The end of awards as we know them?

With Publi­cis Groupe pulling out of Cannes and all other shows for a year and WPP’S Sir Martin Sor­rell say­ing the jury is out on fu­ture par­tic­i­pa­tion, has a re­bel­lion against the ris­ing costs of awards fi­nally be­gun?

ArabAd - - AWARDS -

When Arthur Sadoun, the chair­man and chief ex­ec­u­tive of Publi­cis Groupe, an­nounced from the lux­ury of the Ma­jes­tic ho­tel in Cannes that Publi­cis was to take no part in the fes­ti­val next year, he not only caught ev­ery­body’s at­ten­tion, but dom­i­nated con­ver­sa­tion for much of the rest of the week. Not bad for a man only three weeks into his new job.

A back­lash against Cannes or a cyn­i­cal hi­jack­ing of the lime­light? A re­bel­lion against the ris­ing cost of awards, or lit­tle more than a pub­lic­ity stunt? Which­ever way you look at it, the or­gan­is­ers were spooked and Cannes may never be the same again.

In the de­bate that fol­lowed, two main threads emerged. Firstly, that peo­ple are be­ing ripped off by the Cannes Li­ons In­ter­na­tional Fes­ti­val of Cre­ativ­ity, which has mor­phed into an awards be­he­moth dur­ing an era of cat­e­gory pro­lif­er­a­tion. In essence, the fi­nan­cial bur­den on agen­cies has dra­mat­i­cally in­creased as the scope of Cannes has broad­ened. WPP’S Sir Martin Sor­rell said as much, stat­ing that the fes­ti­val had “be­come too much about mak­ing money”. The same can be ap­plied to other shows, with Publi­cis also stat­ing that it is to forego all awards next year in or­der to con­cen­trate on the de­vel­op­ment of an Ai-pow­ered ‘pro­fes­sional as­sis­tant’ called Mar­cel.

Se­condly, there is the be­lief that Cannes has lost its fo­cus on cre­ativ­ity. That it has be­come too techie, or too geeky, and has strayed too far from ad­ver­tis­ing and the con­cept of ideas. It is a view that Hu­bert Bou­los, chief ex­ec­u­tive for the Mid­dle East at DDB Dubai, shares.

Un­for­tu­nately, awards as we know them are gone, thanks to some weird adtech takeover that is not rel­e­vant to our in­dus­try. Hu­bert Bou­los

“In my opinion, the per­son who rang the alarm bell on Cannes was Jeff Goodby [co-chair­man and part­ner at Goodby, Silverstein & Part­ners] two years ago, when he said he would no longer at­tend be­cause Cannes re­minded him more of a roof tilers’ con­ven­tion,” says Bou­los. “Un­for­tu­nately, over the past two years things have got­ten even worse, as it has be­come a spring break for GAFA [Google, Ap­ple, Face­book and Ama­zon], with the ad­ver­tis­ing in­dus­try feel­ing to­tally out of place.”

Has Cannes be­come too big for its own good? The or­gan­is­ers cer­tainly recog­nise the need to lis­ten to their crit­ics, with Cannes Li­ons set­ting up an ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee “to help shape the fu­ture of the fes­ti­val and en­sure it con­tin­ues to re­spond to the needs of the in­dus­try”. With en­tries down by 4.5 per cent com­pared with last year and WPP send­ing 500 less staffers than the pre­vi­ous year, it’s an un­der­stand­able and nec­es­sary move.

“Un­for­tu­nately, awards as we know them are gone, thanks to some weird adtech takeover that is not rel­e­vant to our in­dus­try,” says Bou­los. “We want awards shows as they used to be. Cannes Li­ons as well as the Dubai Lynx should re­think their ap­proach and strat­egy. The ad­ver­tis­ing in­dus­try def­i­nitely needs ad fes­ti­vals and awards, [but] we need rel­e­vance and qual­ity, as was the case be­fore. We clearly do not want to at­tend roof tilers’ con­ven­tions that are priced like VIP boxes in the Cham­pi­ons League.”

“You cer­tainly need to look at the big­ger pic­ture here,” adds Sasan Saeidi, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of FP7 UAE. “Our in­dus­try was founded on the power of cre­ativ­ity and ideas. That’s what we are all about and we will al­ways be a cre­ative led in­dus­try. We are much less about tech­nol­ogy, data, pro­gram­matic, so­cial plat­forms and be­yond. But these very

Award shows will con­tinue. There will be olive branches, there will be talks, peo­ple will gather in board­rooms and com­pro­mises and agree­ments will be made. Sasan Saeidi

top­ics are tak­ing more of a cen­tral role and [more] real es­tate in our award shows to­day. This is not to say they are not im­por­tant, but rather they are there to serve cre­ativ­ity and not other way around. That’s the big topic here. Not the no­tion of awards. It’s hold­ing groups want­ing to play hard-ball with award or­gan­i­sa­tions in or­der for the cli­mate and of­fer­ing to be­come nor­malised when it comes to prices and at­ten­tion. That’s it.”

Paul Shearer, group chief cre­ative of­fi­cer at Memac Ogilvy MENA, agrees. “What has to hap­pen is for the ad world to get to­gether with the heads of the Cannes Li­ons and work out a way to make the show more eco­nom­i­cal,” he says sim­ply.

Ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween Cannes and the big hold­ing groups will un­doubt­edly take place in the com­ing months, al­though Sor­rell has pre­vi­ously stated that boy­cotting the fes­ti­val would be a mis­take. He met briefly with John Wren, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Om­ni­com, dur­ing Cannes to dis­cuss po­ten­tial ways to shake up the an­nual fes­ti­val, but what is likely to be the out­come is as yet un­known.

“I would cer­tainly guar­an­tee that this is not the end of the awards show, as the fes­ti­val of cre­ativ­ity is there to recog­nise and re­ward the big ideas that are help­ing brands and mar­keters,” says Saeidi. “Mar­keters them­selves are big fans [of Cannes] to­day and be­lieve in the eco­nomics of cre­ativ­ity, as Mckin­sey & Co spoke about at the fes­ti­val. Brands that in­vest in cre­ativ­ity and have been recog­nised in awards shows are the ones that have gen­er­ated higher fi­nan­cial value. This is a fact, not in­tu­ition.

“Award shows will con­tinue. There will be olive branches, there will be talks, peo­ple will gather in board­rooms and com­pro­mises and agree­ments will be made. We can’t ne­glect and ig­nore mil­lions of pas­sion­ate cre­ative folks that come to work ev­ery day to crack that next ‘Fear­less Girl’. But – and there is al­ways a but – awards and the ob­ses­sion of win­ning more metal should be kept at bay, as this ob­ses­sion is killing the very essence of what we are be­ing paid to do – to use cre­ativ­ity to build brands and solve chal­lenges. Awards are a by-prod­uct, not the main prod­uct.”

The ad world must get to­gether with the heads of the Cannes Li­ons and work out a way to make the show more eco­nom­i­cal. Paul Shearer

Arthur Sadoun an­nounced that Publi­cis Groupe will not par­tic­i­pate in any ven­dor con­fer­ences, in­dus­try trade shows and/or award shows ef­fec­tive July 1, 2017.

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