Claire Beale: Cannes gives industry more than mere Lions

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Apparently, when Romania captured its first-ever bronze Lion award at Cannes, the Romanian president turned up to congratulate the winning agency.

Since McCann Erickson Bucharest has already notched up two Grands Prix this week, we can only imagine the public celebrations that are being planned back at home.

Meanwhile, I wonder if David Cameron has ever heard of the Cannes Festival of Creativity, or is at this very moment feeling rather deflated by the UK's patchy presence on the awards podium this year. OK, Cameron's got some bigger things to think about, but it's true that the ad industry here gets little support at a governmental level, and has lost some of its cultural pull as an industry worthy of public note (beyond something to complain about).

So are this week's festivities in Cannes even more self-delusionary than usual for the British contingent, clinging on to a golden past when UK agencies were global leaders and when the advertising business had some cultural cache?

I don't believe so, but the small voice that always asks "what's it all for?" gets a little louder every year. At least - to answer that voice - there are more opportunities for learning than ever before in Cannes this year, with the most vibrant programme of seminars to date.

But, as always, the best learning comes from looking at the work, sitting through the shortlists, exploring the entries from emerging creative countries and listening to the comments from the juries. The point of all this is not just to be inspired by the exciting originality of some of the work, but to be reminded that brilliance does not recognise borders, languages or the past.

That, in the end, is surely what Cannes is really for. And as the competition increases, with British agencies having to work even harder to make a mark, a Grand Prix has become more coveted than ever. This is quite some feat to pull off, particularly when the number of categories seems to be growing out of control.

What a contrast to the D&AD Awards, whose grip on the UK ad industry seems to be slipping. I didn't make it to the awards night last week, though I really wanted to go. There's been so little buzz about it, no doubt because so few UK agencies were awarded. As D&AD continues to embrace creative brilliance in advertising from around the world, it's losing its appeal on home turf. Unlike Cannes, its awards are arguably becoming less sought-after as the judging lens takes a global view.

And that's a real shame. I'm not sure what the answer is, as there's surely no going back from its global stance. But D&AD needs to find a positioning for itself that isn't just Cannes-lite. That's the real challenge for the incoming chief executive, Tim Lindsay. I hope he can find a solution.

Claire Beale is the editor of Campaign

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