The Nick Law Blog: Cannes Lions 2009

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Folks are saying Cannes may be different this year -- fewer parties, fewer attendees -- thanks to the current economic downturn. Also, in terms of awards--there haven't been many clear standouts when it comes to the big winners. This year, the ever-prolific Nick Law, CCO of R/GA, offered to scout the scene, the work and the wins in the climate of '09. Check back in daily for his observations from the Croisette. For more of Nick at Cannes, follow him on le Twitter.

Saturday, June 27th:
I'm writing this blog from my hotel room watching a live telecast of France play Australia in rugby. The brutish game I grew up with looks strangely elegant when French commentary is added. The leaden Anglo-Saxon names of the Australian players sound aristocratic, the blood spurting out the player's ears looks like fine Bordeaux, my hotel room smells like runny cheese.

When in France I see the industry differently also. I now have a category of friends who I only see in Cannes. If they don't have a glass in their hand and a sway in their step, if they're not wearing a delegate badge tangled with a sweat-stained seersucker suit, if they're not ranting about a waiter's Frenchness or a jury's fruity decision; I wouldn't recognize them. The week will end with plans of meeting up in New York or London or Mumbai, but the next time I see them will be where I left them: on all fours in the gutter bar, a bored Russian whore sitting on their back smoking a cigarette.

Australia just beat the French in the Rugby 22-6. I wonder if the Gutter Bar is open yet?

Friday, June 26th:
Tomorrow night, the last of the Lions are handed out. They will be awarded across three different categories based on three different criteria. The first will be awarded for the best of a format (Film), the second for the most groundbreaking idea (Titanium) and the third for the best cross-channel deployment of an idea (Integrated).

So what's the fairest way to judge work? By format, innovation or context? Or maybe by industry vertical? Or effectiveness? Or haircut? Does "digital" mean anything any more? Should a TVC be judged next to a web video next to a video projected onto the side of an elephant? When did we stop judging the work and start judging the case study video?

Does this confusion just reflect a confused industry?

Thursday, June 25th:
The evening's award show winners were spread evenly over multiple agencies and continents. The auditorium seemed to be full and the delegates politely appreciative of the work. The advertising world keeps turning.

We're halfway through the festival and I'm spent. Once again, I saw the sun come up through bloodshot eyes with a bottle of tepid beer in my palpitating hand. The night began with R/GA winning five Lions. One Gold, two silver and two bronze; spread over the Cyber, Design and Media categories. It ended in the gutter with Jeff Benjamin staring serenely into the middle distance and a pack of fiercely alcoholic Australians threatening to find another time zone where the bars were still open.

Wednesday, June 24th:
Cannes is full of Brazilians. Unlike the rest of us, their enthusiasm for our industry is completely guiltless. No gnawing concerns that they'd be making a more meaningful contribution to society as a poet for the poor or dental technician for blue whales. Apparently advertising is so respected in Brazil that junior art directors are celebrities, and expanding banner units are a worthy canvas for creative aspirations.

Cannes is also full of Swedes. In fact, I heard it whispered by an Englishman at the Gutter Bar that Swedes are the new Brazilians. I told him that the English are the old Brazilians and that the Andorrans are yesterday's Chileans. Another way of looking at it is that the Brazilians are the sun people of advertising, the Swedes are the ice people and the English are the fog people.

Tonight, the Press, Design and Cyber Lions are awarded. R/GA has six things on the shortlists. Hopefully, I'll be celebrating with our head of brand design, a talented but foggy chap from London.

Tuesday, June 23rd:
Law's eye view of Cannes.
Law's eye view of Cannes.
Yesterday started with a croissant on the terrace and ended with a bottle of lager in the gutter. It's feeling like Cannes again. The sun is back out, threatening to turn my translucent blue skin to an opaque white and finally a sweaty pink. My face already has a lovely base of booze burn.

I just saw a panel with Andy Berndt (Google), Jonathan Mildenhall (Coca-Cola) and Stefan Olander (Nike) moderated by Paul Woolmington (Naked). It's amazing how quickly digital has become doctrine. The conversation centered on the delights of branded utility and user-generated content. The discussion was full of vigorous nodding and violent agreement. They all talked about how hampered the industry is by fractious silos on the agency and client side.

Tonight at the Gutter Bar, I will make a special effort to integrate my drinking across all disciplines.

Monday, June 22nd:
The sky above Cannes.
The sky above Cannes.
New York's rain clouds followed the advertising industry across the Atlantic and settled over Cannes yesterday. As expected, the body of festival delegates has been thinned and sobered by the global economic nastiness. I've never seen a more timid group of admen and women. Perhaps more will arrive tomorrow in a never-ending congo line, singing radio jingles and drinking yard glasses of absinthe and red bull.

But that's not why I'm here. This year, my job is to make sure Bob Greenberg doesn't wander into the Mediterranean. He made it through yesterday with a slightly rain dappled beret, but alive. I hope the industry has as much luck.
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