Au­da­cious, brave and right-ish

Campaign UK - - NEWS - claire.beale@hay­mar­ket.com @claire­beale CLAIRE BEALE

Drama, pas­sion, anger, re­sent­ment, in­trigue and, fi­nally, a sense of im­pend­ing real change: Cannes Lions 2017 was quite some en­ter­tain­ment. Un­for­tu­nately, this had noth­ing to do with the work in the Palais or the scat­ter­ing of prop­erly use­ful talks. It had ev­ery­thing to do with Pub­li­cis Groupe chief Arthur Sadoun’s de­ci­sion to pull all awards and mar­ket­ing spend for a year in or­der to fo­cus in­vest­ment on Mar­cel, an ar­ti­fi­cial-in­tel­li­gence plat­form to con­nect the group’s tal­ent.

It’s an au­da­ciously brave de­ci­sion and one, I think, that is fun­da­men­tally right. For years, in­dus­try lead­ers have moaned about Cannes: “Next year, we’re go­ing to make a big state­ment and in­vest the (in­sert an eye-wa­ter­ing amount) we’d oth­er­wise spend to be here into tal­ent to help grow our clients’ busi­ness.” But they never have. Un­til now. Sort of. If only Pub­li­cis had framed its Mar­cel mes­sage more con­cert­edly around an am­bi­tion (which ap­pears heart­felt) to de­liver bet­ter re­sults for its clients and its tal­ent, it could have sidestepped what rapidly turned into a first-class shit­storm.

The most bleakly el­e­gant ri­poste to Mar­cel came from Leo Burnett in Chicago, one of the creative hearts of Pub­li­cis Groupe. Mr Burnett him­self fa­mously de­manded that his epony­mous agency should take his name off the door when it spends more time try­ing to make money and less time mak­ing ad­ver­tis­ing. The day af­ter Sadoun dropped his bomb, a sheet of pa­per with the name Mar­cel ap­peared taped over the com­pany’s name­plate on the front wall.

But Mr Burnett was a fierce ad­vo­cate of us­ing bril­liant cre­ativ­ity to build clients’ busi­ness; sim­ply win­ning awards was never the point. Yes, awards show us what ex­cel­lent looks like, set a high bar, in­spire and ex­cite us. But some­thing’s gone wrong with our sys­tem when rep­u­ta­tions, bonuses and ca­reers rest quite so heav­ily on awards won and less on re­sults achieved for clients. Mind you, awards are a use­ful lump of meat for mar­keters to throw to their re­sult­shun­gry boards, so ex­pect Pub­li­cis’ clients to en­ter awards like Cannes them­selves.

It’s not what Sadoun hoped we’d all be talk­ing about. But he’s opened an im­por­tant de­bate around creative awards (which Pub­li­cis Groupe doesn’t win its share of, let’s face it): why they mat­ter, and how to make them mat­ter for the right rea­sons. He’s also put an over­due spot­light on the Lions fes­ti­val, which has be­come too noisy, too greedy and ob­scenely ex­pen­sive. A se­ri­ous re­think is re­quired and now seems to be un­der way.

So I think Sadoun has in­ad­ver­tently done the in­dus­try a favour. Now he’s got 12 months to prove he’s done his com­pany one too.

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