Opinion: Perspective - Taking advertising's temperature on theCroisette

After six months consuming advertising rather than writing about it, a few days in the south of France with the cream of the ad industry sounded like a gentle reintroduction into the business.

How wrong ... of course, Cannes is adland at its most potent, excitable and exciting. And while it remains an irrelevance to the vast majority of people working in advertising (yes, sun-tanned ones, it's true), few senior executives were missing.

I'm sure everyone who went and everyone who didn't are by now thoroughly fed up with the whole affair and it will be ... oh, at least a few more weeks before the diktats circulate about snaring a prize next year. But as a barometer of the business there can be no better measure than the mood on the Croisette.

So, as rather too many paunches sweated on the beach, what was the temperature of the industry?

Nearly everyone from the UK seemed muted by a mini-slowdown - client budgets are tightening and advertisers' fragile confidence seems to be wavering; few dared to mention the "R" word, but with new- business activity hard to spot and cost-pressures cranking up, business is pretty tough at the moment for agencies of every hue.

Having said that, there was much for UK creative agencies to celebrate.

Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO proved that despite a patchy creative run in recent years, the magic is back. The Film Grand Prix for Guinness' "noitulove"suggests something of a return to form for the agency (and comes in a week when BBC2 and Milky Way were added to the AMV client roster). That AMV snaffled the prize from under the nose of Fallon's brilliant Sony "balls" simply confirms the strength of UK creativity at the moment.

AMV was also the runner-up in the Agency of the Year category and talk soon turned to how long it would be before its chief executive, Farah Ramzan Golant, is green-carded to run the US office.

Interestingly, though, while the US agencies turned in a pretty poor performance in the prestigious Film category, they are clearly leading the way in innovative comms channels.

The mighty Crispin Porter & Bogusky was the best illustration of where smart agencies are making their mark these days, taking Grands Prix in the Cyber and Promo categories. It will be years before the creative industry really acknowledges a new world order, but this year's spread of awards suggests US agencies are moving at a quicker pace.

In truth, the awards themselves are increasingly not what Cannes is all about. Most people took little interest in the official presentations and debates (though the line-up was better than ever). And while the awards tally will immediately be translated into new-business material for the winning agencies, for the rest they are very much a side-show.

Rather more local issues consumed UK interest and since Cannes remains resolutely a creative agency affair (despite Emap flying in plenty of media agencies this year, they still felt a little like interlopers) it was of a typically navel-gazing kind. Gossip continued to centre on the unhappy fortunes of DDB, still without a chief executive seven months after the departure of Paul Hammersley and with its reputation as one of the best UK agencies being allowed to slowly trickle away. It's sad to see such a fantastic agency lose the pace like this; when the appointment comes it had better be astoundingly good.

And will Clemmow Hornby Inge succumb to the charms of Havas? David Jones' appearance on the CHI yacht with deal-maker Jonnie Goodwin fuelled rumours of an alliance. But idle tongues also spent idle hours analysing the likelihood of a Havas/Publicis deal. The subject of Lowe's chief executive-ship was also on the agenda. DDB might need a strong fillip at the top, but if ever there was a do-or-die appointment, Lowe's chief executive has to be it. Oh, it's good to be back.


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