Creativity is taking a back seat to media and the video that gets put in it. It’s time to get back to real ideas.
As posted on Little Black Book
Contrary to what most people who know me think, I’m happy to be proven wrong. Really, I’m a realist and, in many cases, that means the color of the glasses through which I look at things is sometimes a color other than rose (or, I suppose, rosé in this case?)
So it seems I can be half-happy about being half-wrong in my week-old predictions about Cannes this year, now that the Lions have set off countless metal detectors en route to their new homes.
I thought Always’ “Like a Girl” would win. It did — including the Grand Prix in PR and a Glass Lion, invented this year to award work for excellence in impacting gender inequality. “Monty the Penguin” for John Lewis won the Grand Prix for Film Craft, too. Congrats to these visionary creatives, their clients and the amazing production teams and partners that made it happen. Great, deserving work.
But the bigger prediction I made was that because of the rising dominance of the triumvirate formed by the decline of earned media, the rise of programmatic buying, and the return of the traditional-digital media plan, we would see the awards dominated by video.
I was half-right.
I was half-right because the chatter at Cannes was absolutely-fucking-dominated by maybe the least interesting conversations you can have at what is supposed to be a festival of creativity. A vast majority of conversation was either directly or indirectly circumnavigating media, media quality, programmatic buying, viewability, fraud and value for media buys.
I don’t recall discussing “Like a Girl” all that much. Or the Cyber Grand Prix winner, Under Armour’s “I Will What I Want.” Or “House of Mamba” for Nike which, whether you think you can stomach another dramatically-lit, swoosh-laden piece bedazzled with surreally-sparkly beads of sweat, rightfully earned a small pack of Lions across a number of categories. It didn’t really come up in conversation though. All anyone could talk about was the $28 billion in media reviews that are kicking off soon. And whether 2, 3 or 10 seconds in an autoplay video counts as a view.
So yes, the show was dominated by videos that fulfill the media-plan-driven market that has become the creative industry.
What makes me happy to be half-wrong, though, was this: “House of Mamba,” as well as “Hammerhead,” “I Will What I Want,” and “Holograms for Freedom” — a haunting program that enabled a virtual protest demonstration in the wake of a Spanish law that limited freedoms of assembly and speech — and a host of others, while at times leaning heavily into video to tell the story of the program or brand, used technology to create. What makes something a truly great digital program is the campaign’s use of technology — from code to behavior to hardware — to spark emotion in a way that was never possible before. And no, brilliant video ad distribution doesn’t count.
Truly great digital and innovation is not dead, yet, and that was proven last week in the warmth of the Mediterranean sun. So even though the makers of those outstanding digital platforms probably had to defend their ability to scale, their ability to reach millions predictably and just how they would fit into a media plan, the world recognized them as great moments in branded creativity. Well done, world.
Questions remain though. For instance, the results show winners like these to be the exception to the rule; cyber was dominated by video in its various forms. Some amazing. Some moving. But many of which that could have aired on TV. Also, again sexy tactics and one-offs — whether interactive or video-based — were rewarded. Was it because they were the result of the very media plans that spurred their conception? Or is our industry still figuring out how to fuse technology with big ideas to create brand platforms? Hard to say.
Nonetheless, though Cannes itself may not be the celebration of creativity that we want it to be, the winners deserve our celebration in every sense. So, congratulations again. We’re all jealous of you and in awe of your work.