Some people don't like Cannes. Sometimes I'm one of them. Certainly there are distasteful things about the experience, about awards shows in general. There are the illegitimate ads spawned by the win-at-all-costs mentality that attends the awards-industrial complex. There are those creative directors who are far too driven by awards alone (you know who you are).
But the fact is, for now, Cannes still matters; awards still matter.
Simply, awards are a marketing tool, for individuals and for companies. Especially now that clients are taking more of an interest in what goes on at Cannes, winning a Lion is business.
Any awards show is, by definition, a wank. So let's move on and look at the work that's on show and what it means. And I would argue that the work that's in contention this year at Cannes is far from a disaster. It reflects an industry that is doing the work of evolving.
There is no nucleus of shoo-in work around which the critical mass of debate has revolved this awards season. There's no one answer to the question "What's going to win?" But there are a lot of exciting ideas. There's "Best Job in the World," a campaign for Tourism Queensland out of CumminsNitro, Brisbane, Australia; Fiat's Eco:Drive, an in-car application from AKQA, London, that monitors driving data in the name of fuel efficiency; and a kinetic sculpture at the BMW Museum from Art+Com. All won top nods at the One Show.
There's Burger King and Crispin Porter & Bogusky's excellent Facebook twister, "Whopper Sacrifice"; there's Droga5's "The Great Schlep"; Goodby's "Hotel 626" for Doritos; the social/outdoor campaign for James Ready beer from Leo Burnett, Toronto; and of course, nothing less than the all-encompassing campaign to elect Barack Obama president (and we'll not talk about predicting into which categories things will be slotted. The increasingly arbitrary nature of show categories is fodder for another discussion).
While there are highlights (Nike's "Fate," the controversial "Whopper Virgins," Philips' surprising hit "Carousel"), in general there are fewer blockbuster film-based moments. The industry's energies have shifted, obviously, from the broadcast to the digital side. A reminder: This is a good thing. Digital isn't just an appendage. In a recent Creativity white paper on integrated production, those responsible for executing the huge ideas coming out of leading agencies emphasized this idea over and over and over. In the words of Crispin's head of integrated production, David Rolfe, "The goal and reality is ... that integrated is all about moving the interactive mind-set to the center" (and witness how Crispin, one of the leading ad agencies, expands globally -- by acquiring a digital shop).
So now that this shift is happening, if the downsides are a glut of nutty microsites, some of which history shall judge as mildly pointless, and a decrease in blockbuster films, so be it. That's not to say that as the industry advances even further into digital, design and beyond, film content will fade out. In fact, I'd argue that narrative-type film will see a resurgence as integration becomes a more meaningful premise (witness how one of the leading digital production companies, B-Reel, recently expanded -- by acquiring a film-production shop).
And rather than complain about things like Cannes, I would reserve my suspicion, rancor, words of advice or whatever for two constituencies: marketers and holding-company types, the two groups of folks who have perhaps the biggest say in how the industry continues to evolve through this tough time. May they view Cannes in the right spirit -- as an inspiration to change and to innovate.
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Teressa Iezzi is the editor of Creativity magazine and Creativity-Online.com.