Where To Now Cannes Festival of Creativity?

Well the parties are over, livers are healing, and the thousands of posts of accolades of colleagues congratulating colleagues is over. But throughout the festival and the week or so after, I felt frustrated. I was frustrated by the lack of acknowledgement in the vast majority of posts about any results whatsoever for any of the work. Results like establishing better awareness for this cause or brand; increased revenue, increased sales, more engagement, etc. And with Cannes as perceptually the industry’s highest profile awards show, this just feels wrong to me. And no doubt I will get some flack for this. But hear me out because my heart is in the right place. (I also acknowledge I grew up an account guy and pivoted to strategic planning to help even more on the business front).

The industry has changed dramatically, perhaps exponentially over the past ten years. With fragmented and commoditized markets, even the most admired brands and services are fighting for results, as they define them. And they need our help. Yet, isn’t the right equation: creativity + business results = advertising? If we take the “business results” out of the mix, aren’t we just shades of grey away from the other big awards festival in Cannes ( I think it’s the one for the other stars).

Secondly, with it challenging for CMO’s to prove a positive ROI on the marketing and advertising, doesn’t it make sense, that the marketing communication industry and leaders should do all they can to support this job #1? If not, won’t the pool of retainer funds continue to erode?

Thirdly, what is the overall take-away client have of agencies from Cannes, when Google, Snap or Facebook appear with their quantitative results and scale platforms. I didn’t get into this business just for the entertainment value or creativity ( I already did that in career #1 as a musician). I got into the marketing communications business because I thought it was the best combination of great business thinking manifesting itself as brilliant creative solutions that could help businesses, brands and causes.

Fourthly, with continued destructualization taking place via MarTech, A.I., V.R., bots, and new forms of competitors like the business consultancies coming down stream, isn’t it also incumbent on the industry to bring back the “results” element of that equation? There is currently a small effectiveness play at Cannes, but it is by no means the focus of the larger event.

I recognize the logistical and accountability issues facing Ascential, the company behind the festival. And I don’t have the solution (yet). But perhaps there is not complete alignment with the various stakeholder’s goals. After all, what is the purpose of awards shows? Is it to share best practices, to applaud new and inspiring work and innovation, is it to evolve the knowledge sharing throughout the industry has it needs to evolve over time? Or is it to market agencies to prospective and existing clients?

This is not a new phenomena. The marketing industry has known for years the increasing need to help clients prove positive payback and results. Who is responsible for this? The owner of an award show or the industry bodies and associations? Could there not be a body that is made up of the key holding companies and independent agencies that could be the champion of this event, driving the mandate, because I’m not sure the creative brief is done yet.

Most, if not all, of our clients have R&D budgets. Could not the agency holding companies and/or large agency brands also have R&D budgets, testing and creating the next big tools and solutions for our clients. Does this not help us with our marketing stack? Is this not an obvious evolution and a strategic diversification for our industry. There are smart people still on Madison Avenue, London, Paris, Toronto and Singapore. Why do we choose to let Silicon Valley come up with solutions in our space that we should have the best sight-lines on and the best and most immediate customers  – our clients.

Additionally, most of the hold companies own a research company or two. Has any thought been given to bringing them on board for a marketing mix analysis. I acknowledge this is not always clean, but aren’t we in the results business. And use several or pool the costs across networks with full auditing available.

And don’t get me wrong. There was some amazing work and thinking highlighted this year, especially around social causes. And I applaud all. But this is a creative business and we have to be brilliant at both.