In 1954, inspired by a global film festival staged in Cannes since the late 40s, Jean Mineur and Ernie Pearl sat down and dreamed up the International Advertising Festival. It began as a cinema-only affair, hosted alternately between Venice and Cannes until the Côte d’Azur became its permanent home in 1984.
Since its modest inception, Cannes has evolved into the all-encompassing "Festival of Creativity" we know today. And Cannes in 2014 remains the industry’s best measure of its health, an incubator for bold new ideas and a catalyst for the future.
To that last point, Cannes in 2014 is indeed sharply focused on the future… and rightfully so. The Innovation Lions enters its second year, and the Titanium – born of the very spirit of the future – remains the holy grail more than a decade after its birth. Cannes in 2014 is chomping at the bit for the next new thing, be it a disruptive gadget, platform or mind-blowing technology.
But the thousands who make the pilgrimage this year will discover that a new "screen age" has emerged. From its inception, film has welcomed us into a world emotion. Film can be entertaining, fascinating, sensory and enriching – often all at once – and I’m delighted that film at Cannes in 2014 is thriving in all screen shapes and sizes.
So which might we see on the big screen at the Palais des Festivals on Saturday night?
First, I predict style-mongers will square off in a battle of cool contested between a society of elegant persons of the Congo and a sinisterly stylish Christopher Walken. From the house of Guinness (pictured), a group of dandies, masters of their own fate, transcend poverty and strut their stuff in a beautiful film for the ‘made of more’ campaign from Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO. Walken, meanwhile, plays the role of a tailor with strange powers in a dark and hypnotic series for the Danish clothier Jack & Jones, directed by Martin Werner. ‘Made from cool’, indeed.
Little about Cannes is what one might call "family friendly", but several contenders in this year’s Film crop share a familial tone.
The first is from the perennial favourite Old Spice (pictured), which has returned with a hilarious campaign featuring obsessive mothers in song. The mums mourn the maturing of their sons and lament the role of Old Spice in helping steal their boys to manhood. Perhaps ironically, ‘smellcome to manhood’ is likely to make the mothers of a Wieden & Kennedy creative team very proud.
On the other side of the globe, the New Zealand Transport Agency makes an appeal to the dads, challenging a strongly held belief among Maori fathers that driving while stoned is safe. ‘Blazed’ is a directorial masterpiece, helmed by the Moari director Taika Waititi, who extracted remarkable performances from a young cast to craft a highly rewatchable piece.
Next up, an effort rooted in a striking insight for HBO Go from SS&K in New York. The core target audience for the network is young adults, many of whom are still in college and can’t afford an HBO subscription. As such, the ‘awkward family viewing’ campaign hilariously observes the perils of watching shows such as Game Of Thrones and Girls at home, complete with intrusive parents lingering in the background. These beautifully observed films should resonate with everyone.
Across the pond in UK living rooms, Harvey Nichols (pictured) offers up some tongue-in-cheek satire about Christmastime selfishness. From Adam & Eve/DDB, ‘sorry, I spent it on myself’ features gift-givers who have overspent on themselves, and have been reduced to thrifty last-minute "presents" for bitterly disappointed loved ones.
Storytelling still sits at the heart of communication, film or otherwise, and it remains one of the strongest tools we have to create emotional connections with people. Apple and TBWA\Media Arts Lab have written a beautiful human story with ‘misunderstood’. It is a tale of a boy who, like most tweens, seems far more engaged with his phone than his family during holiday festivities. The twist arrives when the mopey kid reveals that he had been busy shooting and editing a short film for his loved ones the whole time, entirely on his iPhone 5S.
Long-format content will also score well. It might seem counterintuitive in a world where bite-sized media and brevity reign supreme, but more brands are embracing the craft of longer-form and documentary-style content. Last year, the San Francisco agency Pereira & O’Dell bagged three Grands Prix for the Toshiba/Intel "beauty inside". This year, look out for its ‘born friends family project’ for Skype, which tells the compelling true stories behind the real people who use Skype to stay connected.
Two others I believe will grace the stage are the Mimi Foundation’s ‘if only for a second’ from Leo Burnett Paris and 350 Action’s ‘climate name change’ from Barton F Graf 9000. The former beautifully captures a rare moment of "carefreeness" in the lives of cancer patients. The latter is an incredibly fresh approach to solving a well-known problem infused with remarkable copywriting.
Finally, what about that Grand Prix? Well, that one brings us back to the beginning, the past… but also our present and future because it is most certainly timeless: a classic, time-honoured product demonstration, infused with "The Muscles from Brussels" and injected with the haunting vocals of Enya, will likely take top honours. It is a work of art that has captured the imagination of the planet.
This masterpiece from Forsman & Bodenfors (‘the epic split’ for Volvo Trucks) is instructive: in our industry’s rush to the future, it is important not to forget the potency of the past. Dramatise the truth in the most memorable, compelling, innovative and imaginative way, and you have your 2014 Cannes Lions Film Grand Prix.
Mark Tutssel is the chief creative officer at Leo Burnett Worldwide