Dumb ways for your ad to die at Cannes

GuerreroCannes.jpgDavid Guerrero, creative chairman at BBDO Guerrero Philippines, is sitting on the Outdoor jury panel in Cannes this year. Here he passes on a few observations on this year's entries and dumb ways for your ad to die at Cannes.

If you want to win a Lion, and I presume this is of passing interest to readers of this blog, then you could do worse than look at the entries - rather than just the winners. Last I checked these are available online in the Lions archive. Then you could organize a Cannes judging experience back in the agency and sit, for eight hour stretches, with your team and look at everything that people send in. It's not that it's bad. In fact the general standard is, well, OK. Video making - that much abused art - has improved considerably. Ideas have not however kept pace.

Your emotions as you watch the entries will probably run from: 'we can do better than this' to 'we should have entered more work' and 'next year, next year.' However this will probably be revealed as arrogant nonsense when we get to the shortlist and beyond. There is good stuff there - and seeing it isolated will make it seem all the better. The big issue is how to recreate those same feelings of ambition when you are away from the judging. Looking at the mistakes is as crucial as seeing the successes.
You may in fact find yourself compiling a list - in the words of the campaign du jour - of Dumb Ways for Your Ad to Die at Cannes.

You need to consider that everyone is working with the same conventions: Toys will always let you imagine your own stories; People always fight over bargains; kids exist to be protected; books are always more desirable than computers; the written word is better than a text; in fact the world would be better off with everything analog rather than digital. A case in point is this year's favorite cause - texting while driving kills. (Perhaps writing a letter while on a bicycle would be better.)

Now there is nothing wrong with ads that say these things. But they will struggle, unless exceptionally well-crafted, because there are so many similar ones. After a while you start thinking: it's not just 'is it any good?' it's 'does it move us forward?' Or at least 'is it telling us anything new?'

We've seen many that inform us that paper uses up trees. That seat belts save lives. And floss gets bits out from between your teeth. Really? And apparently smoking shortens your life too. Nothing wrong with reminders. But you have to say it in a new way if you're not saying something new.

Others tease out elaborate negatives from otherwise pretty attractive-looking products. Showing me the one reason why I shouldn't like the feature I might be buying it for. This might have been smart and ironic at some point. Probably about 1995. But now it just makes you wish they would say something good. And say it well.

On craft categories you are left thinking: are you really helping the idea come to life? Is it a better version of something done before? Or something totally new? If not, save your money.

Ultimately the realization from judging the first two days has been of the sheer volume of work being entered. Over 5,000 in our category. Of which our team has seen one-third. In total there 35,765 entries this year. And if that seems a lot then the real growth in numbers has come from a different source: the number of clients that will be attending. One in four of this year's 11,000 plus delegates will be clients. This is welcome. We should all be working on a unified agenda of better work leading to better results. But it will only start to pay off if we devote as much time to the crafting of concepts as we do to the crafting of the executions.

With the scale of the festival's success has come increased criticism at the money spent on coming here and the cost of the entries. It's not unreasonable to question it. But at the core of this exercise is a belief that ideas count for more than money. Without awards we would be reduced to measuring spend. And for most of us that would be a bleak and uninteresting prospect. So long live gongs. But let's push the ideas ahead of the techniques.

1 Comments

Steven said:

Very good points to learn from.

Whenever I see an ad with a generic proposition (ie. window spray that cleans windows), I know it is a made-up proposition. Take that to a real client in hope of geting paid and they will never see you again.

In the light of this, I wonder how the nanking massacre ads will do?

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