Walkers Sandwich
Walkers Sandwich
A view from Claire Beale, claire.beale@haymarket.com

Claire Beale: Laying the blame for our Cannes hangover

I'm not entirely sure of the context in which Jean-Marie Dru made his comments on the Creative Effectiveness Grand Prix, but I wish he hadn't.

Last week's ad fest in Cannes, while being even more than usually useful and delightful, was a washout for the UK. The one sun ray came courtesy of Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, which won our only Grand Prix: for Creative Effectiveness. But before the corks had even popped the bottles, Dru was watering the Brit parade. He reckons: "UK agencies have been slightly advantaged by the process because they knew how to enter this category in a very strong way."

I won't bother pointing out that Walkers "Sandwich" is - by any measure - a great campaign. Or that it's the job of the judges to try to see beyond a slick presentation. Or that having chosen a (worthy) winner, it was thoroughly unnecessary to qualify the decision.

Instead, let's ponder whether a good British campaign - designed to address a proper client brief, adhearing to some of the world's toughest advertising regulations, conceived under the intense scrutiny of UK procurement - might just have to be more effective than some of the other Cannes winners that are created to meet rather less exacting demands.

For whichever way you looked in Cannes, there were stories of scam ads (one Brazilian creative put it like this: "In March, we stop work on all our clients' business and start work making ads for the awards shows"), Eurovision-style block-voting, and a general feeling that quite a lot of the winning work simply wouldn't have got through the self-regulatory system here.

All of this is true, to an extent. But the Cannes organisers have done a decent job of cleaning up the judging process over recent years and I've never known an awards scheme that wasn't subject to a degree of tactical voting. So we can't really blame the juries for our poor showing. Just as, despite Dru's comments, we certainly shouldn't be attributing our rare triumphs simply to our paper-writing prowess.

I think there are two key reasons why we didn't do well. First, a crisis in creative leadership. McCann London, WCRS&Co, M&C Saatchi, DLKW Lowe, Fallon, Publicis, Beattie McGuinness Bungay, Leo Burnett, The Red Brick Road and VCCP have all had creative management churn in the past year, and a fair few of them are still looking for their creative heads. Second, a crisis in client leadership. Where have all the brave clients gone? It's never been terribly easy to rattle off a list of bold marketers prepared to trust their agencies to make surprising work. It's harder than ever now, and I don't think that's the case around the world.Both of these are enormous challenges. Post-Cannes, though, we're clearer than ever what we need to do.

Claire Beale is the editor of Campaign Magazine