'Evolution' Win Shows Film Is No Longer the Dominant Species

The Real Beauty of This Dove Spot Is That It Began on the Web

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This year: "Evolution."

Last year: "NoItuLove."

Next year: "Live U-Toon?"

The key to winning the Cannes Film Grand Prix, obviously, is alphabetic. Or, maybe it's expressing the passage of time, in one direction or another. The 2006 winner, for Guinness, showed a stout-drinking man descending through history toward the primordial ooze. This year's winner, from Ogilvy & Mather, Toronto -- for Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty -- used time-lapse photography to show the metamorphosis of a plain Jane to a phony cover-girl vixen.

It aimed to show that our standards of beauty are all out of whack, which they are, and it did. But the real real beauty of the spot, and the real evolution, was in its provenance: It began on the web.

"Evolution" was an online viral ad, streamed and downloaded millions of times before it ever made its way on TV. In fact, TV was an afterthought -- most likely one to make the ad eligible for the film Grand Prix, which, as a mere online trifle, it otherwise would not have been.

Can we perhaps now agree about the internet that there is no longer anything trifling about it? Maybe this would be time to acknowledge marketing evolution and demote film from its culminating Grand Prix de Grand Prix status. Maybe it should be a midweek prize, reserving Saturday night and standing-room-only for the titanium, itself recast as the best ad of any kind in the world.

After all, the scuttlebutt from the Croissette was that Cannes was abuzz with digital this year, that the Gutter chatter was more about titanium (eventually won by Burger King's extraordinary Xbox video games) than film. That's welcome news.

Still, mark us down as skeptical. For one thing, for every silo Cannes breaks down, that is one less stream of revenue for the organizers. The more media divisions, the more entries, the more dough, duh.

Secondly, the annual overflow turnout for the Saatchi & Saatchi New Directors Showcase (what do we need new directors for?) suggests that the Cult of the 30-second spot is alive and well on the Côte d'Azur.

But, well, you just never know. Stranger things have happened. For instance, the print Grand Prix went to Saatchi for Tide Ultra Stain Remover, which is manufactured by Procter & Gamble, which is based in Cincinnati, which is pretty much the anti-Cannes.

Yeah, we predicted this would be a big year for soap at Cannes ... but Tide? After, like, 890 years of little Billy's grass stains? Of course, Procter had famously expressed its determination to win at this festival and, lo and behold, figured out the way to do so.

With its storied R&D prowess, the world's biggest advertiser observed closely how other print entries prospered and did just what they did: billboard ads for magazines. The key to print success in Cannes is to avoid those things ... whattya call them? ... oh, yeah: words. Instead, you depend on a vivid visual and, if necessary, a minimalist headline. But, for God's sake, no copy. Ever.

Tide's entry was indeed fascinating (see Work, P. 55). It showed various stains, anthropomorphized into a small cluster of people utterly surrounded by vast masses of white-clad others, representing the detergent's stain-fighting power. The headline, naturally in itsy bitsy type: "Ketchup [or soy sauce or mayo] doesn't stand a chance."

OK, sure, the more coveted Grand Prix went to rival Unilever, but this was nonetheless a remarkable development, along the lines of dinosaurs turning into birds.

See? Everything evolves.
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