Meribel Ad Festival: President of the festival

Relevance. It's a word that gets repeated a lot around awards and festivals these days.

In fact, I'm sure anyone reading this will have had some kind of conversation about it over the past year. Is Cannes really relevant any more? What's the relevance of the D&AD to modern communication? Does winning a Clio really matter outside the creative department? Personally, I believe all of these awards are hugely relevant today. But it doesn't mean they don't face challenges in remaining so.

In many ways, the issues all of the major award shows must confront run parallel to those of the whole industry. Twenty years ago it was simple for jurors: there were TV spots, a little radio, some press and lots of nice posters. There might, just maybe, have been a bit of direct mail. No-one needs reminding that the intervening decades have seen enormous changes to this state of affairs.

Advertising has always claimed to hold up a mirror to the world and the consumers within it. But in recent years this mirror has been slow to reflect the pace of change. As consumers have embraced multi-channel broadcasting, the internet and mobile phones, we have often hurried along in their wake, hanging on to communication models and methods that have become less and less relevant to the realities of their lives.

As the old psychiatry cliche goes, in order to change you must actually want to change; and, after a protracted period of resistance, there is a now a tangible feeling that our industry is determined to catch up. Looking at the world of advertising today, I see a multi-disciplined, outward-facing industry that is finally placing consumers at the centre of its efforts. It has remembered that, ultimately, it exists to explore the best possible communication routes for its clients - regardless of whether that means a 30-second TV spot or search-engine marketing.

Part of the attraction of the Meribel Ad Festival is that it has no long traditions to shake off. It was born into the internet age, a new world of digital broadcasting and SMS, of sophisticated data use and media-neutral thinking. The decision to focus on innovation this year underlines the spirit that the Meribel Ad Festival represents, and demonstrates why it is at the forefront of modern advertising. It's a festival in the greatest sense of the word, celebrating what we have achieved, but also focused on the future. And that's the best possible way to remain relevant today, and in the decades to come.

- Howard Draft is the chairman of the newly created Draftfcb, a behaviour-based, integrated agency with 9,000 employees in more than 100 countries. Previously, Draft was the chairman and chief executive of Draft, the agency he co-founded in 1978. He also serves on the board of directors for Chicago's After School Matters and is a trustee of Pediatric Aids Chicago.

Winner: The Grand Cristal 2006
Title: Impossible Dream
Product: Honda
Client: Honda
Agency: Wieden & Kennedy UK
Production company: Stink
Director: Ivan Zacharias


The Grand Cristal is the supreme award, judged during the Presidents' Conference from among the winners of each of the Cristal categories.

Award ceremony 14 December 2007 in Meribel.