The Dean’s view. Patrick Collister
Issue 44 | September 2017
Over the next few pages, Directory brings you seven different perspectives from seven different people, each of whom came to the festival for different reasons.
There's the juror, the winner and the regular delegate. There's the reporter, the photographer and the insider: Steve Latham is Head of Training for Cannes Lions and his perspective is very different to anyone else's.
Together, their testimonies bear witness to a week in which an industry didn't so much come together as begin to tear itself apart.
First, the stats
Entries were down 4% on 2016, with 41,140 submissions in 23 separate categories.
1 in 28 entries won something with a total of 1,470 Lions awarded.
The USA won the most Lions.
BBDO was the #1 network.
On Tuesday June 20th, Arthur Sadoun announced that Publicis Groupe would be pulling out of all awards shows for the year ahead, including Cannes 2018. The money saved would go into the creation of Marcel, an AI platform that would help the group put together the ideal teams to solve their clients' particular problems.
This gave a lot of people permission to do some Cannes-bashing.
Sir Martin Sorrell weighed in.
"Let's move Cannes to New York", he suggested, not very helpfully.
In the bars and across Twitter and Linkedin, opinion was as divided as advertising itself has become.
For my part, I had three rapid responses to the news.
One, who cares? Publicis has never really paid more than lip service to creativity.
Then I thought, that's unfair. Some very talented people in Publicis agencies around the world have been responsible for some very fine work.
My second thought was, this is a slap in the face for those very talented people. It's the Publicis leadership saying creative people aren't important.
My third thought came immediately after the second.
Maybe that's right. Maybe creative people aren't important.
Or, at least, maybe they aren't as important as they used to be. And it is this diminution that is causing so much distress within creative agencies.
When I was a strutting young writer, creative people had the magic dust.
Top talents earned top dollar because they really could create brands out of thin air.
It helped that TV was growing as a platform and delivering mass audiences.
Today the people with the magic dust are to be found at Google and Facebook.
Data has helped brands identify who their most valuable customers are, where they can be reached and what they are doing at that precise moment.
While my agency mates were upstairs in the Palais, wondering why they are in trouble, I was down in the basement with the answer.
For the second year running, Cannes Lions had invited me to be the Dean of the Startup Academy.
Sponsored by R/GA, a dozen startups came to Cannes to learn how to sharpen up their presentations and to get to meet potential clients and investors.
Every one of them was a martech business.
New ways of identifying customers, making it easier for them to connect with the brand, at prices that undercut most agencies.
Relative Insight were back for a second time.
They use AI to analyse the way people use language.
It took them mere moments to discover that Kia owners in the USA use the word 'love' more than other car owners.
Interesting for one of our speakers, who just happened to be the CMO of Kia Autos USA.
Popwallet have found a way of turning the mobile wallets installed on just about every new smartphone into a media platform.
Plattar is a simple drag-and-drop system that makes it both easy and affordable for small businesses to build AR experiences.
Adludio brings haptics to your mobile so ads can shake, rattle and roll in your hand.
Face(note) are bringing image-recognition tech in-store. So when a shopper arrives, she is recognised, greeted and rewarded.
Whalar is a new kind of talent agency. They bring brands and content creators together. They don't do any creative stuff. The creators do all that. What they do is just manage the meeting of minds. And they are backed by Sir John Hegarty, founder of that old kind of talent agency, BBH.
Humblee, Quickframe and Lobster are companies that can generate content faster and cheaper than any ad agency. They say.
Every single one of them is harnessing the power of AI to provide a service to marketers.
So, on the one hand we have Publicis making a song and dance about AI, while elsewhere AI is no longer a shiny, new thing. Already it is everything.
When Nick Law, CCO of R/GA Worldwide, came to talk to the startups, he explained exactly why he believes traditional creative agencies are "f*cked."
1. The media owners have all the clout
2. They have new competition from in-house creative units
3. The consultancies know how to handle clients better
4. Creative agencies are digitally illiterate
He was on stage for what I believe was one of the two most important talks of the week– R/GA's "Creating The Next Agency Model."
On stage was Bob Greenberg, who originally founded the company as an animation studio.
Now it has morphed into a Cerberus company. Three heads.
One: venture capitalist, but offering more than money, offering creative input.
Two: consultancy. Anything McKinsey's can do we can do too. With an understanding of the creative process neither thewy, BCG, PWC, Deloittes,. Accenture et al can match.
Three: agency. But with a difference, understanding how from experience you create narrative.
The real message here is not comforting.
When Greenberg switched direction from production company to agency, a lot of people who had started out with him did not complete the journey.
For agencies, transformation is not about bringing in new people and hoping they have an effect. It is about transforming process and procedure.
The second most important presentation was lost. It was the first of the week before there was a full audience for it. It should have been the last, a summation of the week.
Jason Heller, a consultant at McKinsey, presented an analysis of all the winning work at Cannes since 2000.
They gave client companies an Awards Creativity Score (ACS), based on the quantity, diversity and consistency.
The number of Lions, the breadth of categories and the number of years they'd been among the winners.
Two things emerge
The first, companies that win at Cannes are creative in every other part of their business.
They create more new products and services and they get them to market faster.
In other words, their leadership has both vision and the ability to make decisions.
Secondly, creative businesses generate higher organic growth, better returns to shareholders and higher than average net enterprise value or NEV/forward EBITDA.
They make more money.
Which takes us back to Cannes itself.
It isn't one festival. It is four.
One is about the transformative power of technology.
One is about the merging worlds of entertainment, music and brands.
One is about goodness, the power of ideas to improve the world. The last is about advertising.
When Publicis made their announcement, what Sadoun did was the very opposite of what he probably intended. He reversed the entire group into the niche marked advertising.
And I use the word 'reversed' advisedly.
Funnily enough, advertising has the scope and imagination and talent to be able to encompass all the other three areas.
That's why the startups were in Cannes.
To learn from the people who have the big, all-encompassing ideas and, if possible, acquire some of that chutzpah for themselves.
CEO of Klickly, Cooper Harris, was back in Cannes to appear on the main stage.
But she was also on Adobe posters all across the city.
She had learned in 2016 exactly how the connections she made in Cannes could help her business acquire investors and momentum.
The future for agencies is in supporting businesses like Klickly.
But most look at them through narrowed eyes.
Perhaps a lot more significant to the future of Publicis is the Drugstore, an incubator for startups.
We shall see.
In terms of dealing with the onset of change, what the Startup Academy showed me is that while R/GA may not have the field entirely to themselves, they are certainly out front.