Ian Darby: Exceptional work must also break boundaries

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This is the formula for success espoused by the Victorian rotter, forger and thief Charles "The Scratch" Becker, as quoted in Ben Macintyre's book The Napoleon Of Crime.

Judging by the winners in the early part of the week at Cannes, Becker's violent recipe for success in life holds true for identifying the best modern advertising. The cannon balls, the one-off spots that knock your socks off with their sheer impact, will be recognised as the week reaches its conclusion.

Early on, there was plenty of activity that moves forward in an infectious way through a variety of connections and channels. Most notably, perhaps, the American Express work by Crispin Porter & Bogusky that won Grands Prix in Promo & Activation and Direct.

Putting aside the poor showing in several categories by UK shops (let's just hope that momentum builds right up to the Film announcement on Saturday), what was noticeable, not for the first time at Cannes, was ad agencies winning outside their traditional comfort zones. Crispin Porter & Bogusky in Direct; The Brooklyn Brothers in PR.

This seems to point to a significant creative and business opportunity for ad agencies with fluid, open structures that allow them to work across disciplines and channels. Matt Neale, the GolinHarris president and a member of the PR jury at Cannes, said that ad agencies had an advantage in that category as they possess the ability, and remit, to work across a range of media.

Obviously, this only extends to the more forward-thinking agencies with open structures that support planners and creatives comfortable with working across a range of communications.

A majority of serious London agencies are working to get their heads around how best to develop a flexible process that brings digital, direct, data, brand activity, PR and communications planning together. Some, including Engine and M&C Saatchi, have central planning team structures in place that, one would hope, will provide a better chance of servicing clients and creating award-winning campaigns across disciplines.

Of course, there is evidence that this has been almost second nature for some time to agencies such as Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO and Bartle Bogle Hegarty, the winners last year and this year of the Creative Effectiveness Grand Prix at Cannes. Their ideas and planning insights, for Walkers and Lynx respectively, stretch across boundaries and blend a range of channels.

This kind of work seems as exciting as the greatest film executions.

Because good agencies understand there are two routes to success: via work that creeps through a matrix of tunnels or crashes through walls.

Claire Beale is in Cannes.

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