ANALYSIS: EDITOR’S COMMENT - Cannes will show how countries are closing gap on UK

Cannes again! The rest of the world will have spent the week watching ads in a dark room; taking notes on new techniques, hot directors and competitor activity, both client and agency.

Cannes again! The rest of the world will have spent the week

watching ads in a dark room; taking notes on new techniques, hot

directors and competitor activity, both client and agency.

And then there are the Brits. We’ll swan in for the end of the week.

Not, of course, because we want to watch the shortlisted films, but

because our mates will be in the bar that night - and, oh yeah, it’s

England v Colombia on the telly.

Actually, we’re not as bad as we used to be, possibly because we’re not

as good as we used to be - if you follow my drift. True, the UK will

probably walk away with more lions than anyone, with the possible

exception of the US, but the quality gap is narrowing as other countries

get better. Why should advertising be any different to football,

cricket, ship-building or cars?

In this case, I don’t believe, contrary to conventional old-lag wisdom,

we’re getting any worse. BMP DDB’s VW ads will surely lead the way this

year, with Leagas Delaney’s ’Perfect Day’ for the BBC and Simons

Palmer’s excellent ’parklife’ spot close behind. They’re as good a bunch

of leading contenders as we’ve ever had.

The gap is narrowing because we have much to learn from other


It was ever thus - it’s just that it never used to matter in a business

context when national clients dominated.

The low-budget knockabout humour of the best Scandinavian - and

particularly Norwegian - advertising stands out. So does the narrative

excellence of the best Dutch advertising such as Centraal Beheer. There

is something to learn from the in-your-face directness of some of the

South American work - even the much-derided ads for media owners. You

have to be direct when you are setting yourself up against crafty,

manipulative politicians as a reliable voice of truth. The 15 seconds

that most Japanese ads have in which to attract attention can teach us

something about how to get noticed in clutter.

As important is learning about what doesn’t work. In a past Cannes

column I mentioned the stupefying experience of sitting through the car

category, and trying to remember one three-quarter shot of a sleek car

on a windy mountain pass from another. Make your client sit through all

three hours, or an hour spent whizzing into the insides of a computer,

or ’enjoying’ what your bank can do for you.

Lord Leverhulme, or whoever it really was, got it wrong when he

suggested half the money spent on advertising is wasted. The Cannes

experience suggests it’s more like three-quarters. It also teaches you

to treasure the quarter that does work. And, if the Brits don’t make it,

the globalisation of the business means someone else will. Why, indeed,

should advertising be different from football, cricket,

ship-building ...?


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