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In a case of life imitating art, world events ranging from recession to political scandal will have an impact in determining winners at the International Advertising Film Festival's competition at Cannes this week.

For example, France's media buying law is said to have diverted agencies from creative emphasis to managing their media buying more creatively. And Italy's political scandals that touched the advertising community also have had a chilling effect, along with the continuing impact of private label goods, according to Cannes observers.

"The people I have discussed this with are mostly pessimistic" of France's chances of besting its seven-Lion win last year, said Cannes judge and Callegari-Berville co-founder Pierre Berville.

"The French industry has been saddled with two problems-the global economy plus the introduction of the [French media buying law] which other nations have not had to deal with. For this reason, a lot of energy here that is normally focused on creativity has been directed elsewhere."

Italy, the winner of eight Lions last year, is also struggling to shake off the effects of a bad year, but for a different reason. Emanuele Pirella, president, Pirella Gottsche Lowe, said the ad industry in Italy has been affected by political bribery scandals and national elections. Another disturbing trend, he said, is private-label branding, which has dampened creativity in ads.

One country in which the year's momentous events might help rather than hinder is South Africa. Graham Warsop, creative and managing director of Jupiter Drawing Room, Johannesburg, said the collapse of apartheid and the country's first free national elections can only bode well for its creative reputation.

"It was not so long ago that a chairman of the Cannes [jury] was reported as saying he automatically marked every South African entry with a zero, irrespective of the ad's quality," Mr. Warsop said.

Yasumichi Uwagawa, Dentsu creative director, and a jury member this year, said because of the recession in Japan and many markets, he expects "creative work done with low production costs, yet which capture the audience's imagination."

Bruce Crumley in Paris, Stephen Downer in London and David Kilburn in Tokyo contributed to this story.

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