Are your briefs Cannes-worthy?

With the Lions focus ranging from cyber and integrated to design and PR, the annual fest reveals how all the fast-moving pieces can best come together.

I love our June issues because we get to spend a month reviewing the best creative ideas out of Canada for our Cannes picks edition of stimulant. Debating which of the dead clever campaigns to include is a mini Lions experience; I hope you’re inspired by the work included in the 2010 roundup.
Of course, seeing the best global efforts up close and in person at the Cannes Lions Advertising Festival is prescribed for anyone who wants to get the best possible sense of where to aim next.
The recession caused many Cannes faithful to cut back on attendance at a time when a dose of redirection was needed most. With the dizzying pace of change, more marketers could benefit from Cannes for that very reason. With the Lions focus ranging from cyber and integrated to design and PR, Cannes reveals how all the fast-moving pieces can best come together.
This year the Festival is launching a Young Marketers Competition, similar to the Young Lions Media, Cyber, Print and Film competitions, where teams win in-country timed challenges to compete at Cannes.
Teams of two marketers (30 or under) will compete by producing a brief on the spot. The “advertising agency,” who review the brief and a PowerPoint presentation by the duo, is a jury composed of account management, creatives and strategists. Whoever has the best brief wins free passes and accommodation for Cannes Lions 2011.
So far, teams are coming from over a dozen countries. From the U.S., P&G and Google are at bat.
Why did it take so long?
I asked expat Canadian Scott Goodson, the New York-based CEO of Strawberry Frog, the inaugural sponsor and jury chair. “If you look at it from a historical perspective, the roles have changed. It used to be that the client’s role was to keep the crazy agency guy in the box, and agencies pushed the client as far as they could out of it. Now the client is more informed about consumers than agencies are, and have ideas.”
Goodson had been advocating the notion of a Young Marketers Lion for a long time with Cannes, which raises the question, will they ever have marketers on juries? “Yeah, I think so. It opens the door to talking about their role in a different way. Kind of like saying, ‘Why wouldn’t women vote?’”
He pushed for the new award because he believes it will elevate the art of great briefs. “It’s not enough just to be guardians of the process, the skill set has to change.”
“Briefs have to be truly inspiring,” he explains. “You can’t say to Michelangelo, ‘There are cracks in the ceiling, I want you to touch it up’,” adding that you also can’t art direct every detail (“God goes over there”). 
 “At the end of the day, it’s about the future of our industry and developing an appreciation for great briefing and great clients.”
Since he’s so bullish on marketers’ involvement, I asked Goodson what else tops the ROI reasons for marketers to go to Cannes. It’s learning about “weird, cutting-edge and effective marketing,” and meeting up with global peers. Given the economy, going to events like this doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense to many, but as Goodson says, “There are very few places where you can see the best thinking in all the emerging markets, like India, China and Latin America.”
“No one really knows where it’s all going, so learning and seeing and having intellectual curiosity around really smart thinking is a good thing.”
This year more of the usual Canadian suspects are making the trek, but I’d encourage more marketers to consider, or reconsider, the investment. It’s a great transmedia bootcamp, and those who’ve attended came back with a new sense of what can be achieved, as well as an expanded definition of their remit – last year’s Titanium winner, the Obama campaign, shows how far the realm of activities that fall under the “advertising” umbrella has spread.

Hope to see you in Cannes, mm
Mary Maddever, exec editor, strategy, Media in Canada and stimulant