Cannes Festival Becomes the Olympic Games of Advertising

For many years the most coveted prize for creativity in advertising was a Clio Award. However, the Clios lost much of their prestige after financial problems resulted in cancellation of the 1992 awards ceremony. And even though they still sponsor an annual awards competition, the Clios have never regained their former status as the advertising industry's premier award for creative excellence. There are a number of other popular and well-recognized U.S.-based advertising award competitions that recognize outstanding creative work. These include the Kelley Awards given by the Magazine Publishers of America, the Best Awards sponsored by Advertising Age, the One Show sponsored by the One Club for Art & Copy, and the Effies, which are given each year by the New York American Marketing Association.

While these contests remain very popular in the United States, on a global level the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival is now widely considered the most prestigious advertising award competition. Inspired by the movie industry's more famous Cannes Film Festival, the Cannes Lions Festival is considered by many to be the "Olympics of Advertising." The Cannes competition receives entries from agencies around the world hoping to win Lions (the name of the awards) in each of the major categories—television, press and poster (print and outdoor ads), cyber (online marketing and ads for websites), media planning and buying, and direct marketing (which was added in 2002).

Agencies from the U.S. generally focus their entries on the TV part of the competition, where they fare much better than in the print and poster category, which is usually dominated by agencies from the United Kingdom whose style of advertising is considered more popular among the Cannes jury. Such was

the case in the 2002 Cannes competition, as U.S. agencies failed to win any Gold Lions in the print and poster competition. However, while U.K. agencies won the most Gold Lion Awards for film, U.S. agencies dominated the category, winning 4 Gold Lions, 3 Silver Lions,and 13 Bronzes. For the third consecutive year,a U.S. agency won the Grand Prix Award for the world's best TV commercial, as Wieden & Kennedy took home the honors for the "Tag" spot it created for Nike. The commercial features an inventive game of tag set to a techno beat as young adults play the kid's game and chase each other around the streets, office buildings, and subways of a major city. A young man wearing Nike sneakers runs and hides from the other urbanites during the commercial, which ends with the simple one-word message "Play." The Nike spot narrowly beat out an eye-popping commercial created for Microsoft's Xbox; called "Champagne," it showed a newborn being shot out of a window, aging rapidly, and landing in a grave. The theme: Life is short, play more. The spot was created by Microsoft's European agency, Bartle Bogle Hegarty, based in London.

One of the other big winners at the 2002 competition was the campaign for BMW Films from Fallon Worldwide, of Minneapolis. The campaign (discussed in the opening vignette to Chapter 3) won a Grand Prix in the cyber category and in many ways dominated the festival. The Cannes jury had problems deciding how to categorize the breakthrough campaign, which combined a website, short films, and movie trailers in ways no one in the industry had seen before. The president of the cyber-category jury noted: "BMWFilms is probably the most innovative and important marketing program in the last year. This work has made people stop and pause and reconsider what they are doing."

While many advertising people in the United States are critical of creative awards, the Cannes competition attracted over 5,000 entries in 2002 from 61 countries, so someone must think they are important. And don't try to downplay their importance in advertising-crazy countries like Brazil and Argentina, where agency creative directors are treated like rock stars, or in Europe, where agency leaders are seen as titans of industry, on par with top CEOs. Agencies like Saatchi & Saatchi, of London, which was selected as the Agency of the Year, know that the prestige of a Cannes Lion Award enhances their image and helps attract new business.

Sources: Laurel Wentz and Stefano Hatfield,"Nike 'Tag' Bags Grand Prix," Advertising Age, June 24,2002, pp. 1, 76-77; Michael McCarthy, "Nike's 'Tag' Ad Runs Away with Top Honors at Cannes," USA Today, June 24,2002, p. 7B.

The perspective of those on the creative side was much more self-serving, as Hirsch-man noted:

In direct contrast to this client orientation, the art director, copywriter, and commercial director viewed the advertisement as a communication vehicle for promoting their own aesthetic viewpoints and personal career objectives. Both the copywriter and art director made this point explicitly, noting that a desirable commercial from their standpoint was one which communicated their unique creative talents and thereby permitted them to obtain "better" jobs at an increased salary.8

In her interviews, Hirschman also found that brand managers were much more risk-averse and wanted a more conservative commercial than the creative people, who wanted to maximize the impact of the message.

What constitutes creativity in advertising is probably somewhere between the two extremes. To break through the clutter and make an impression on the target audience, an ad often must be unique and entertaining. As noted in Chapter 5, research has shown that a major determinant of whether a commercial will be successful in changing brand preferences is its "likability," or the viewer's overall reaction.9 TV commercials and print ads that are well designed and executed and generate emotional responses can create positive feelings that are transferred to the product or service being advertised. Many creative people believe this type of advertising can come about only if they are given considerable latitude in developing advertising messages. But ads that are creative only for the sake of being creative often fail to communicate a relevant or meaningful message that will lead consumers to purchase the product or service.

Everyone involved in planning and developing an advertising campaign must understand the importance of balancing the "it's not creative unless it sells" perspective with the novelty/uniqueness and impact position. Marketing and brand managers or account executives must recognize that imposing too many sales- and marketing-oriented communications objectives on the creative team can result in mediocre advertising, which is often ineffective in today's competitive, cluttered media environment. At the same time, the creative specialists must recognize that the goal of advertising is to assist in selling the product or service and good advertising must communicate in a manner that helps the client achieve this goal.

Advertising creativity is the ability to generate fresh, unique, and appropriate ideas that can be used as solutions to communications problems. To be appropriate and effective, a creative idea must be relevant to the target audience. Many ad agencies recognize the importance of developing advertising that is creative and different yet communicates relevant information to the target audience. Figure 8-2 shows the perspective on creativity that the former D'Arcy, Masius Benton & Bowles agency developed to guide its creative efforts and help achieve superior creativity consistently. The agency views a creative advertising message as one that is built around a creative core or power idea and uses excellent design and execution to communicate information that interests the target audience. It has used these principles in doing outstanding creative work for Procter & Gamble's Charmin and Pampers brands, Norelco, and many other popular brands for many years.

Advertising creativity is not the exclusive domain of those who work on the creative side of advertising. The nature of the business requires creative thinking from everyone involved in the promotional planning process. Agency people, such as account executives, media planners, researchers, and attorneys, as well as those on the client side, such as marketing and brand managers, must all seek creative solutions to problems encountered in planning, developing, and executing an advertising campaign. An excellent example of creative synergy between the media and creative departments of an agency, as well as with the client, is seen in the TBWA/Chiat/Day agency and its relationship with Absolut vodka. As discussed in Chapter 1, the creative strategy for the brand plays off the distinctive shape of its bottle and depicts it with visual puns and witty headlines that play off the Absolut name. The agency and client recognized they could carry the advertising campaign further by tailoring the print ads for the magazines or regions where they appear. Absolut's media schedule includes over 100 magazines, among them various consumer and business publications. The

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