It’s official: I’ve become an old fart. I went to Cannes last week and
found it all a bit flat. Not like the good old days (of the early 90s).
If I see another use of Vietnam War footage, the moon-landing, American
basketball players or music derived from Pulp Fiction, I’ll scream.
It wasn’t terrible. There was a lot of nice, mildly entertaining and
inoffensive work. But so much of it was instantly forgettable. It’s
difficult to understand why so many clients around the world sanction
advertising that fails to impinge one jot on the consumer’s
consciousness. The most likely explanation seems to be that, post-
recession, money is indeed becoming available again to make commercials,
but the feel-good factor has not returned. Insecure clients are
terrified of making mistakes. So they research to death. If enough
people say they don’t like red, then the shirt must be blue. Time after
time at Cannes, all the risk and any hint that the film might make the
viewer uncomfortable, or even react, had been removed.
The best work in the show managed to escape these restrictions. Campaign
has already explored the reasons for Nissin Pot Noodles’ success
(Campaign, 24 May), but the new escapades of the crazed little cavemen
seeking food during the harsh Stone Age was the freshest in the show.
What a brave client Momofuku Ando is. His reward is booming sales. His
agency, Hakuhodo Tokyo, won a campaign gold last week, and it would
surely have been the Grand Prix if the same brand had not won three
years ago. Nissin, like Levi’s with ‘drugstore’ last year, was the
victim of its own consistent excellence.
The Grand Prix winner from Ammirati Puris Lintas in Amsterdam was a
lovely, well-executed, humorous spot. Like so much of the more memorable
work from countries such as the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and South
Africa, it was born of human experience rather than post-production
technology. This was the single biggest message to come out of Cannes.
To be honest, it was the kind of work Collett Dickenson Pearce used to
do standing on its head. CDP’s Hamlet ‘photo booth’ was voted the best
commercial of all time. It had all the humanity, humour and emotional
values that the best work last week had, it’s just that a lot of it
wasn’t British. (I told you I’d become an old fart.)
The same values were present in the two British golds: BMP DDB’s
wonderful, and under-rated, Volkswagen dealers campaign and Lowe Howard-
Spink’s Estee Lauder Havana spot. More important, they are also present
in the kind of work that doesn’t win awards at Cannes or D&AD, but
regularly tops our People’s Jury poll, such as the Safeway and Walkers
Keep it simple, make it human and take a little risk or two. It’s not
brain surgery, is it?