Cannes Lions 2019: No ads for ad's sake

It’s the second year that the Cannes Lions has been crunched into a five-day cycle. And to be honest, it's the best thing that has happened to the festival. People can network, attend sessions and see the work on display - all in a week. And for me, the experience has been even better because I’ve had a chance to talk to some of the best minds across the advertising spectrum. This was hardly possible earlier when the festival would extend for eight to ten days.

The big shift that I am seeing at Cannes this year is the regard for work that makes a difference in the market place. One may argue that this is the job of an advertising professional. Yes, it is. But truth be told — the industry has been fighting the menace of awards-led work for a long time. And for Cannes to take the initiative to nip it in the bud is appreciable.

Jurors across categories have been alert to work created only for awards. There are signs to identify such pieces — work that is overly done, made for clients one hasn’t heard about. In the event of doubtful work, jurors can go back to written submissions that accompany entries to validate if it is genuine or not. And these are fairly lengthy written submissions. The message going out is that there is no place for ads done simply for awards. Those days are firmly behind us.

I’ve also found the composition of juries interesting this year. Diversity and inclusion is the need of the hour, and Cannes has responded to this well. There are more women jurors than men in many categories and jurors from independent agencies are up, by as much as 30 per cent in some verticals. A few years ago, this was hardly possible. The agencies linked to large networks would call the shots. The independents barely had a voice. This is a big shift in my view. I also believe that there is no place for easy awards any more. Let me give you an example — data visualisation — a category that looks at how creatively an agency has used technology to produce an ad campaign — is one segment that saw a number of entries this year. The thinking behind this I'm guessing was that it could give agencies easy access to awards since digital is all-pervasive. But jurors again were alert and intuitive, weeding out pieces that were basic in nature. And there were many such ads. As technology increasingly gets complex, the bar will be raised in categories such as data visualisation. Agencies will have to step up or step aside.

The author is founder and MD, Medulla Communications

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