No Cannes do…
Prospects look bleak, but it’s a lottery
THE WORLD’S TOP advertising festival – the Cannes Lions – is opening for its 56th annual orgy of congratulatory backslapping, ad-watching and hobnobbing in a decidedly subdued mood. The Olympics of advertising has received 20% fewer entries this year than it did in the record year of 2008. With fewer hopeful entrants and travel budgets curtailed, attendance at the weeklong grabfest – usually around 10 000 – is also likely to be depressed: by as much as 40%, according to some estimates.
There’s been a note of desperation in the festival marketing team’s attempts to keep the numbers up by emphasising how important creativity is in combating an economic downturn, extending entry deadlines or devising cheaper travel and accommodation packages.
But there’s also a degree of anger in the ad agency world that little sacrifice appears to have been made by the Cannes Lions festival itself. Entry fees are outrageously high, especially for soft-currency countries. At an average of around €385/entry, South African agencies have spent more than R3m on their entries.
Based on other international awards so far, SA’s hopes for awards also look lean. South African agencies have won 40% fewer trophies at the first two of the four major international festivals endorsed by the Creative Circle. At The One Show, our tally was less than half last year’s; at the Clios, the score was down by a fifth. But Cannes has a way of confounding the pundits.
SA remains the only nation on the African continent that can be taken seriously at this event. Its entries are in the same ballpark as bigger and richer nations (see table) and are nearly seven times the volume from the rest of Africa and the Middle East combined.
The Cannes festival, which started out as a way of promoting cinema advertising, has expanded over recent years to include just about every marketing discipline. With the introduction this year of the Public Relations Lions, there are 11 categories.
As always, it’s dangerous to make predictions about Cannes’ results. But one of the best SA entries is Lowe Bull’s Meet Wally’s Heart campaign for Flora margarine, which has just won a D&AD Yellow Pencil. While highlighting Flora’s health properties it climaxed with the world’s first real-time live broadcast of open-heart surgery. Flora invested R1,4m in the initiative and received media coverage valued at R80m.
A TV commercial with huge public appeal was the documentary-style story about the threelegged cheetah that loves the vicarious sensation of speed it gets from travelling in a Golf 6. It received mixed reaction from creative rivals,