Paul Yole in Cannes: 5 take-outs from the last day

Paul Yole Cannes 2015.jpgPaul Yole has been blogging from the Cannes Lions Festival for the past 9 years. This year he is highlighting 5 points a day for his daily coverage.


Amir Kassaei, Chief Creative Officer of DDB Worldwide, delivered a seminal talk in the Palais on Friday. Although this was a much more subdued Amir than we are used to, his presentation was incredibly emotional, impassioned, provocative and timely.

Following a week in which industry legends Dave Trott  and Jeff Goodby held up the mirror to our industry, and controversy erupted over a Grand Prix winner this week, Amir rounded it out in the most heartfelt and compelling way possible.

I firmly believe that creative awards are very important, for reasons I won't go into here. I also think that events such as Cannes Lions can play a critical role in inspiring and educating our industry. But right now, we have to question whether we are going about it the right way as an industry.
Having listened to a week of seminars and talked to many of the senior industry figures here in Cannes, I've come up with 5 questions that are worth thinking about. There is a connecting theme that I will leave you to work out.

Claire_CannesDay6_L1000723.jpgDoThisOrDie.jpgI don't pretend to have the answers but all the same the debate is worth having.

1. Is Cannes too big or too small?
When Jeff Goodby raised this point he was juxtaposing the grandeur and largesse of the event itself with the inward-looking nature of our industry. "We are famous only from one end of the Croisette to the other".

Some of us may be famous for entirely the wrong reasons, but in his talk with business partner Rich Silverstein on Thursday, Goodby lamented the fact that "we only seem to produce and award one-offs these days. What happened to the big campaigns?"

There are many great and amazing things about the Lions but we need to consider if the real intent of the Festival is at risk. The Cannes Lions manifesto is that 'creativity matters' and nobody would argue with that (unless you are a retailer of rugs.)

Within this are four main pillars - to connect, educate, benchmark and inspire. The issue then, is how well are we doing these four things? I say "we" because while the Lions' organisers can shape the discourse, they will only do this to address or drive perceived demand. And that is in our hands.

2. Is our work really having an impact?
There have been many great and innovative projects and ideas that have picked up the major metal. Some have them have had a real impact, some others less so.

So should scale be taken into account when briefing the juries? And have we inadvertently and consequently penalised great ideas that do not have a social cause at their heart?

Kassaei pleaded with us to "stop falling into the trap of phoney ideas."

I'm not for a minute suggesting that campaign or project results should be part of the entry criteria because that would be wrong. The Effies do that job pretty well. But the answer may simply lie in how jury foremen guide the judges.

Most of the time we are only selling stuff but we seem to lose sight of that fact and end up only selling to ourselves instead of the big wide world.

3. How well are we training our people?
I have reported elsewhere about the great session from 72andSunny. Indeed there was a whole day of Forums dedicated to talent development, so hats off to Cannes Lions for doing that.

Kassaei talked about the need to teach the right values to the young people in our industry. I agree, but quite frankly I think it's time for some of the more experienced talent in our industry to lead by example.

It starts from the top, with agency management articulating a clear purpose that is value-driven in the real world, not just about how great we are at winning awards.

Maj_cannes.jpgThere is plenty of brilliant creative talent out there. We just need to harness it to the right ends.

4. Have we forgotten our purpose?
Ordinary people, says Kassaei, are only interested in what is relevant and adds value to their lives. Somewhere along the line we've got lost and forgotten the true purpose of our industry.

At my agency, we try to focus on making an impact on the client's business. We can only achieve that if we make an impact upon the lives of their customers or target audiences.

The world of business and marketing communications is tougher and more complex than ever before. But we are in a prime position to show our worth. Kassaei demands that we guide our clients through these tough times, but instead we are just confusing them.

It's time to set goals that are bigger than a Grand Prix. If we set our sights on real world impact, with real work for real people, then the awards should follow.

5. Is creativity getting better or worse?
Amir Kassaei suggested that winning awards only means you are good at winning awards. Beyond that, I suggest, you have a responsibility to show how the idea has added real value. That is not to confuse creative awards with effectiveness awards, but as Pharrell Williams noted in his session, you have to make your intent clear and that intent should generally be about behaviour change in some form.

Jeff Goodby lamented the lack of really big campaigns these days. We seem to have replaced these with a series of great one-offs.

Dave Trott goes further by suggesting that awards limit creativity because we end up creating work for 10 judges instead of thousands of real people. And let's face it we do live in a big bubble. Kassaei told us to go home and tell our kids mummy or daddy just won a Bronze Lion and see how they react.

There is no doubt that crafting and the use of technology is usually amazing at this show. But I still sense that the feeling of "wow" is experienced less each year. Or maybe that's just this year or just me.

But Kassaei is right to challenge us by asking whether we are awarding stuff that has no relevance in life, and by doing that we are just kidding ourselves. Nobody, he maintains, is talking about what should never change.

Actually on that latter point he is not entirely right, because he is, Jeff Goodby is, Chuck Porter is, Sir John Hegarty is, Jon Steel is and Dave Trott is.
If we can't listen to these industry icons who have proven their credentials, then we are indeed kidding ourselves. Dismissing their views as being "old school" is, like Amir Kassaei suggested when talking about ads that are not genuinely concerned with helping people, arrogant and cynical at best, and criminal at worst.
I am very optimistic about the future of our industry. There is some brilliant talent, great opportunities and amazing tools to work with.
But we need to act now and make this year a watershed in the maturity of our business.


A good debate said:

Great points you bring up Paul Yole.

I really feel Cannes is at a crossroad. The awards and judging is becoming much less prestigious, even laughable at times, yet the seminars and the talks are becoming more rewarding. Maybe because the juries are not strong. As a creative the appeal of the lion is falling away and the real value of Cannes for us is the networking and to catch up with friends.

But other shows have concerns. D&AD introducing wood pencils also undermines their show and previous winners.

Nope said:

Love Goodby's article. He's right, of course. We've forgotten what our industry's about. Too busy chasing a metallic jungle king.
Trying to impress not people but advertisers.
It's ridiculous really.
Call me crazy, but I'd like to see as much attention on the effies.

Agree said:

@good debate is right. D&AD's wood pencil is a dumbing down of what was once the pinnacle for all of us. D&AD trying to be Cannes. Sad.

Saw a folio a few weeks ago, "won Pencil at D&AD". It got my interest, then I checked and they were wood.

Old guards to save the day said:

Great article. But it's a vicious cycle. So long as agency heads hire so and so for winning this and that at such and such, the fame will always be a necessary evil. The theme this year was helping victimised women in every possible way. In return, the industry as a whole victimised them.

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