The Last Ad of the Day, part 1 of 2: February 27 (London)

Your daily dose of advertising awesomeness from around the world!

As of tomorrow, Ad of the Day will be taking a leave of absence. It will re-emerge at some point in the future: still focused on celebrating great creativity from around the world, but with a different format, focus and scope. For more on this, and learnings gathered in the last three and a half years, click here for Part 2.

cannes-lions-ads-1 cannes-lions-ads-2 cannes-lions-ads-3 cannes-lions-ads-4 cannes-lions-ads-5

Today’s pick:

  • Agency: McCann
  • Location: London
  • Client: Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity
  • Name: Buy them a delegate pass
  • Category: Print/OOH
  • Why I like it: I’m in awe of this series of print ads. It’s the disease of our industry and its cure, all rolled into one. This campaign is quite narrowly targeted, and it’s not going to change the world…but it’s so enjoyable and packs so many of the ingredients of superior work. Let’s count some of them: a) wonderful art direction: the colors, the styling, the casting, the expressions, the way the copy box “hangs” on the people…impossible to miss and so nicely crafted. b) rich insight: shining a light on the hypocrisy and lack of ambition in our industry is bold and incredibly impactful, because it comes from a deep truth. We all know these folks, some of us have even been these folks. Nothing as powerful as a carefully placed mirror into one’s soul. c) inspired writing: just the right dash of truthful aggression, delivered with humor, poignancy and a hopeful/tongue-in-cheek call to action. Marvelous. d) knowledge of your audience: nothing wrong with being niche if you fully invest in the specificity. It’s a thought-provoking, timely challenge to agencies as they start planning for Cannes. e) humor: so hard to make funny work. But when it works it’s a joy – in this case with the right mix of snarky and cheery. f) business sense: it has to link back to the brand/benefit, otherwise it’s just babble. And the message that Cannes can be the antidote with a good “return on creativity” is a good one. In conclusion: a great set of print ads, that manages to be funny and deep at the same time. Sign me up!

Cannes Dispatch – Five lessons learned

What a crazy, wild, enlightening week it was: filled with learning, creativity, networking, inspiration, and yes: even victory.

Here is a look back at five things I learned:

1.   Creativity comes in all shapes and sizes – it’s truly a great time to be in the advertising business, because creativity and good ideas have so many outlets to be expressed in. An idea only becomes real once it’s produced, and today one doesn’t depend on the expensive tv ad: in fact many of the outstanding ideas I saw were in the areas of design, promotion and PR: check these out, for example:

LEGO “Builders of Sound” , by Serviceplan Munich. Won a gold lion.

VW “Sheep Alert”, by DDB Tribal. Shortlisted

“Sprite Shower”, by Ogilvy Sao Paulo. Won a Gold Lion

2.   But let’s be honest, the Film category is still king – Speculation on who would win the Film Grand Prix was actually a topic of conversation and anticipation, and this didn’t happen for any other category. (the broad consensus was that it would be The Guardian’s “Three Little Pigs”, followed closely by Canal+ “The Bear”, which I had as my favorite. I would say that everyone was pretty surprised when it leaked on Saturday morning that it would be Chipotle’s “Back to the Start”, although everyone thought “hmmm, that’s surprising…but ok, that’s a pretty good choice too, wonder why I didn’t think of it!”) Bottom line, film is still the most versatile of mediums – it’s universal, it can evoke any of the emotions, it shows off elements of craft very well (writing, direction, casting, music, editing, etc…) and it links up very nicely with other mediums as part of an integrated campaign. There’s a reason why it gets awarded on the last night, towards the end of the show. It’s just like the Oscars: they award a couple of  big ones like Best Supporting Actress towards the beginning, but they leave Best Actor/Actress/Movie/Director all for the end. The film category, agency of the year and network of the year are BIG awards among all the other big awards.

Here are some awesome film winners that you may not yet have seen:

Dos Equis “Sword Fight”, by Euro RSCH NY. Won a Silver lion 

Zonajobs “Grandma”, by Draftfcb Buenos Aires. Won a Silver lion

Ghandi Bookstores “Keep Reading”, by Ogilvy Mexico. Won a Bronze lion


3.   It’s so.damn.hard to win in Cannes – The folks at JWT on the 25th floor won a grand prix last year, and we won one this year, so it’s tempting to think that this is a fairly common thing. But it really, really isn’t. I spoke to accomplished creatives with many years of experience and all of them reach the same conclusion. It’s just extremely hard. The odds are daunting. As an example, let’s look at the numbers in the Outdoor category: there were 4,843 entries submissions in total. 588 (12%) made it to the Shortlist, from which there were a total of 112 (2.3%) winners. These winners were split into 50 bronze lions (1.03%), 35 silver (0.82%), and 25 gold (0.5%). And of course there’s the Grand Prix, of which two were awarded (0.04%!) It’s not just a matter of numbers, the reality is that you’re competing against the very best of the best. And, you’re being judged by a jury of your peers who is under tremendous time pressure. A whole year of work and your entry could get dismissed after being viewed for 5 seconds: It’s inevitably a form of creative triage, where they have to decide if you make it through, or you don’t. The lesson here is: a Shortlist is a great honor. Any kind of metal is a tremendous achievement worthy of celebration. And a Grand Prix is basically like winning the lottery (it’s impossible…yet somebody has to win it.) Now, that being said, there are things you can do to help your cause, see below.

4.   Good creativity rises to the top – This is definitely true. I know it because of all of the shortlisted work that I saw, (and I saw a lot) there was nothing that I considered outright poor. And, of all of the work that was awarded a gold, everything was simply quite excellent. There’s no way that you survive a jury of seasoned creatives from all over the world unless your idea is exceptional in some way (usually it’s exceptional in many ways!)

I mean, just look at this Film for Google Chrome, “Dear Sophie”, by BBH NY

Or this OOH poster for Maxam Toiletries, by JWT China, winner of a Silver lion

Or this Press ad for Ray Ban, from Marcel in Paris. Winner of a Gold lion

Or this Design entry for Google, by Johannes Leonardo in NY. Winner of a Gold lion

Or this amazing OOH for Getty Images, by ALMAP BBDO, winner of a Bronze Lion

None of it is bad, not even mediocre, in fact, it’s not even just good. All of it is pretty awesome, and that’s the minimum requirement if you want to compete for an award in Cannes!

5.   You have to be “in it to win it – Doing well at Cannes starts with great creativity. But beyond that, it takes work, dedication and savvy: agencies need to set objectives, hold periodic creative reviews to weed out the bad and encourage the good, enlist clients who believe in the business impact of creativity, hire top creative talent, encourage pervasive creativity among all of the staff, study how the winners create their submissions and follow the learnings, know what categories to enter in, adjust the entry so as to be eligible in multiple categories, participate in other awards shows, get involved in the juries, network, get the internal PR machine to help spread the work about your best work, etc. That’s only a partial list! But you can definitely tell that some people (such as the Brazilian agencies) have this as such a priority that it’s almost an art form. They are the number two country in number of submissions (behind the US and ahead of the UK) and they are very savvy about what/where/how they enter. Their dominance in the world stage is driven by brilliant ideas, yes – but they’ve also made this a priority and work hard at the business of award shows.

Stay tuned tomorrow for Cannes Dispatch 4, where I’ll share with you what I think are some of the key ingredients for winning at Cannes.