Editorial: Size should not be decider at Cannes

In calling for a level playing field when this year's Cannes Festival judges decide who gets the big awards, Piyush Pandey, this year's jury president, unwittingly opens up a can of worms.

On the face of it, his insistence that he will be influenced neither by a client's size nor its previous record of winning awards when handing out the gongs is entirely laudable. After all, why shouldn't brilliant creative work be honoured whether it be for a giant multinational or a product that none or few of the jurers will have heard of?

No reason at all. But there's a problem. By making it easier for smaller brands to have their advertising honoured, the festival also eases the entry of the "ghost ads" that have too often undermined its reputation.

The infamous practice of entering "ghost ads", fake ads created solely to win awards, or "scam ads", those that never had a client's approval but appeared perhaps only once to be eligible for an award, have been a long-running problem for the festival.

Nevertheless, it persists, and not just at Cannes. How many awards night guests in recent years have emerged at the end of the evening in total bewilderment at not having previously seen many of the ads that have taken top honours?

In fairness to the Cannes organisers, it must be said that much has been done to weed out the cheats by demanding documentary evidence confirming when and where an ad has appeared.

However, no system is foolproof, particularly when juries are drawn from so many countries and may be unaware of the authenticity of the material they are being asked to judge. Indeed, some have suggested that jurers who are worried about the bona fides of an ad from their own country should be encouraged to speak out.

Thankfully, the tide seems to be turning against the cheats. Once they drew sneaking admiration for getting away with pulling the wool over a jury's eyes. These days, there's more sympathy towards those agency staffers who work hard to get an ad past a creative director and a client only to be beaten by those who have had to overcome no such obstacles.

Apart from the moral argument, cheating sends the wrong signals to the industry's creative newcomers who may be deceived into believing that outstanding work is only possible on boutique accounts and that bigger clients can be satisfied with any old rubbish.

Finally, Pandey must be careful that by giving attention to small domestic brands he doesn't unfairly discriminate against the regular big winners.

When you're Nike, Volkswagen or Stella Artois, bettering an award-winning campaign from the previous year can be a huge task and juries need to recognise it.