For the next two weeks, Jeremy answers Cannes-themed questions.
Q: Allen Rosenshine writes: If I've learned anything in my 35 years in
the business, it is that developing creatively effective advertising is
hard work. Don't you think our industry's pre-eminent creative award
show ought to be in a place more known for its work ethic - say
Birmingham or Pittsburgh - instead of Cannes?
Dear Allen, thank you for your kind enquiry. Your suggestion reminds me
of the old joke (itself at least 35 years old): "First Prize, A Week in
Pittsburgh. Second Prize, Two Weeks in Pittsburgh."
What we need to do first is identify the critical difference between the
ostensible reasons for the existence of awards shows and the actual
reasons for the existence of awards shows. Though both sets of reasons
are necessary, there is little common ground between them.
The official line is heavy on responsibility: the industry owes it to
its clients to showcase the world's most inventive and effective pieces
of commercial communication so that, through inspiration and challenge,
creative standards are raised on a global basis, thus enhancing the
value of every media dollar invested. Note the emphasis here on clients
and return on investment.
The real reasons for the existence of awards shows are as follows:
The Mayor and Municipality of the host town appreciate the income.
Advertising people may not be quite as reckless in their spending habits
as movie people but, proud as they are and competitive as ever, they do
Creative people are vain and self-deluding. If once a year they can
imagine themselves to be sun-kissed media idols at the epicentre of the
world's creative cauldron, they may just about survive another 50 weeks
of client meetings and research debriefs. Agency managements know
For many clients, advertising is by far the sexiest part of business,
and television production by far the sexiest part of advertising. Awards
shows confirm the essential sexiness of advertising.
Let me put it this way. If you were invited by the Mayor of Pittsburgh
to prepare an advertising campaign designed to snatch the festival from
the clutches of Cannes (and were told that payment would be dependent on
success), how would you draft your reply?
Q: I met some of the best directors I've ever had the pleasure of
working with in Cannes - Daniel Barber, Vaughan Arnell, Paul Street and
Frank Budgen, all of whom have done great work for the agency I work for
and sometimes well below budget. All have done me huge favours, so why
do chief executives, financial directors and managing directors make me
feel guilty for going?
Use your imagination. Year after year, chief executives, financial
directors and MDs, often served by inadequate air-conditioning, taking
ill-thought-out briefs from clients about to go on holiday, assembling
makeshift teams for an emergency repitch while trying to massage their
first-half figures into some plausible resemblance to their last
forecast, have to watch people like you swan off to the South of France
where you exceed your subsistence budget by 172 per cent and fail to
bring home so much as an honourable mention in the farinaceous foods
There is only one source of pleasure for these luckless, envy-racked,
careworn creatures: they can make you feel guilty for going. And boy,
With the exception of the financial director, they will, however,
grudgingly acknowledge (but not, of course, to you) that creative people
have a place.
(The only agency start-up I can remember that was led by a financial
person let it be known that they would be installing a creative
department later, just as soon as they could afford one. To no-one's
surprise, they never could.)
So be gentle with them; and on your first day back, disguise your tan
with a light dusting of flour.
Jeremy Bullmore is a former chairman of J. Walter Thompson, a director
of Guardian Media Group and of WPP, and the president of NABS. He writes
a monthly column for Management Today. A more serious look at problems
in the workplace, it both inspired and complements On the Campaign
Address your problems to him at Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Road, London
W6 7JP. Or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.