Lessons from Cannes

I learned that I can still party like I did in my early 20s. Seriously, I didn't think it was possible. But there's something about Cannes - at midnight you head to a party, the next thing you know it's 3 a.m.

I learned that I can still party like I did in my early 20s. Seriously, I didn’t think it was possible. But there’s something about Cannes – at midnight you head to a party, the next thing you know it’s 3 a.m.

But I came home with more than just a hangover. (As did others: check out our Cannes Diaries, starting on page 31.) Thanks to Leo Burnett, for instance, I know that today’s men feel somewhat emasculated now that members of the fair sex are gaining ground in the corporate world. While most marketers don’t get guys, according to the Leo B’ers, there are some clear exceptions, as evidenced by two Canadian campaigns – Taxi’s gold-Lion-winning Viagra effort and Downtown Partners’ Bud Light Institute. Both elicited enthusiastic applause in the theatre. (Too bad Labatt has replaced the crafty Bud Light Institute with the banal ‘Smooth all the Way’ effort.)

Also of interest was a talk on design that showed how leading marketers are starting to zero in on the discipline as a marketing tactic. For example, Bryan Nesbitt, executive director of design for GM, shared that Saab in Sweden is testing the development of a brand centre – bringing designers, engineers and marketers together in one physical organization. Makes sense, since as Nesbitt says, potent design is imperative to getting ‘a lustful reaction.’

By far, the most inspirational presentation I attended was ‘Start Spreading the Word: Viral Advertising,’ featuring Russ Klein, chief global marketing officer of Burger King Brands, and Tim Ellis, global ad director for Volvo. (For my ‘Q’s on the Fly’ with Ellis, see page 8).

Both marketers veered off the usual path in their respective categories, even though they could have lost some conservative customers along the way. The reason? They recognize that the consumer has replaced the brand at the centre of the marketing paradigm. As Klein says: ‘You have to live alongside the customer as a friend, even when it’s uncomfortable.’ So far, this mantra has worked for BK, which has enjoyed 16 months of consecutive same-store sales growth.

The problem for Canadian marketers, though, is that regulations often impede risk-taking work. Rethink’s Chris Staples made this point over lunch one day.

After sitting through screenings of commercials from around the globe, I think he might be right. For example, while watching the film ads in the ‘media’ category, one in particular caught my attention.

Created by Euro RSCG Flagship, the spot was for Manager Daily Newspaper in Thailand. It opens with a secretary approaching her boss, who sits very still at his desk, his chin resting on his hand, his eyes closed. When she prods him, he falls forward, and discovers there’s a bloody knife sticking out of his back. She screams, wets herself and faints. He sits up, a mischievous grin on his face. Apparently, the Manager Daily’s funnies can transform even the strictest manager into a prankster. I doubt this ad would ever run in Canada. (Alas, although shortlisted, it didn’t win a Lion.)

The debate about whether Cannes is a worthwhile trip for Canadian marketers continues. I personally think it’s a shame only a handful attended. If nothing else, it might inspire you to fight that much harder for your next campaign.

Lisa D’Innocenzo, Editor