first month and with no paid media, the 75-second viral scored 1.7 million views on YouTube and significant play TV. On top of that, Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty site saw a traffic spike equal to three times that of Dove's Super Bowl ad the previous year.

"When are the [ads] without the biggest budget going to win one of these things?" Shereshewsky wanted to know.

Maybe this could be the year.
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