There’s A New Mannes In Cannes

The heavy hitters are packing their bags and loading up their credit cards this week, because it’s time for the Cannes Festival of Creativity. A few years ago it was just the Cannes Advertising Festival, now it’s expanded to include all of creativity itself. You can’t knock their ambition.

I, unfortunately, will not be packing my bags with them.

My tenure as The Mannes in Cannes has come to an end.

Still, the Olympics of advertising will carry on without me. Thousands will flock there to see the outlier work, the campaigns that will perhaps change the way we do things.

It’s the only place you can watch Mark Zuckerberg talk to Kanye West in a seminar and then step out into the bright sun of the Riviera to lunch on Coquille St Jacques with shouty Australian commercial directors.

The marketers of the world’s biggest companies will be in Cannes too, more of them than ever before. They go there to look at the best work in the world, and hopefully come away wanting to make some of their own. Every year the categories multiply: Titanium, Integrated, Innovation, Effectiveness, Product Design. Robotics can’t be far off.

The proliferation of categories, to be honest, has tracked the evolving sophistication and fragmentation of the marketplace. Some of the “newer” categories are starting to seem a bit … broad. Cyber is supposed to recognise the best digital work, but digital work is everywhere now, in virtually every category of the festival. It’s not unusual for pure digital pieces to win in Outdoor, Film, Direct, Promo, Design and Branded Content. Digital media and content dominate the discussions and the seminars too.

But film, and variations of it, is still hugely influential in many respects. Whatever happens from here, it seems people will always want to watch some kind of story on some kind of screen. As awesome as the people droning on about “content” are, there’s no doubt that they’re right – there’s going to be an explosion of moving media to go on all these screens that are popping up around us.

I’ll be watching out for  “The game before the game” the extraordinary music video from Beats by Dre out of R/GA will be in contention for the big Film prizes.

Out of the same agency is the impressive #LikeAGirl for P&G from Leo Burnett is also a hugely influential piece of work, perhaps the best example this year of how brands are discovering and exploring the social tension in their DNA , something that has huge social and cultural appeal.

And don’t expect everything this year to be hi-fi and techy. Last year one of my favourite pieces was out of Ogilvy Guatemala. It was a simple song called “Vroom Ring Boom” that children could sing in the car to get their parents to stop using the phone. A road safety message delivered by responsible toddlers to irresponsible cellphone using parents.

Simple is normally the winner at Cannes. It’s a week spent smacking one’s forehead having why-didn’t-i-think-of-that moments.

So au revoir from the Mannes in Cannes, and over to the man who actually will be there this year, Jacques Massardo. In every respect he is a splendid replacement. His name is Jacques. He is of Belgian origin, a country right next door to France. And he also knows a fair bit about this thing we do. Over to you Jacques.

*imagine Chris bravely handing over metaphorical torch to Jacques*

The last time I went to Cannes was in 2008. Chris was there too, and it was great to be there with someone who already had a few visits to the Palais under his belt. I was struck by how the winning work and the views expressed in some of the better seminars, seemed right there and then, to be influencing the future of the industry.

In many ways that week in Cannes: the seminars, the work, the conversations with peers, somehow coalesced to shape the way I thought about advertising in the ensuing years.

In 2008, in the Grand Auditorium, everyone was trying to make sense of digital, its imminent rise, and the impact it was going to have on advertising.

The digital gurus were talking about the tech and how it was going to change everything, everything.

Agency maverick, Chuck Porter, allowed traditional creatives to breathe a sigh of relief as he spoke about the simplicity of a media neutral idea, putting it at the center, and allowing it to flow into relevant channels.

‘Storytelling’ was already emerging as a buzzword. Yes, in 2008.

It was the year the Film Jury awarded two Grand Prix’s. One for Cadburys’ ‘Gorilla’. Another for X-Box’s Halo 3 campaign, a series of online films that were equally memorable. The judges wanted to reflect the changing face of the industry and also didn’t want to choose between traditional and online film. A notion that strikes me as being quite quaint today.

Since 2008, like a Dementor in a Harry Potter movie, I’ve done my level best to ‘absorb’ Cannes from a computer screen on my desk in Cape Town. I’ve enjoyed reading Chris’ ‘Man in Cannes’ posts and I’ve gleaned great insights from his Cannespiration talks. It’s been amazing to see pics of him on stage scooping up Golds two years in a row, and then last year, the Grand Prix.

This year, as always, there are a lot of big pieces of work tipped for glory. I’m looking forward to seeing what wins. Most of all though, I’m looking forward to seeing the great work I haven’t come across yet – the surprise winners that seem to come out of nowhere, but are awesome to ignore.

I’m sure a lot has changed at Cannes, but I’m also sure a lot of the important things haven’t changed that much. I think we all still have a lot of questions about the role of creativity in a shifting marketing landscape. I’m hoping Cannes 2015 will be as influential in shaping the way I think about creativity and how to apply it, as it was back in 2008.

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