CLOSE-UP: NEWSMAKER - DAN WIEDEN. W&K's president brings a 'can do' spirit to Cannes

Jury president Dan Wieden is planning to reinvigorate the festival.

All work, no beach. That's been the motto at this week's Cannes Advertising Festival. While many of its gin-slinging regulars would no doubt baulk at the notion, there are those who feel that, post-war and mid-recession, the industry should use events such as this to show the world its serious, hard-working side.

So it was important that Cannes found itself a serious and hard-working jury president, and they don't come much more motivated than Dan Wieden.

This is, after all, the man who has been telling us to "Just do it" for two decades.

As the co-founder and president of the Portland-based Wieden & Kennedy, Wieden has spent the past 21 years doing his best work for one of the world's biggest advertisers, Nike. He has experienced the ability of advertising to transcend geographical boundaries, which, you might argue, makes him an ideal choice for the job.

Cannes is celebrating its golden jubilee and, in this symbolic year, it is perhaps more important than ever that the jury has a president who can unite different international perspectives and ensure that credible decisions are made and deserving work is rewarded.

However, Wieden's agenda goes a lot further than merely soliciting the approval of the global advertising community. He's determined to make his mark on the ceremony, a desire that stems from an obvi-ous dissatisfaction with awards schemes in general.

"Must awards be a celebration of where we have been?" he asks. "Or is it possible, is there the faintest hope, that an award show could actually point the way forward?

"If it can be done, it must be done at Cannes. This year. Here is the true international stage, with all the world talent, vision and politics.

If you want to shake things up, this is the venue.

"There are transition points in the life of an industry, just as there are in the lives of individuals. It is my intention to see if we can't usher in a new sensibility, and make it stick."

Wieden's objective is not simply to award the most beautifully shot or tightly written ads. He's also kept an eye out for the original and unusual, the ads that cock a disdainful snook at the rulebook.

"At this year's jubilee celebration, it is our intention to focus on work that challenges assumptions and points a new way forward for our industry," he explains.

Whether the jury's selections match this lofty ambition is, of course, a matter for debate. It's difficult for one man to get a room full of people who speak different languages, and have different cultural references and agendas, to adhere to a single vision of how advertising should be judged.

But Bartle Bogle Hegarty's executive creative director, John O'Keeffe, who's also a print and outdoor juror, is convinced that Wieden's the right man for the job. "He commands respect in global terms," he explains. "And he's in this business for the right reasons - not to show off awards but to produce great work that works."

And as an extra incentive for agencies to produce great work, the festival organisers have this year introduced a new award, the Titanium Lion. This will be presented every year to the work in any category, or any combination of categories, that boasts that rare combination of competence and originality.

"It is for work that causes the industry to stop in its tracks and reconsider the way forward," Wieden adds. "The Titanium Lion will honour innovation in design, thinking, execution or sensibility. It will honour innovation in the development of new forms of communication or the interrelationship between existing ones.

"And since it salutes the most provocative of works, it does not require the consensus of all the presidents, just a simple majority."

As ever, many of the pre-festival favourites for the top accolades were US and UK entries. Traditionally there has been a rivalry between the countries at Cannes.

"There's always good stuff coming from America and the rivalry between them and us is good for the business," O'Keeffe says. "But the attitude of the UK and the US has been a bit condescending in the past as, although there are countries that regularly produce a load of rubbish, places such as Brazil, Scandinavia and Asia-Pacific always produce good stuff."

And to agencies of all nationalities that aspire to a Titanium Lion, there's one thing more important than submitting good work that works, and that's submitting authentic work that ran. Which brings us neatly to the issue that has dominated pre-Cannes build-ups for several years - scam ads.

The ability to sort genuine, widely shown brand campaigns from pressure-free, one-off, low-volume print runs is, these days, very high on the list of qualities needed in a Cannes jury.

O'Keeffe believes the industry is right to be on its guard. "It's important that ads for a chip shop are not judged on the same merits as an ad for, say, Toyota, as they've clearly just been done to win awards," he says.

"Then there are the ads that are for big brands but have clearly been doctored to improve their chances of winning something. But Wieden's hot on this issue."

Wieden is also economical on this issue. "Ghost ads will not be part of the advertising competition," he states matter of factly. And you'd be a fool to doubt him.

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