Opinion: Perspective - Cannes is still relevant as a rewarder of creativity

There's really only one subject this week. Cannes. Mostly the subject on Cannes is how many people aren't there this year. So I'm comfortably anticipating that a fair portion of you are reading this at your desks in London.

Which is perhaps right and proper. There's a recession on. But the rarely seen hair shirts donned by London agencies this week are surely a little misplaced.

Of course, plenty of agencies are concerned about how a trip to the South of France might appear in the midst of budget cuts, pay freezes and redundancies. But it does rather pre-suppose that Cannes is only ever really about eating, drinking and generally carousing in the sunshine, perhaps punctuated by a trip to collect the odd award if you're lucky or even good at your job.

Yes, in a good year, there's plenty of fun to be had. Which is perhaps right. Because, after all, a few days in Cannes is a great way of rewarding hard work and award-winning work. But in a tough year, is it really true that there's no point going to Cannes?

Of course there's a point (which is why I'll be there by the time you read this). For a start, as the industry wrestles with its outmoded silos and tries to work through a more integrated approach, Cannes is a melting pot for all the different disciplines. Yes, they are as siloed in Cannes as they are in London: rarely does the DM contingent sip Domaine D'Ott with the media execs, and media and creative don't mix well. But if you want a snapshot of the best work across the board, Cannes is where to find it.

And there's no better place this week to hear some of the best thinkers from the global communications industry, from Google's Eric Schmidt to Steve Ballmer, Martin Sorrell and, er, Bob Geldof. This year, more than ever, Cannes is a place for learning.

On the subject of learning, let's not deny that there are a few creative lessons to be had too. Halfway through the awards week and the British booty is thin on the ground. Which might, of course, be for all the usual reasons we trot out when we get our creative asses whipped.

Those foreign jurors don't understand the nuances of our language or our humour enough to "get" our ads.

Lowest common denominator simple ideas (rather than the beautifully multi-layered campaigns we excel at) tend to have a headstart. Funny animals and fart jokes rule.

Ads without a "proper" client with "proper" commercial requirements (such as the Droga5 work that stormed D&AD this year) do better than those that actually have to sell stuff, quickly. We're simply too commercial.

Our advertising regulations are tougher, so we have less creative freedom.

And is that enough excuses now? Because isn't it also true that London simply hasn't delivered the goods in abundance this year? Of course, it's true that it's not always the best ads in the world that triumph at Cannes. But can we really convince ourselves that we've produced a breathtaking batch of work?

Cannes - and any other awards ceremony that's based on rigorous entry criteria, which weeds out scam ads and which is therefore respectable enough to have a value that transcends the creative community to have a relevance with clients - should be embraced as a celebration of creativity.

And there's never been a more important time to celebrate transformational creativity as a driver of business growth and a driver of economies. Creative awards are an important marker of this success, acknowledging individuals' creative expertise, attracting talent and clients to agencies, and inspiring future creative work.

It might be the right decision, for some agencies, to stay away from Cannes this year. But let's not confuse that with dismissing the value of creative awards. They're not just drivers of clients businesses, they're drivers of the ad industry itself.

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