Martin Sorrell on the ‘glory days’ of advertising

Sir Martin Sorrell, the founder and Chief Executive of WPP, shares his view on how Cannes Lions has evolved over the years.

Cannes has come a long way since the 50s, when envious cinema advertising executives decided they wanted something like the glamour of the annual film festival for themselves (thumbing their noses at the upstart medium of TV in the process).

It is now a veritable Godzilla – a gigantic, sprawling beast of a festival that attracts a huge number of entries and delegates from all around the world and is a major business in its own right.

This year’s event will, no doubt, be the biggest yet and I have some sympathy for those who worry if it has become a little too corpulent. How long, they wonder, before it collapses under its own weight?

Where I part company from the detractors, though, is the point at which they begin to pine for the “glory days” of advertising.

Ask them to describe those days and they will wax heroic with tales of creative derring-do and epic lunches. But listen closely and, all too often, what you hear them describe is essentially an exclusive club: Euro-centric, male and mono-medium.

Today’s Cannes may be big and brash, but it’s also emphatically open, diverse, international and multidisciplinary (extending even to areas such as healthcare communications and data). In other words, it’s a reflection of our modern industry and society.

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