It's easy to see why the Cannes Lions festival has attracted so many detractors this year (See here and here). Budgets are falling, jobs are scarce, and the commercials that have been the event's center of gravity for so long are no longer of much interest to creative innovators.
As a result, many are painting the Lions as an unseemly show of self-congratulation in the midst of chaos. And, well, they're not totally wrong about that.
Nevertheless ClickZ has decided to make its first trip to the French Riviera next week to watch creative directors hoist small, heavy-looking statuettes into the air.
Why, you ask? There are a few reasons, listed here in no particular order:
More, and better, digital entries. Among the outstanding interactive work this year: Burger King's Whopper Sacrifice (Crispin Porter + Bogusky), Fiat's Eco Drive (AKQA), The Great Schlep (Droga5/Sarah Silverman). Oh yeah, and Barack Obama's historic integrated political campaign. There's plenty to celebrate.
Big names, big ideas. Google's Eric Schmidt and Microsoft's Steve Ballmer will both address Cannes attendees next week. So will the chiefs of the world's most digital-hungry agency conglomerates: Sir Martin Sorrell (WPP) and Maurice Lévy (Publicis). Throw in Kofi Annan and Obama campaign manager David Plouffe, and you're bound to come across a few big important ideas.
The "Touchwall." Schematic is the design firm behind an innovative touch screen experience, similar to Microsoft's surface technology, that is intended to help festival attendees find their way around. It sounds wicked cool, and we're getting a demo on Monday.
The creative crisis. In February the IAB issued a call to action to improve the quality of ad creative. It's the responsibility of every one of us in the digital ad space to make sacrifices to support this cause. Our sacrifice, it just so happens, is to travel to the south of France and immerse ourselves in beautiful interactive work.
In short, we can't agree with those who would dismiss Cannes out of hand just because the ad sector is in a state of upheaval. On the contrary, it's the difficult, transformative periods such as this one -- more so than do the static, smooth-sailing eras (See: last 30 years) -- when agencies must look to each other for ideation and inspiration. And really, there's no festival that comes close to the global footprint of Cannes -- no other event that's remotely positioned to bring the world's ad grunts together in the name of excellence and foie gras.
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Until March 2012, Zach Rodgers was managing editor of ClickZ's award-winning coverage of news and trends in digital marketing. He reported on the rise of web companies, data markets, ad technologies, and government Internet policy, among other subjects.