In spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of Cannes. And with the annual creative carnival on the Cote d’Azur only a couple of weeks away, this seems a perfect time to muse on what we might see there.
Not in terms of which individual pieces of work will be garlanded and which will be forgotten. But in terms of what underlying trends might become apparent – and whether we poor beleaguered British creative directors can learn anything from them.
It is widely accepted that last year’s rosé was distinctly vin ordinaire rather than premier cru as far as Britain’s entries were concerned. This led to the expected gnashing of teeth and rather less renting of suits than usual. Then the complaining began.
Frankly, it all started to sound like sour grapes about our non-vintage performance. Perhaps it might be more worthwhile to think about what marked out the winners among entries I saw while serving on the Cannes jury last year.
Everything starts with an insight
It doesn’t matter how beautiful your campaign is, Cannes judges are looking for a human insight that drives it. So if your idea is derived from the insight that travelers on the underground in South Korea could use their travel time to shop, then it has a better chance of winning than the fact that it looks lovely and was shot by Mary McCartney.
It tells a simple story
Judges are human, and they’re looking at hundreds of pieces of work a day, so the simpler your story is, the more likely they are to understand it. If you’re a Brazilian model railway company getting people to campaign for your revival, then you’re more likely to win than if you’re a Swedish telco that built a giant real-time game that used hundreds of touch-points over weeks and weeks to get people to hunt treasure through the real and virtual streets.
And it tells it really, really well
There is a lot of emphasis on craft in Cannes. It’s hardly surprising with so many leading creative craftspeople judging. So the winning work does tend to be fantastically well made. A direct mail pack printed with a specially made tyre from a Mercedes van is more likely to get noticed than something more everyday. It’s surprising how many people forget this, and simply enter their agency’s best work from the last twelve months.
It solves a business problem
This is important. In Britain, we tend to think of creative as an end in itself. The judges in Cannes tend to see it as a deeper way of solving big problems for business. And the higher the risk, the more credit the judges tend to give it. So a campaign that takes a brand that was once much loved, but is now in the doldrums, into a bold new space will receive more credit than one that is simply beautiful, or ‘creative’.
One thing’s for sure: we won’t have to wait long to see how the Champagne tastes this year.