Lessons from Cannes

  |  June 29, 2009   |  Comments

A few key moments and themes from the ad festival by the sea.

Cannes, France -- As the ad industry bash known as Cannes Lions wrapped up last week, a few great moments and key themes popped out. Purpose-driven marketing, for one. Shrinking parties, for another. But what's most exciting to delegates ClickZ spoke with is the brilliance of the work.

Queensland Tourism: Feel-Good Winner

Behind every celebrated campaign at the Cannes Lions festival is a client rep -- a relatively anonymous CMO or VP. Without their support, the work could never have happened. In the case of triple Grand Prix winner "The Best Job in the World," created for Australia's Queensland Tourism by CumminsNitro, that person is Steve McRoberts, executive director of marketing, destinations.

Wednesday night over drinks at the Hotel Carlton, McRoberts -- a stocky family man with short gray hair -- stood smiling at the center of a knot of agency execs and creative types. With a smile, he described a congratulatory call he'd received from Australia's prime minister that day.

The accolades validated what at the time seemed like a very risky campaign idea to McRoberts' higher-ups at Queensland Tourism. The feel-good effort used a global classified ad buy to invite online video applications for an island keeper job. The real value, however, was the resulting media coverage, to the tune of over 6,000 news stories worldwide.

Little did McRoberts' bosses know the pursuit of good press through oddball marketing experiments has become de rigueur. This was the first year festival organizers awarded Lions for work in PR, and it's easy to see why they did. Dozens of campaigns celebrated here this week had a major press coverage component, either as part of the strategy or the results. That was even true for work that won in other categories, such as 42 Entertainment's "Why So Serious?" campaign for "The Dark Knight."

Causes Everywhere

Australia's not the only government body paying attention to Cannes this week. An unusual new campaign from the United Nations and the International Advertising Association launched on La Croisette, Cannes' promenade, to build buzz for the U.N. climate change conference in Copenhagen later this year. Four delegates from Denmark came to the Palais des Festivals here to kick off the effort.

The campaign will temporarily rebrand the city of Copenhagen as "Hopenhagen," even going so far as to change sign lettering at airports around Europe. A Web site at Hopenhagen.org will be the communication hub.

The climate awareness initiative is in good company here. Issues advertising and cause-marketing campaigns are everywhere this week -- for environmental (GE's "Ecomagination"), social ("No Homophobia," Arco-Iris) and health-related causes ("Doctors without Borders")

"Corporations and brands need to have enhanced meaning," said Carol Cone of Cone Inc, who gave a seminar on the subject. ""We see good as the new black. Like black, it never goes out of style."

Creative Cross-Pollination

Of course, what's most important about Cannes is the work. As the lines between categories have blurred, agencies are looking everywhere for ideas. Over lunch, Organic Chief Creative Officer Conor Brady sang the praises of a Malaysian print campaign from Jeep, which stood out from the visual clutter of Cannes by being utterly simple.

"To me pieces like that are really ballsy," he said. "It's almost getting back to basics."

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Zachary Rodgers

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. 

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