Goodby on Awards

The Goodby Silverstein co-chairman and Titanium jury chair talks Cannes, clients, creative conversations and categories.

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Jeff Goodby
On Cannes changes ...
I think it's kind of a mixed bag to have a lot of clients here. On one side, it's good that they get the perspective on creativity, but on the other side it means that all of these people who normally get together and exchange ideas and compare work and talk about the kinds of issues you talk about in your magazine -- it makes them have to work. Now, it's really not a good place for those conversations. They have to be on good behavior. It's interesting, it's changed the conversations that go on, it's changed the body language a lot. Among people I know, they're suddenly saying, 'Well, I have to go to this direct marketing seminar that my client is putting on,' etc. I can go on record and say it's terrible. It's really changed the way it feels.

The other thing is that the show -- all shows but particularly this one, which has now added another category -- is going to have to change. The categories are just silly. The idea of a Press category is like becoming obsessed with the carburetors of cars and collecting them rather than collecting the cars. Rather than looking at a car and seeing if it performs and is beautiful, you're looking at a tiny little piece of it that is so archaically limited when it comes to the kind of effect that the thing has on people. Soon, I don't think anyone is going to care about these categories, they are going to see the relevance of what we do. What we really do is think things up that get into people's heads and change their minds about things. The clean-sheet-of-paperness of that is going to be what is celebrated rather than automatically jumping to the conclusion that the things should be done this way or that.

On the Titanium Lion, more categories, and the judging process ...
This Titanium category that I judged, it's a good idea, but when you make it into an explicit category as they did it becomes weird and hard to figure out and hard to explain. We spend half of our time trying to figure out what the category means. We thought that the category ought to be something that shows us where the business is going to go next. I told them we should be looking for things that redefine the way we talk to people in the world. And I think some of the things we chose had elements of it; others might have just been things that were funny.

I think in the end that the Titanium category will be the category that everything else will have to move toward, because what we're going to be honoring at these shows is the ingenuity of finding new ways to engage people. By definition, those things shouldn't fall into categories that we've seen before.

In judging, we tried to separate ideas and executions. I'm kind of glad that it was hard to separate those. When you take that "5-cent" campaign, you could say it's just like a Ronald McDonald campaign in a way -- there's a character in the middle of it. The character is kind of ingenious because it's about a 5-cent phone call, so they invented this little 5-cent guy and it's really connected to what they had to communicate. That's a big step forward right away, because once you've got that piece of info in the commercial you can do some shit with this guy. It's really well done. The thing that impresses you about that campaign isn't that any particular commercial is a Gold Lion level of commercial, but when you opened the box of stuff up that came with the campaign and looked at the t-shirts and the direct mail and the explanatory booklet that the campaign engendered, everything was great. The judges wanted to steal the t-shirts.

The thing is that those executional details beautifully done, humorously done, are just as important as the big idea. That's the thing you can take out of that campaign. Otherwise, you could look at it and go, What's new about this; it's just an innovative campaign, it's a bunch of channels and so what? Because when you watch day after day of work, you find that a big integrated campaign is not inspirational enough in itself -- you have to have more than that. You have to have an odd idea at the base of it or an inspirational thing at the bottom of it that gets your attention. The idea of having people out there faking Minis like Rolex watches -- that's the kind of idea you have to have at the bottom of these things. And to execute it really well.

There weren't many entries in the category. In the future, people should lead with their idea in those videos when they enter. They should say, 'Here's why our campaign changed the world and the way you'll speak to people in the years to come.' That's what I think the category should be, and it isn't yet.

I think it would be fun to think about it as the future. Everything else is about the past -- it's an archiving of the year in advertising, and that should be about the future. I think we tried to find things like that.

On the relevance of creative awards shows . . .
In a given year, something can win an award for being creative and attention-getting and maybe for that year it's not particularly relevant to the results it got in the market, but in time I think that having things that have a lot of creative spark being honored and passed around in the ether is always a good thing -- because it engenders better things in the future, no matter what. It creates something in the air that makes for better work two or three years from now. I think that people who are too caught up in, 'Gee, does this thing really work in the marketplace?' are kind of missing the point.

(This article appears in the July 2005 issue of Creativity.)

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