Sore losers? Or do the Cannes critics have a point?
A view from Maisie McCabe

Sore losers? Or do the Cannes critics have a point?

By the time the final gold Lion was handed out on Saturday night, there were many things for people in the ad industry to be proud of.

Beautiful craft, innovative interactive films, products with a proper brand purpose and work that changed perceptions. But as adland’s rosé-infused bloodstream gets back to normal and the bald heads begin to peel, there is much more to think about than how to win more next year.

Lots of people spent Cannes week talking about whether the right work was being rewarded. That usually meant querying how "real" charity work was and how involved agencies had really been in the winning ideas. Such chatter peaked on Friday night when Geometry Global and Memac Ogilvy MENA had to concede that, as they had not designed the "Lucky Iron Fish" product, they were not deserving of the Grand Prix in Product Design. Who’d have thought it?

Then there was the question of the validity of the big prizes. On the Monday, excited executives whispered to me conspiratorially that Omnicom might have a chance of unseating WPP after four years as the Holding Company of the Year. But it wasn’t to be. Yet the legitimacy of that title is undermined by the disparity between the size of the groups. Michael Roth dismissed the holding company competition as a "numbers game" when I asked him about it, but he was rightly proud of the performance of R/GA and FCB Inferno’s "this girl can".

The Kardashians partying on the Daily Mail boat play into the perception of adland as the home of excess

When I requested the total points earned by each of the holding companies (so I could compare them to their revenues), Cannes Lions said it could not give out that sort of information. But a measure that compares agencies’ (or countries’) relative size would surely help such awards retain their significance. It would also be interesting to know the number of entries per shortlist – and Lion – to answer the grumbling accusations of bought success.  

More serious than passing off other people’s ideas as your own or how points are scored is the wider question of the purpose of Cannes. What does Cannes mean to those inside and outside the industry? That red-carpet photo and the Kardashians partying on the Daily Mail boat might have been good fun, but they play into the perception of adland as the home of excess.

It’s a far cry from the responsible image Camelot’s Andy Duncan spoke about at the Advertising Association’s reception on Tuesday. When I saw Maurice Lévy last week, even he accepted there was a danger of Cannes Lions becoming "too big". Cannes will be back larger than ever next year. But we should make sure it is better as well. Lest it become the advertising equivalent of something deemed too big to fail. After all, we all know where that leads.

maisie.mccabe@haymarket.com           
@maisiemccabe

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