Saturday, June 21, 2014

It's Time To End The Cannes Advertising Festival.

(Flier at Cannes last week. Photo by Kurt Novack.)

The just completed 2014 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity made $28.2 million in entry fees alone, up over four million from 2013. British media company Top Right Group runs the Festival, since buying it from French businessman Roger Hatchuel in 2004 for £52 million.

The entry fees for work are fucking extortion (which befits the industry). Plus, you pay a €2,710 fee (which includes nothing) just to attend the week-long event. The profit margin for the Festival is somewhere north of 60%.

What's it all for? To win a statue of a partial lion.

Talk about an insecure industry, full of insecure people.

To save yourself/your agency a lot of money, you should just buy your own Gold Lion for €1,250, and get it engraved to say whatever the fuck you want.

That would be a "scam" you say?

Well, exactly how many of the Gold, Silver, and Bronze Press ad winners do you think actually appeared in the "press", or anywhere at all other than an art director's iMac screen?
Above (click to enlarge) is one ad from a Silver Lion Press campaign for Panasonic auto A/C. After ad tracking services could find no record of the campaign, Australian media site Mumbrella had the audacity to ask Panasonic and their ad agency, Saatchi & Saatchi Sydney where the ads had run. Panasonic had no comment. Saatchi released this statement:
The Panasonic Nanoe TM technology for Automotive Airconditioners is one of the most innovative technologies used in the automotive industry. We (Saatchi & Saatchi) developed the dog print ads campaign as a project for Panasonic to demonstrate the benefit of fresher air through this technology in an engaging way that everyone can relate to. The print campaign ran in March and April.
No publications proffered. In other words, it never ran.
This (click to enlarge) is one of three ads (which suck) from a McDonald's campaign that just won a Bronze Press Lion. The lack of a logo is a pretty good clue that they're fake ads. And again, no evidence has been found by tracking services that they ran anywhere.

In response to the question of where exactly the ads ran, a McDonald's PR rep said:
"We were really pleased with the Big Mac Legends campaign which was rolled out across outdoor and radio in addition to print placements."
Zero specifics. That's right: now clients are even in on the scams. The reason? The internet. Lion winners get lots of worldwide online press, which means thousands—even millions— of dollars of free media placement. You can't blame 'em for playing along.

That Cannes is a scamfest is not news in the ad industry—it's been that way for years. But it used to be mostly South American and Asian ad agencies submitting fake entries. Now, it's a global phenomenon.

Who cares, right? No harm, no foul.

Well, careers are made and hindered by these statues, or lack thereof. Major business decisions are made and relationships are severed based on how many Lions ad agencies have on their shelves.

Last week, Sir John Hegarty, founding partner of London based ad agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty and the creator of a decent ad or two, commented on the abundance of Cannes scam ads, saying:
"It is a delusional practice, and the problem is we've created a beast called awards and it's taken over. What Cannes should be about is how creativity aids branding and builds business."
Jose Miguel Sokoloff, chief creative officer of Lowe, an ad agency with a markedly less creative reputation than BBH, countered Hegarty thusly:
"I have to disagree with John. I agree that there is a lot of work created just for awards, but think of it like a Formula 1 operation. Honda has a F1 programme just to win races. But also what they learn from testing becomes part of the car’s engine.
So: ad creatives are just like race car drivers. There you go, douchebags, you've got a new pick-up line.

Sokoloff is just one of a growing number of top creatives worldwide who want to turn Cannes into an ad school wall where you hang your best spec work. Great. Let's make it more of an auto-erotic circle jerk than it already is. Fucking pathetic.

Don't expect host Top Right Group to start attempting to crack down on scam entries; they're making big money off of them.

That leaves the policing to the judging panels, which are made up of the world's top creative directors. Yeah, not going to happen. They're there for one reason: to spend a free week shitfaced on the Mediterranean.

Note: this wonderful Christmas campaign for Harvey Nichols won the Grand Prix Press Lion (and also the Promo Grand Prix Lion). It did, in fact, run. Update: And it won the Film and Integrated Grand Prix Lions.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

times change. it may suck, but complaining about it is living in the past. as cannes makes greater profits, they will only continue in this new direction. they are a for-profit business, not an ad industry charity with a mission to "do the right thing" in support of the sacred "creativity".

continuing with the "it's all about the benjamins" theme, the main reason thousands of industry people flock to cannes for recruiting purposes. the ad awards and panels are nice, but the real reason to attend is to network your way into your next job, or to steal someone from another agency. that will never change, and cannes (like ces and sxsw) will continue to move away from its roots and grow.

10:26 AM  
Anonymous Tim said...

Great post. Couldn't agree more. Wrote a similar piece over here. I don't think award shows should end. I do think they should have a major overhaul to ensure what's being awarded is real, possible, effective, and pushes the business overall. It needs to be objective and aware to be valuable. In the face of profit, however, and with so many different markets and levels of competition, I wonder if that will ever be a reality.

3:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know anything about advertising -- I found your blog from a Valleywag post about social media advertising.

I do know a lot about cars, though. And the things that have trickled down from F1 cars to road cars in the last 50 years could be counted on one hand with fingers to spare.

5:17 PM  
Blogger Mark Copyranter said...

Anon #1: you think you're telling me something I don't know?

Then leave out the awards (like SxSW), and change it to the Cannes Festival of Ass-Sucking.

8:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous Admirer said...

I am not liking these long winded rants. What happened to the original blog format? I much prefer your old posts.

3:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If anyone with 10 years experience can't rattle off 10 'gold worthy' spec ideas a day, they should be fired immediately.

If what we see in scam ads are the creative firepower of the business without 'limitations', then it's a sorry state.

The difficult part – the real part of the job – is selling and making those ideas.

Anyone who thinks running 'spec' work or ghosted ads is ok needs to find another business. And another seat, because I sure as hell do not want them working next to me. They're children and scam artists. I want to work with professionals who know how to think + also sell.

That's our fucking job.

5:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cray Cray Cray. Besides all the fake, ghost, or whatever you call those ads, there are still a lot of legit amazing work being awarded, and I would say more, most of those not legit ads are always awarded as bronzes, which is a bit more than a shortlist.

Ads without a brief helps stimulate creativity, and helps professionals do better work as well.

It's too easy to come to a common place, and that's why there are LOTS of crap on TV, Web, Paper and Radio.

I'm really glad there are the Cannes Festival to put a stake on what's good and what's bad. If wasn't it, I assure you the ad industry would be even worst.

1:58 AM  
Anonymous Robbie said...

It's not time to end the Cannes festival at all.

It's fun. And advertising is silly.

So if you can wangle a trip to Cannes and get some shit trophy into the bargain - good.

The only satisfaction you'll ever get from advertising is the fun you get from it.

The work? Well that's good too, but no dying man ever takes pride in their ads. You might as well have a fucking laugh.

6:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@mark, theres on way of telling if you "know", since you didn't address either of those issues in your post. also, sxsw has digital awards.

11:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

^^ typo above, meant "no way of telling..."

8:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have the fake ads. But how about simply creating a category of 'prototype' ads. Say what they are. Really cool, creative and inspiring demonstrations of what is possible. Then we can all appreciate them for what they are...and not pretend they are something they are not. And then....we can really give credit to the work that really does run, and is effective, and deserves recognition. In short, both are possible, but we need a fair and balanced deck.

8:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love your and share your attitude towards the ad industry. However, I should note that much of the business is a scam so Cannes fits right in.

Keep up the great work,

Got out and will never go back.

12:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you need this event, or its baubles to prove you are creative, then you're not.
And I find it odd no-one has considered that lions actually lie around on their arses all day, doing nothing. They go out at night.
The Cannes Lions proves that even though people can masturbate for free, they enjoy it more when they pay for it.

3:27 AM  

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