Cannes 2018: Why it's Okay for Creative to Not Have a Point
As management consultants disparage the agency model all the while continuing to create what are in fact agencies to gobble up agency revenue, we in the ad agency world are hit with an existential crisis. Companies like PwC and McKinsey, who only four or five years ago still seemed out of place in Cannes are now taking centre stage, bravely teaching advertising to the ad industry. Cannes is no longer for or about the ad agency. How did that happen?
Cannes is our Oscars. It’s our NASCAR. It’s advertising’s birthday and stag party combined. Cannes gave creativity’s intangible nature the confidence to exist in a pragmatic business landscape. We all realise that the general purpose of our craft is to help businesses succeed so I don’t pretend that what we do is creativity for the sake of itself, although one can argue that Cannes is exactly that. But I say that that’s ok. In fact, that’s the point.
Cannes should have been our Alamo yet somehow, we abandoned it almost immediately after other industries set sights on advertising’s revenue. Publicis pulling out of this year’s Cannes event to follow a decentralised staffing model couldn’t have been a more telling sign of power transfer as Mad Men step aside for the Math Men.
Walled garden creative is popularly written off and the effect is replicable with the assistance of AI and programmatic. Maybe. But then again, I’m a sucker for the imperfect humanity of weird ideas and the fingerprints left behind by a practitioner.
This is Cannes and it’s ok for it to be different from that what truly drives industry. I believe that Cannes-bound creative doesn’t necessarily have to sell product or drive engagement. It’s ok for this event to be about the aesthetic. Cannes should be about agencies and artists showing off their chops. A pageant of riffing.
The reality of what we do day to day and our accountability to our clients will ensure that we create work that drives business forward. There is after all a need to pay salaries and rent. But Cannes is something else. It’s supposed to be intangible, aesthetically driven. Inaccessible. You’re not supposed to be able to 'just go' there. It’s ad’s event. It’s meant to be the thing that sets the advertising industry on a pedestal. And the thing that sets it apart.
So what am I doing to make sure that Cannes remains advertising’s secret sauce? Nothing. I’m not even going this year. We’ll just have to crack open a bottle of rosé here at the office instead. As we fine tune the programmatic for our next campaign.
Alex Shifrin is managing partner at LP/AD