Attending Cannes a good investment

Judy John is associate creative director of Taxi's Toronto office and one half of the two-person creative boutique Two Cities Advertising. She won a gold at this year's awards for her ad for Keen Music Voice and Sound Design in the...

Judy John is associate creative director of Taxi’s Toronto office and one half of the two-person creative boutique Two Cities Advertising. She won a gold at this year’s awards for her ad for Keen Music Voice and Sound Design in the press and poster category.

Let me just begin by saying the Cannes Advertising Festival wasn’t what I had expected.

I had my entire agenda planned out for the seven days of the festival. I’d of course hit the beach every day. Maybe catch a couple hours of screenings just so I could say I saw some ads. Maybe take a couple of days off to hit Italy or Monaco. And party the rest of the time.

I spent my first day on the beach. Jetlagged, I sat under an umbrella at a private beach and had drinks served to me.

That was it for the beach, as well as the rest of my plans.

I spent the rest of the time screening ads. I spent a few hours studying the print finalists. I spent countless hours seeing the tv. I wanted to see as much work as possible before it got to the judges, where sometimes a few gems get lost. Then I went to the screening of the film shortlist which alone was about five hours long.

So what can I tell you that you haven’t already heard about the Cannes Advertising Festival? How can I convince you this is a show worthy of our participation? What do you have to gain from going to Cannes other than a tan minus the tan lines?

The single most important reason, strictly from a creative perspective, is RESEARCH.

We’re all familiar with that word. That dirty word creative people hate so much. The single word that kills great creative. But what I’m talking about is doing research of our own. Research that we can later use to defend great creative. Case studies of successful campaigns that made products successful.

Like a trade show

Cannes is like the trade show of the new inventions in advertising. Where you can see the way problems are approached globally and solved through strategy and execution. Where you can go to the new directors seminar and find out who’s hot and what new techniques are being used. Where you can sit across the table from John Hegarty, the creative director of Bartle Bogle Hegarty, the hottest agency in the u.k., and ask him about his philosophy on creative. Where you can screen commercials from every country around the world.

Yes, there was a lot of bad work, but even from the bad ads I learned something. Whether it was the cinematography, the structure, what not to do or why it didn’t work, every ad had something to offer.

How can you come back without having learned something or grown creatively?

Research is the same reason why I go to the One Show every year. To see the work. To look outside the sandbox.

Seeing other people do great work only reinforces my belief that great work can be done regardless of the product or client. And the truth of the matter is, award-winning advertising is advertising that works. If you can get through to a dozen judges who will see thousands of ads consecutively, and have three to 10 seconds to decide if it’s good, getting through to the consumer won’t be a problem.

The result: you come back ready to do great work.


As an aside, one thing I was introduced to in Cannes, that I’d like to see at Canadian awards shows, is whistling (their version of booing) at the ads you don’t like and clapping for the ones you do. In Cannes the audience didn’t hold back. You knew how this audience felt and this carried over to the awards ceremony where a few of the winners were booed. It’s an openness and honesty that sends a message to the judges as to how we really feel about their selections, rather than politely clapping and then bitching all night about how undeserving the gold winner was, that I’d like to see here.

On the business side, this research will result in better advertising. Better advertising will result in more sales for our clients.

And because the advertising community extends outside of our borders, we as Canadians have to start thinking globally or we’ll be left behind adapting pick-up work from the u.s. or Britain or wherever. There were clients in Cannes. Oh yes. I know of one client from Canada (maybe yours). How else are clients going to find out who’s hot in the the country they’re about to expand into? So you tell me, does winning awards help you in the marketplace, locally or globally?

As for the inferiority complex that we as Canadians have, that we don’t think our work measures up internationally. Surprise. It does. The evidence is one gold, one silver and one bronze and 10 finalists. Yes, it is expensive. But it’s an investment. In the quality of the work and in the creative people. How important are these things to you?

Every year our clients spend millions of dollars on research. The least we could do is invest in a little research of our own.