Harsh Words for Digital at Cannes Lions

  |  June 20, 2011   |  Comments

Elephant Cairo creative director calls for a return to "fun."

Cannes, France-- Advertising's old school used to hate digital because it disrupted comfortable (and profitable) models of linear storytelling. Now some members of its new school are bashing it for a different reason: It's boring.

ali-aliAli Ali, creative director for independent agency Elephant Cairo, yesterday called on speakers and organizers to end their monotonous obsession with interactive and embrace the sense of fun that he believes defined Cannes Lions before the Internet earthquake - an era he's just old enough to remember.

"Today it's a lot of talk about digital and social media, and every seminar starts to sound the same," said Ali, whose agency is behind the beloved "Never Say No to Panda" spots.

It was hard to argue the point on Sunday, as several seminars called on creatives to "join the conversation," "embrace community," and discover social-mobile integration. Other seminars this week promise to tackle such well-trod paths as paid-earned-owned media and social transformation. Important stuff? Yes. But the familiarity of the topics are making some people yawn.

"I'm not saying digital is wrong," said Ali. "Obviously digital is the future but digital is old. Crispin Porter did Subservient Chicken in 2004... so we need to think about that. I think the festival needs to move on to more fun things. This industry is becoming less and less fun as we go along."

Ali also called on ad people to take themselves less seriously. "The people I meet in advertising who are doing great work are the people who take it as a fun job and don't take it seriously."

In a line that drew applause, Ali said consumers are no longer willing to believe that a brand can change their lives. "Most consumers are smarter than you're average client," he said.

Elephant Cairo was one of three agencies to appear in a seminar devoted to independents, which last year took the lion's share of Gran Prix Lions in the Cyber category. In the wake of Egypt's January 25 revolution, Elephant endured three months with no briefs, during which time it created a film tribute to Facebook's Like button, acknowledging the site's role in organizing demonstrations.

"What we learned from it is, when you're not doing anything, try to go out and so something, and that's what we did," he said.


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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