Cannes Considered 2014

Patrick Collister, Editor

Issue 32 | September 2014

On June 12th, just as the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity was beginning, Julian Koenig died at the age of 93. In 1959, when he was a copywriter at DDB in New York, he wrote 'Think Small' for Volkswagen. He followed that up with 'Lemon'. In 1999, 'Think Small' was judged the best press advertisement of the 20th Century by Ad Age.

It revolutionised advertising.

It brought a new wit and style to the business of selling off the page. It also provided the foundations for the VW brand.In an early episode of 'Mad Men', the TV series based on a fictional Madison Ave agency in the 50's, Don Draper is shown the ad by one of his creative team.

"I don't know what I hate about it most, the ad or the car."

"It's a half-page ad in a full-page buy. You can hardly see the product."

"It must be getting results. They keep going back to the well."

There is some more dialogue before Draper then says: "Whatever we think, we've been talking about it for fifteen minutes."That struck me as being a good yardstick to hold against this year's Lions winners. Are any of them interesting enough, different enough, innovative enough to start a conversation that would last that long? Fifteen minutes?

I don't mean what passes for conversation online these days, a quick comment in a website or a Like on Facebook but fifteen full minutes of exchange between two or three people in an office or a bar.

Now, one other thing. I have put together a Top Ten ranking of the best work at Cannes this year, as measured by the quantity and quality of Lions won. Four points for a Grand Prix, three for a Gold, two for Silver and one for Bronze.

1. 'Sweetie'

Client: Terre des Hommes. Agency: Lemz Amsterdam 45 points-Featured in Directory 31
Sweetie – winner of 1 Grand Prix, 13 Golds, 1 Silver

When I first asked the rhetorical question, was there any work at Cannes people would talk about for quarter of an hour, I was expecting the answer to be no. But, actually, this is a yes. 'Sweetie' has generated a lot of chat.

For starters, it makes people in digital agencies feel good about the industry they are in. It's easy to have a pop at advertising as being 'the rattling of a stick in a swill bucket' (as George Orwell saw it) but when the craft skills designers now have can be put to inventive use like this, then it makes you proud to be in the business.

Right time, right message, right result. In so many ways 'Sweetie' is genius communication, trapping paedophiles into revealing themselves at the very moment of propositioning a child.

If there has been plenty of talk about the changing nature of advertising, from creating messages to creating experiences, which is what 'Sweetie' does, albeit a not- very-pleasant experience for the target audience, then some voices have also been raised to question why it won awards. It is clearly not advertising. But Cannes stopped being a festival of advertising three years ago and is now a festival of creativity. So that's alright then.

Technology continues to allow agencies to move from being the lackeys of capitalism to the fighters of crime and get recognition for it. Interestingly, though, the folks at Lemz were reported as saying they hadn't wanted to enter the work at Cannes. They were worried people would see 'Sweetie' as yet another example of an agency cynically exploiting a charity for its own ends.

However, the UN stepped in and said: enter it. And inspire others in the advertising industry to use their skills to help make the world a better place. Less obvious, but the basis for lengthy conversation in itself, was the fact that the creative people who built 'Sweetie' had to spend a couple of months chatting online to the perverts – to discover how they operated, what language they used, the behaviours and so on. Apparently they received support from a psychiatrist. We don't often ask the question, what was the experience like for the people who created the work and it's rather shocking to think that 'sampling the product' could have had long-term damaging effects. For Mark Woerde and his team at Lemz, creating 'Sweetie' in secrecy may well have been a horrible time.

There's a 45-minute presentation in that alone.

Personally, I would like to know more about the results. Apparently, only six people in Europe have been prosecuted successfully for importuning children online. So, what about the 1,000 names and addresses Lemz say were handed over to the Police of 71 different countries. Have any of those bastards been brought to book?

I want to know.

In summary, then, there's enough in 'Sweetie' to keep us talking for hours. An idea Julian Koenig would have approved of, surely?

2 = ‘Sound of Senna’ 

Client: Honda. Agency: Dentsu, Tokyo 36 points

This is interesting. In a three-minute film, Honda engineers record an old Formula 1 car. Then put speakers all the way round the Suzuka race-track and send the sound of the car racing through them to recreate Ayrton Senna’s victory there in 1989.

Why? I have no idea.

What’s it about?

Was the creative brief, ‘we want a piece of gratuitous, self-absorbed tosh that will garner millions of views on YouTube’ ? Because that’s what it feels like.

I’ve gone to YouTube, where the film has been posted seven times, and I can report it has had a total of 180,584 views, which is pretty much nothing.

Ordinary people, the people we are trying to sell stuff to, do not find ‘The sound of Senna’ interesting. Only awards juries do. By contrast, ordinary people do find Messi 

and Kobe in the Turkish Airlines ‘Selfie’ ad on YouTube interesting. Nearly 140,000,000 views. And the juries at Cannes gave it zip. Not a single Lion. Nada.

So, I look at this and see the self-absorption of advertising creatives writ large.

However, at a recent Creative Social evening, when I made my feelings known there were howls of protest.

One point of view is that this is what branded content is all about. Brilliant ideas, which are editorial in nature rather than message-driven. Films which explore stories of human endeavor and passion.

As conversations go, this is one that will run and run. Because branded content is either the future or it’s insane.

Is the art of selling really dead?

If you post up videos about your values rather than about your products, will people really engage with you and will vast profits really fall from the sky? Really? 

2 = 'The Scarecrow'

Client: Chipotle. Agency: Creative Artists Agency 36 points

Charming animation about a scarecrow who works in the processed food factory before embarking on a more fulfilling life selling home-grown produce.

It's also a game. We talked about this for five minutes in my creative group at Google but mainly because Andrew used to be an animator.

He found the style too slick, especially compared to the video they produced the year before, which may have been rougher at the edges but managed to convey a sense of the simpler life rather better.

Five minutes.

4.'I'm' sorry I spent it on myself'

Harvey Nichols. Agency: adam&eveDDB, London 30 points

There were a lot of conversations about this campaign when it won the Grand Prix for Promo and Activation and the Grand Prix for Press plus a third Grand Prix for Integration. That's a lot of prizes.

Mostly thumbs up for outstanding craft skills. The TV commercial is beautifully written and beautifully shot. But exactly the sort of work that was winning the Grand Prix ten years ago.You can spot the planner's influence in the strategy a mile off.

Hey, everyone's talking about how brands need a conscience. They must be seen to be doing good. Let's zag to their zigging and glorify selfishness. A bit like that other classic of British advertising, Stella Artois and 'Reassuringly expensive", which also celebrated greed and self-indulgence.

Personally, in a year when technology and digital are transforming how, where and what we communicate, this campaign is surprisingly old- fashioned.A year from now, most people will have forgotten it. Harsh but fair, don't you agree?

5.'The Magic of Flying'

Client: British Airways. Agency: OgilvyOne, London 23 points

Well, we did talk about this in Cannes, the day after it won the Direct Grand Prix. For about 15 minutes, in fact. One glamorous ECD of a top London agency said: I love it. But it's not Direct. As I understood it, when we featured it in Directory, it is Direct in that if you typed the hashtag #lookup into the search engine of your choice, you were taken straight to a BA offer for that exact flight. Barcelona with 30% off. Or wherever.

I think this poster is genuinely ground-breaking. It's a great example of what people like to call 'realtime' communication but it is also 'real world'.

It is able to share the context and the time with the people around it to create a short but meaningful experience. Of all the ideas that won big awards, this will be the most mimicked. In fact, it has already been copied and spoofed. By Pow Wow, a video conference call company.

6 = 'Epic Split'

Client: Volvo Trucks. Agency: Forsman & Bodenfors, Gothenburg 21 points- Featured in Directory 29

Good old-fashioned demo of how stable Volvo trucks are even when reversing. One of a series of stunts in which trucks ran from the bulls in Pamplona
(to demonstrate agility) or got hoisted by a crane and dangled over Gothenburg harbor with Volvo's CEO standing on top (to demonstrate strength).

Point made in 60 seconds.Move on.

6 = 'Pharrell Williams 24 Hours of Happy'

Client: Universal/Iamother. Agency: Iconoclast, Paris 21 points

Most music videos are as long – or as short – as the song. How do you get people to spend longer watching and listening? Well, here's the answer.

Mind you, I'm not sure it would work quite as delightfully with something like Motorhead's classic 'Ace of Spades'. You can't really snack on heavy metal the way you can on bubblegum pop. No-one has ever done anything like this before. It's 24 solid hours of content but designed to be consumed in clickable titbits.

I'm sure there will be plenty of imitators of this in the year ahead as creatives try to explore the idea of the never- ending video, the never-ending advert, the 24-hour jingle.

8 = 'Bentley Burial'

Client: ABTO (Brazilian Association for Organ Transplants) Agency: Leo Burnett, Sao Paulo
16 points- Featured in Directory 30

Campaigns like this are designed to generate buzz. That's what PR has evolved into, the business of talkability. One of my favourite campaigns of 2014, Count Chiquino Scarpa announced that, Pharaoh-like, he was going to bury his most treasured possession, his Bentley, so it would be there for him in the afterlife. He was made to talk about it for 20 minutes on TV and the newspapers devoted hours of read-time to the story. Eventually he declared that every day Brazil was doing madder

things than he was in burying healthy organs which could better have been used helping to save lives. You can never tell with the published results of campaigns like these whether or not they really have been successful.

Hopefully, this led not just to lots of hot air in the news but to some lasting effect in terms of the numbers of organs donated.

8 = 'The Autocomplete Truth'

Client: UN Women. Agency: Memac Ogilvy, Dubai 16 points- Featured in Directory 29

In the Press Room at Cannes I got talking to a grizzled old journalist from Denmark. "Each year", he said, "the craft skills get better but the take-out is same-old, same-old."

I think what he meant was that the ads may be admirable but the issues they raise remain undented. In other words, much of the work that wins has no effect whatsoever. I
do often get an uneasy feeling this might be so, reading the results paragraphs of many awards submissions.

The results for this campaign are: 'It quickly became the most shared campaign of 2013 (Adweek), amplified by uncountable news sources (The Guardian, Time Magazine, Huffington Post, Times of India, Elle, CNN, msnbc). It made men and women discuss the topic worldwide in news and talk shows on TV, on radio and on thousands of blogs.'

Yes, but is there any evidence that attitudes and behaviours to women have changed one iota? If they have, now then that really is a story.

10 = 'Almost Identical'

Client: Beldent Infinit.
Agency: Del Campo Saatchi & Saatchi, Buenos Aires 15 points - Featured in Directory 31

Malcolm Auld is one of the sharpest and funniest writers about marketing and advertising in the world. Follow him at If anyone enjoys pointing out the Emperor has no clothes, it's Malcolm.

Recently he wrote a piece about branded content, observing that people use social media to connect with each other. Not with brands. He also expressed amazement that marketers think they can just post up entertaining videos online for sales to fall from the sky. He meant videos rather like this one for Beldent chewing gum. The anthropological 'experiment' is now an accepted YouTube format.

It has had seven million views (though they claim 10 million in their submission) but has it sold a single pack? No-one knows. Or, if they do, they are keeping quiet. This is the big dilemma for marketers right now. Research from Nielsen shows branded content can add 15 points of lift above TV in terms of recall and 187 points in message recall. But does it work? Even Coca-Cola can't really tell you. They have around 88 million Likes on their Facebook page but still don't know how much a Like is actually worth.

The real experiment for Beldent is seeing if their video does anything to influence brand awareness and sales. A few years ago, American kitchen towel brand Brawny traded TV advertising for an online series of webisodes called 'Brawny Academy'. I thought it was brilliant. But what do I know?

After a year, Brawny were back on TV with the most unsubtle demo ads you can imagine, just showing 'em what the product does and to hell with branded entertainment. I shall be looking out for Beldent at Cannes next year. So, in conversational terms, entire conferences are devoted to the topic of branded content. Within it, Beldent, a nice try, must be worth a quarter of an hour.

10 = 'Bald Cartoons'

Client: GRAACC. Agency: Ogilvy, Sao Paulo 15 points

If you were a child in Brazil, an avid watcher of cartoons, then I suspect this idea may linger in the mind for years. A favourite character transformed by baldness is a powerful image.

I’m sure it generated much discussion between parents and children about chemotherapy and cancer treatment.
But did it raise funds? Did it change behaviours?
Who knows.

The work that didn’t win

Shortly before Cannes, we published our list of Cannes Contenders and mostly we were right. But there were a few predictions we got wrong.

Often, it is what did not win which tells you more about the state of the business than the work which did. For instance:


Client: JSC Megafon Russia. Agency: Asif Khan London, Axis Moscow 

Yes, it won the Innovation Grand Prix but in Outdoor it won nothing.

How strange is that?

(The idea was a poster which took uploaded 'selfies' from customers and fans and turned them into 3D images on a giant pin-screen at the Sochi Olympics.)

Surely it was as interesting as the Outdoor Grand Prix winner, 'GayTMS' for ANZ Bank, Australia, by Whybin\TBWA Melbourne?

What about in Press?

'Nivea Sun Protection App'

Client: Nivea. Agency: DraftFCB Sao Paulo

Nivea Sun's big claim is that 'Nivea protects'. Supporting that, the ad has a tear-out bracelet with location technology baked into it. Download an app to your mobile and
then track your kid's whereabouts on a busy beach.

It won Gold in Mobile but in Press it didn't even manage Bronze.

Another Nivea magazine insert allowed Mums to spend more time on the beach by having a miniature solar- powered re-charger built into the ad. You could plug your mobile phone into the ad and let the sunshine keep it charged. So you could spend longer getting bronzed.

Won nothing.
Elsewhere there were some other anomalies. In Mobile, for instance.

'Powersleep App'

Client: Samsung. Agency: Cheil Vienna

What this did was let you download an alarm clock, which, while you were sleeping hooked up with other resting Samsung smartphones so that their combined processing power could help boffins at Vienna University decode protein sequences.

Everyone was a winner. Except the agency, who got shortlisted six times but won not a single Lion.

Perhaps the one campaign we expected to win multiple awards and which didn't was:

'Emotion Scan'

Client: BNZ Agency: Colenso BBDO Auckland, New Zealand
Featured in Directory 31

Of all the work that we previewed before the festival, this seemed to me to the one which most signposted the future – an approaching time when your computer will be smart enough not just to read your face, to detect your trembling and read your mind but to predict your needs. For me this was a story of technology changing completely how brands can engage with people.

What was impressive about this was the number of people who queued up to give it a go at a special Adshel installation – over 5,000. Another 5,500 had their faces read online. Elsewhere in the forest, agency Lean Mean Fighting Machine have developed hand-sensitive technology for Unilever. If you are watching a recipe video, Jamie Oliver rustling up some feast or other, you can pause the video with a wave of your hand.

This is sensitive tech, the science of engagement when psychology and technology meet.I suppose the juries that looked at it (in Direct, Promo and Cyber to name but three) felt it was more gimmicky than anything.

And perhaps they felt the same about another fascinating campaign, also from Asia-Pac and also from a BBDO agency:

'Remote Control Tourist'

Client: Victoria Tourism, Agency: Clemenger BBDO Melbourne Featured in Directory 29

I am certain this will change how many tourist authorities think about their 'website' and see that they can engage potential visitors with a real, live experience rather than a passive shuffling of online pages. Originally intended for other Australians to view, people from 158 countries connected with the four tourists in Melbourne and directed them round the city, getting them to sample the delights and enjoy the adventures vicariously.

It was entered 19 times (which would have cost a packet) and won just four measly Bronzes.

Other weird glitches (to me!) were:


Client: Volkswagen GTi. Agency: Achtung, Amsterdam Featured in Directory 29

I thought that this would appeal enormously to the technically-minded on the several juries who looked at it. In real time, a Golf GTi raced across the banners of three of Holland's most popular news websites. To do this, the car had to be filmed driving through a simulacrum of the banners, painted in proportion to the car on an airfield outside Amsterdam. Then the car raced through the painted banners so on the appointed day it could race through the banners.

10,000 people took time off work to try to click on the car as it raced through a banner. Ingenious. Lovely. And relevant because the whole idea was about speed. It was entered 15 times in various categories.Got nothing.

Not even in Promo. Guys, guys, what were you thinking? What else? Well.

'Over To You'

Client: Samsung Galaxy S4. Agency: Cheil London

How do you reach millennials, who delight in making themselves hard to reach? Through their peers. Through the YouTubers they follow and admire.

Cheil launched the S4 by handing it over to a bunch of content creators from rapper Jamal Edwards to vlogger Sam Pepper and journalist Benjamin Cook and letting them demo it. It took quite a lot of gall and not a little trust and Samsung was rewarded with some rave reviews.

Won nothing.

Though probably the best piece of advice of the
entire week in Cannes came from a content creator, Kanye West, smarting, perhaps, because Samsung's collaboration with Jay Z seems to have been spectacularly successful for all parties.

"Empower the best content creators or fuck off," he said. I can't help but agree.

In Conclusion

Twenty years ago, creative directors went to Cannes to behave like rock stars. They holed up in the Carlton and drank the place dry of Roederer Cristal.Now the rock stars in Cannes are real rock stars.Kanye West, as noted, but also Bono was there, Courtney Love and Jared Leto. Cannes is now a huge media fest. With some nice ads attached.It draws in media owners and content creators who can smell the money of the clients who now also stroll the Croisette in shorts.It is a place where deals are made and partnerships forged for future collaborations. The CEOs and the CMOs are there, looking for each other. But so too are several thousands like me, looking for inspiration.

It's too easy to knock Cannes now it is so big. But in knocking it, its critics are tacitly acknowledging the festival as the single most important week in the advertising world. But important now to an ever-increasing number of stake-holders.This year there was plenty to talk about.But, for a moment, consider this. We are still talking about 'Think Small' fifty five years after it was written.It was the first time that advertising didn't reflect culture, it led it. In 2069, fifty five years from now, will people be talking about any of the ideas that were celebrated this week.

I can't see it myself. But maybe next year.

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