On Cannes. And Why Leaving The Game Isn’t Changing It.

You can say a lot about Cannes. But certainly not that they are making it easier for advertising agencies to keep loving it. Still – all of the whining and complaining is really painful to watch. First of all because no one is really offering anything constructive, and secondly because most of it is just dishonest.

So here is a little bit of bitching about all of that bitching.

“It’s not an event for advertising agencies anymore. All of those digital giants are taking it over with their big money and perversely big presence.”

Yes. True. If you walk along the Croisette, it’s all about Google and Twitter and Pinterest and not at all about Publicis, Ogilvy or DDB. It can be depressing at times. But – let’s be honest: it’s not like the digital giants are taking up the spaces that the advertising agencies would have wanted to book for themselves.

The absence of the ad agency logos on the Croisette (Havas excepted) has been a reality long before the digital world started to conquer the beaches. Complaining about not playing much of a role anymore is like whining about not being allowed to play at the 100 Dollar tables in the casino when you show up with a roll of dimes.

“It has all become too expensive. We need to reconsider our presence in Cannes.”

This is clearly one of the worst things you can say after a week of Rosés and oysters. And quite a few of the guys who are being quoted in this way will have had a wonderfully wasteful evening at Baôli, gleefully sipping away at 5 liter Mojitos.

Agencies have long reconsidered – because they have to. Not because Cannes has become more expensive, because the money has been getting tighter and tighter. Lots of agencies have stopped sending young talents to Cannes and simply let them fight for it in Young Lions competitions. That’s all. And you still wonder why young creative people aren’t interested in a career in advertising?

Lots of offices don’t send anyone anymore. At least that’s what they say – because by pure coincidence, all of the CEOs have their annual meetings at the end of June, and also by coincidence they meet in Cannes. And happily post their encounters with oysters and celebs on Facebook.

If it got too expensive, fine. Don’t go. But then take whatever you spent on Cannes last year or three years ago on something that makes your creative talent happy. If you simply cut all costs you have no right to say it’s because Cannes got too expensive.

And another thing: Just how is it possible that central European agencies don’t have the money to go and get inspired when – for example – independent agencies from Georgia send half a dozen people each? With budgets and salaries that are more than 90 percent lower? Believe it – it’s not about Cannes being too expensive.

“Awards aren’t important anyway. Clients are not amused by the greed for Lions in advertising agencies.”

One of the oldest complaints ever, and it’s mostly stated by non-winners. Or by Amir. Yes, the award race has turned into something that has at least partly lost its connection with reality and with the purpose of our work. Totally agree. But it’s just painfully lame to act as if the award organizers lured us into this. We are all responsible, including the clients who happily join their agencies in the limelight when the Lions are given away.

If you want to find out what the whole thing is really all about, just take a little bit of the money that you don’t want to spend in Cannes and fly over to Ad Black Sea, to name just one example. Fly to Batumi and taste the enthusiasm, the dedication, and celebrate with people who simply love what they are doing.

And on your flight back, you will know why awards are important. And why Cannes may have lost its soul, but not its importance.

Bonus quote: “I’ve been agency of the year in Cannes four years in a row.”

This is something Monsieur Sardoun said in an interview when he was trying to defend Publicis’ withdrawal from all award shows for all of their agencies for one year. Unfortunate, to say the least. For reference and context, here’s the link to the whole interview: http://bit.ly/2t9Ve9s

No matter how you look at it – the timing of the withdrawal announcement during the festival is not very clever. And to think that all those thousands of creative people that are working for the agencies of the Publicis Groupe are raising their thumbs, happily sacrificing something that is defining their market value is sad proof that the man is out of touch with his employees.

Another interesting quote from this interview is this one: “Any work that will start to be created tomorrow will be awarded, because by the time you find the idea, you sell the idea, the idea goes on air, we are back with a Clio and the normal cycle.“

Of course, Monsieur. But you’re missing the point. It’s far worse – this affects the work that has been done over the course of the last 12 months. Or even more, since a lot of the major creative projects take far longer than one “normal cycle”. All this will lead to is that the affected agencies will try to find ways of making their work eligible for awards in the time after the ban.

And it’s no surprise that Mr. Sorrell joins the chant, saying that Cannes is far too expensive, and that they need to look into whether it’s worth sending people to the Croisette in the future. When he can send every creative in the WPP world to Cannes and maybe spend a month’s salary.

So expensive, isn’t it?



Working in advertising and communications. Founder of wrage/antwort, a business consultancy in search of creative answers to business problems. Based in Switzerland, working anywhere you need me.

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