Perspective: It's the bottom line that counts - but not during Cannes

By Richard Exon, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 30 July 2010 12:00AM

I remember the moment the Tweet arrived, which is itself unusual. Somebody somewhere was confidently asserting that Old Spice sales had dropped 7 per cent year on year, despite the fantastic campaign featuring Isaiah Mustafa.

Really? It just didn't seem right. First, we all know the numerous factors that sometimes mean even the most outstanding creative can take a while to translate into sales results. Wasn't this a bit soon to be making such an assessment? Second, why the delight? There was a ghoulish joy in some of the online comment. Yes, it's a competitive world, but in their eagerness to put the boot in, too many people ended up propagating the misinformation about Old Spice's sales.

It's easy to do, of course. The thoughtless re-Tweet, the rushed blog post. Within hours of the original misreporting, the bogus news had been reproduced all over the web. A particularly virulent strain of attack used the campaign's status as a Cannes Grand Prix winner to question the link between creative excellence and ROI.

Thanks to the IPA and Thinkbox, among others, evidence of the causal link between creativity and commercial success is unassailable. And now we know the truth about Old Spice sales, this case study looks like becoming more compelling evidence. Nevertheless, for the 12 short hours that it took for the 7 per cent dip to be revealed as false, the link was being questioned yet again.

As people rushed to judgment, one of the more surprising things to emerge is that Cannes Lions' Phil Thomas is reportedly considering a new category for effectiveness. I hope he resists this latest extension of his fairly stretched brand.

Cannes is fantastic for its global reach and its unrepentant focus on craft and conceptual thinking in all channels. It is single-mindedly about creativity, with no caveats or conditions. Every one of its jurors is selected for their experience and personal judgment. They are asked to judge - in their opinion - the absolute quality of work in front of them, and nothing else. We accept their decisions as subjective, sometimes capricious and often controversial.

Measuring effectiveness, meanwhile, is all about establishing undeniable, objective truths about how a campaign has performed commercially. Unlike their Cannes counterparts, effectiveness judges need to put their creative tastes to one side and focus instead on results.

Ultimately, we need this separation between Cannes and effectiveness awards. When we see a campaign performing well in both, and we know that both sets of judges have been uncompromising, we can be absolutely confident of the causal link between creativity and effectiveness. Let's not cloud the issue for the sake of an additional category next year.

- Richard Exon is the chief executive of Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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