John Immesoete

The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity arrives on June 18. As usual, it will be a week-long affair of over 15,000 advertising executives and their clients networking, attending galas, talks, keynote speakers and screenings. Of course when one thinks of Cannes—hobnobbing on glittering beaches while sipping champagne typically comes to mind which begs the question, does Cannes still matter?

In order to answer that question, let’s admit that a lot has changed in the marketing world since the first advertising festival took place in Venice, Italy in 1954. The biggest would be how much smaller our palette as advertisers has become. It used to be the best and brightest work in television commercials and Cannes was a celebration of the craft that went into storytelling. Now, as our screens have grown smaller, one could argue the appreciation for cinematography, lighting acting and even writing has all been sacrificed in lieu of “snackable” shorts designed for even shorter attention spans. Instead of 35mm Panavision color, we now have vertical video on an iPhone. Rather than a 30-second commercial, we have six second Vines.

Last year, Jeff Goodby, Co-Chairman of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners remarked that going to Cannes nowadays was more “like a plumbers’ or industrial roofing convention” where everyone discussed amazing fiberglass insulation technology. In short, much of the magic of advertising had been replaced by technology and new forms of media.

While I can appreciate his sentiment, I would argue that despite all the changes, Cannes still matters for both creative, agencies and clients.

For creative people, winning awards is still an effective and time-proven way to earn better jobs and higher salaries. Many a creative director’s career has been made on the back of a single award-winning campaign. A single Grand Prix can translate to a quantum jump in salary. For agencies, reputations can still be made by being able to cite a litany of awards on their website. Not to mention it helps in attracting talent who want to work at award-winning agencies. Lastly, clients still care because winning awards often translates to better, more effective advertising. Not to mention the ability to brag to friends and peers about the award-winning work they’ve championed. Ego is still a powerful motivator.

At the end of the day, Cannes still celebrates creative and original thinking. As technology marches on, our appetite for creative content remains constant. Screens and audiences may shrink but great thinking still stands tall in the award show world. Any festival that helps recognize and celebrate great work will remain relevant as long as our industry still appreciates original thinking.

Thank goodness Cannes still matters.

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