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So, one of the Gold Lions for print here at Cannes went to the National Newspapers of Ireland for its "Power of Press" campaign (Chemistry, Dublin). Nice work, using newspaper ads of various sizes to promote the potency of newspaper ads of various sizes. But there was something very strange about the campaign -- strange, anyway, in these environs. The ads were filled with text. Lots and lots of text (and here's another unfamiliar concept) selling the idea of print advertising.

"You want hard sell?" one ad read. "I'll give you hard sell. I'll sell your whole shop."

Easy to see why the judges awarded this a top prize. Here they just love novelty, and, compared to all the other entries, this campaign is a three-headed goat. Of the 11 other Golds awarded, only one -- a heartbreakingingly obsolete series promoting East Timor tourism ( Ogilvy & Mather, Singapore) -- offered any copy. Everything else was simply headline-image-logo. Or just image-logo, headlines apparently being deemed too verbose.

As a practical matter, there really is no press category here. It's just magazine-sized outdoor.

That said, the Grand Prixis a marvelous little billboard. It's for Lego, from FCB Johannesburg, and what it doesn't show is an incredibly complex plastic statue built entirely of tiny Lego bricks. What it shows is exactly three little white bricks sticking up from a sea of blue. It's a periscope, leaving you to imagine the Lego submarine below.

This ad isn't merely outdoor shrunken to press size. It's also a sort of radio spot, asking you to visualize what you can't actually see, which is, once again, the most vivid image of all.

Fair enough. This advertiser is selling the power of imagination. And, of course, as an international award embracing many languages and cultures, Cannes puts a premium on the universal visual joke. But this isn't merely a Cannes phenomenon; it's a worldwide industry crisis. We've already written about how radio squanders the power of sound. Print squanders the power of language. In due course we'll talk about how the Internet squanders the power of intimacy. And film, of course, squanders the clients' money.

At events like this, a lot of lip service is paid to the sanctity of "ideas." Well, here's an idea: running a print ad without text is something like robbing a bank with an unloaded gun. You may get everybody's attention for a moment, but in the end there is no penalty for ignoring you.
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