Andy Lark: The Cannes Conundrum

CannesConun (1).jpgAndy Lark (left), the former CMO of Commonwealth Bank and Xero, now chair of Group Lark, was in Cannes last month. He won't be back next year, as he explains in this review of the experience.

Let's not forget that this is the "Festival of Creativity". It's not meant to celebrate marketing effectiveness, efficiency or even relevance. It's not there to heap praise on creative that drives commercial outcomes for its sponsors. It's not a platform to discuss the challenges facing marketers. No, it's just a festival of creativity. And it's ok for that, and that alone.

We should celebrate creative that is beautiful, brilliant, witty and wise. I've long argued that marketing is a product, and creative is a key ingredient. But you'd be forgiven wandering through the halls of the Palais for forgetting that it is just one ingredient. Every other element - from effective research and use of data, through technology and business results - takes a back-seat to the primacy of creative.
David Ogilvy was right when he said: "You cannot bore people into buying your product." That idea follows a more important reality which is "You can't make commercial creative detached from a commercial reality". Wieden + Kennedy have won a stack of Lions at Cannes in for the Old Spice campaign "The man your man could smell like". And they doubled sales in only six months and put the brand back on the world map. That's what was missing for me across the board. Beautiful creative powering beautiful commercial outcomes.

So with that as the caveat, what can I offer you up from a predominantly sober attendance over seven days at Cannes. In no particular order:

The creative halo (reality distortion field) in marketing is alive and well. While more subdued than last year there was plenty going down around the event. There are few events that offer the opportunity to connect and light-up opportunities like Cannes. As Scott points out, Cannes mimics the broader chasm emerging between the digerati and those that can only aspire. The intensity (whether meetings or partying) of activity around the likes of Facebook and Google was a step ahead and up from any other media there. What was seriously absent was executive presence and a focus on the CMO from digital brands. Any media brand trying to justify their presence at Cannes should invite a friendly B2B marketer to audit their event - they'd likely be embarrassed by their performance in generating leads, connecting and generally reaching the hundreds of CMOs there. Quick aside, more than half the CMO's I talked to at Cannes were either partially or totally there on their own dime. A 'workcation' of sorts. Continue reading here on the daily lark...


Party Pooper said:

Commonwealth Bank always clean up at awards don't they?
P.S Sounds like you didn't get any good party invites.

Sober dude said:

Sorry but this is just getting silly.

If you want to be in the business of pure and untethered creativity, join a band, be an artist, write a book. However as long as you're in advertising, whether you like it or not we are in the business of advertising. That is advertising products and services to people for businesses, which costs these businesses money. So they expect a return on investment. Simple rules, simple boundaries to play within. The work celebrated at Cannes should be what does this best with creativity, wit, charm etc.

More surprised than anyone said:

I absolutely 100% agree with this marketing dude.

The best creative has real commercial value and is inextricably linked to a real commercial problem / outcome.

Work that solves a problem, makes a company a bunch of money, then wins a big shiny gong is the best work to watch and the most satisfying to produce.

Now excuse me everyone, my ponytail just fell off.

Air thiefst said:

I came across this guy when Myer rolled him in as a consultant for a pitch two pitches ago..a more arrogant sneering and hateful of creative character I have never net. Sir...keep your opinions to yourself. No one cares.

Anonymous said:

Talking of 'commercial outcomes', Mr Lark and his partner were offering themselves up for speaking gigs in return for Cannes passes earlier this year. I hope no agency or industry body took them up on.

You're on our turf now Mr CMO... said:

World's worst Cannes Diary. Whines about old white CMOs while being an old white CMO. Is super impressed by the world-beating implications of this year's buzzwords AI, Machine Learning and Data despite having just mocked the complete disappearance of last years buzzword Augmented. Can you imagine the feedback you'd receive from such a bean-counter? What the heck is a 'beautiful financial outcome'? Is it funnelling more money to the top? Good luck with your lofty aspirations and keen mind sir. Good luck to you.

This guy said:

Absolutely no one should give a flying f*** what this guy thinks. He is equal parts hot air and bullshit who is just desperate for people to think him relevant and edgy

qt3.14 said:

I've never met a creative who doesn't earnestly try to meet the brief and help their clients sell stuff. We need to stop perpetuating this myth of the 'wannabe artist' creative.

Bewildered said:

I struggle to see why this even gets oxygen. Nothing more than hot air.

Trent said:

Why do people think that creativity and effectiveness are mutually exclusive? There are plenty of examples where they mix well.

Humans seek new things. New things excite us. That's why creativity is important.

@Trent said:

Good point Trent,however I don't think anyone here is suggesting they are. Indeed, human's like new things, especially if they're creative and useful. However Donald Trump is new, not very creative. Catch my drift.

McNulty said:

I thought marketing leaders were supposed to be clear thinkers, but I found this article quite unclear and hard to follow, really.

Near the beginning, he writes: "Let's not forget that this is the "Festival of Creativity". It's not meant to celebrate marketing effectiveness"

But then a few lines later - "That's what was missing for me across the board. Beautiful creative powering beautiful commercial outcomes" i.e. effectiveness.

Fools said:

How many Snickers did Hungerythm sell?
How many lives did Gra Gra save?

Andrew Antonym said:

Yahoo Serious was never serious.

My friend Sam Butcher is a vegetarian.

Andy Lark. Well.

Hah said:

How cute, he thinks people care about what he has to say.

@Hah said:

@Hah Judging by the amount of comments here and lack of commentary on most of the other posts lately, you'd be forgiven for thinking people do care. I'm not sure what point he was trying to make, but pointless creativity masquerading as commercially successful advertising is what is in the spotlight at the moment.

@ @ hah said:

You are confusing 'people caring' for 'people feeling the need to call out the utter drivel he is spouting'

To Andy and all CMOs said:

In my experience, and I have 40 years of it which hopefully counts for something, advertising creatives live for, stand by and are judged on their work. Good creatives - the real ones, not the pathetic show ponies who focus more energy on award entry films than on their actual clients - want nothing more in this world than to make brands famous and successful. Because that's how they become famous and successful. And, because sad as it may seem, that's what gets them up in the mornings. Bad work and bad outcomes come from a number of places - communication breakdown, lack of trust, lack of direction from client or from CD. But the number 1 cause is fearful clients afraid to even try. CMOs of today lack vision and fortitude. And often, common sense. The difference between the CMOs of the 70's and 80's and today are stunning. There's no leadership, and there's zero guts. They're just a soft bellied, weak backboned, directionless lot whomdo a whole lot of nothing in an 18 month cycle before being moved on with a big payout to go do nothing somewhere else. I don't know what you've done in your career - perhaps you're one of the good ones. This is not a judgement of you. Just needs to be said that crappy work and crappy outcomes don't happen in a vacuum. And I agree with you about creative for creative's sake, by the way. This isn't art school. It's fucking commercial advertising.

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