Cannes 2012

Talk of Cannes: Media Controversy; B-to-B Ripe for New Category; Could Creatives Flee France?

Ad Age's Reporter's Notebook Fills You In on Chatter From South of France

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Five years ago, an Ad Age editorial called for Cannes to embrace a broadened definition of creativity and argued that it could exemplify the industry's evolution by awarding a game-changing innovation such as Nike Plus . Five years later, Nike Fuelband won what many argue is the most important award of the festival, the Titanium Grand Prix.

Nike Fuelband, out of R/GA New York, is a sleek, simple wristband that allows its wearers to track the calories they burn not just through their workouts but with any activity they do during the day in order to assess and improve their overall fitness through the Nike Plus platform.

"Nike Plus was amazing technology, but it was for runners," said Rob Reilly, president of the Titanium jury and worldwide chief creative officer-partner at CP&B. "[Fuelband] has all the benefits of Nike Plus but for the masses."

The Titanium award is one of the most complex and interesting awards, because it honors breakthrough ideas, and in Mr. Reilly's words, this was about "technology with marketing baked into it that changes people's lives." Usually the winner is announced in conjunction with the integrated Grand Prix, but none was awarded this year.

The Titanium award, announced Saturday night at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity , capped off a week of honors for the advertising industry's best work.

Top honors were awarded in a pair of new categories. Google won the inaugural mobile Grand Prix for "Hilltop Reimagined for Coca-Cola," which enlisted creative teams from Grow Interactive and Johannes Leonardo, New York, to take classic ads from top marketers and reinterpret them using digital tools. And the first branded entertainment Grand Prix went to Chipotle's "Back to the Start," from CAA.

While this year's awards were less surprising than last year's, which saw little-known work from Romania and South Korea taking home Grand Prix honors, it did mark a few big victories for what were essentially B-to-B campaigns, including Google's mobile win and a design Grand Prix for an annual report from solar-energy provider Austria Solar, which featured text that was only visible in sunlight. One could surmise B-to-B will be a future category.

Chipolte's 'Back to the Start,' created by CAA, won the first branded entertainment Grand Prix.
Chipolte's 'Back to the Start,' created by CAA, won the first branded entertainment Grand Prix.
And despite a new round of winning work, other aspects of Cannes never change. The magnums of rosé on Carlton Terrace tables, the heaving crowds at the Gutter Bar and the plush villas and yachts rented out by industry giants belied evidence that several countries in Europe, including Greece, Spain and Italy, are facing double-digit ad-spending declines.

This was as large a Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity as ever, with some 11,000 people estimated to have attended. More people meant more chatter about what they did and didn't like at the festival, so we've rounded up the five hottest topics.

The media Lions controversy
Cannes is no stranger to controversy, and this year it came in the media jury. Jurors cried foul over the short window -- six days -- to review 3,247 entries and several alleged some judges were egregious in supporting their own companies' work, pointing specifically at Omnicom. This kind of jockeying happens often on festival juries, but coupled with a packed schedule, it erupted louder than usual. Omnicom referred calls to the festival; Cannes CEO Phil Thomas pointed out it would be difficult for a holding company to sway results, since any decision needs two-thirds of the jury -- or 20 people in the case of media. (Omnicom had six, including Jury President Mainardo de Nardis.)

Tech plays supporting role
Several wins, such as American Express' "Small Business Saturday " and Mercedes' "Invisible Car," were heavy on digital and social-media use, but for jurors, technology wasn't the star -- the idea was. "We've seen a lot of entries show off the tech they can leverage, but here we're seeing a piece of very innovative work where tech is used as a tool to amplify a key product benefit," said Outdoor Jury President Lo Sheung Yan about "Invisible Car," which won one of two Grand Prix in the category. In other words, the best uses of technology were those that made the technology invisible.

Questioning effectiveness
Every year there seems to be more weight given to a campaign's results, leading to a barrage of statistics in many submissions. But jurors told Ad Age they need to be careful to evaluate the work vs. a case-study video full of data points, which across thousands of entries would be impossible to verify. Going forward, we predict there'll be parameters for case-study stats.

Oh, and for those entering next year's creative effectiveness awards, a reminder from Jury President David Jones: Facebook "likes" and Twitter followers grounded in little context don't equal business results.

Role reversal for P&G, Unilever
Unilever, whose former chief marketing officer, Simon Clift, was a well-known opponent of creative pre-testing, has pivoted vigorously under Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Keith Weed, who openly embraces the practice. Meanwhile, Procter & Gamble Co., long perhaps the most stringent user of copy tests, is trying to moderate its habit.

Mr. Weed in an interview said he's accumulated plenty of evidence over the past year that copy tests produce more effective results, but acknowledged that he's trying to prevent Unilever marketers from using them as a gatekeeper rather as a development tool. And in a presentation on creativity, P&G Global Marketing and Brand Building Officer Marc Pritchard said answering a creative concept with "we should test it and see how it does" results in "the worst possible outcome for clients -- creatives who stop bringing their best ideas and, understandably, give us what they think we'll buy."

The copy-testing industry will no doubt note that Unilever has recently been beating top-line forecasts, while P&G has been pulling guidance downward. But when it came to hardware, both were rewarded: P&G won for work on brands such as Febreze and Old Spice; and Unilever had snagged 14 Lions as of Thursday, including the Grand Prix for effectiveness.

Food for thought: Could creatives flee the South of France?
It was estimated that as many as 25% of Cannes attendees this year were clients, up from 20% last year. And their presence was felt stronger than ever at every seminar, awards ceremony, hotel, restaurant and party in town. Some agency folks told Ad Age last week that they're convinced clients will outnumber creatives at Cannes in a few years, perhaps because there is no global marketing festival, so Cannes is turning into one. Will it one day reach a tipping point where the creatives feel outnumbered and start going somewhere else?

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