Sid Lee's Dan Chandler on Cannes, Publicis and AI
Whether it turns out to be the next Microsoft Clippy (R.I.P.) or a ground-breaking innovation that turns Publicis into the Amazon of advertising, one thing is clear: Marcel was a statement of intent from Arthur Sadoun. At a time when the big networks are under intense pressure to modernise, to become more nimble and to curb the excess of old, this was the new leadership announcing that they would be putting innovation before excess and focusing all their efforts on driving efficiencies for their clients. So, whether it’s just a symbolic gesture or putting a positive spin on cost-cutting measures, it was a neat piece of PR that made for a pretty compelling headline for Publicis.
More broadly speaking, A.I. and machine learning will surely dominate everything from consumer electronics to customer services over the coming years, but for every ingenious digital assistant that is able to provide answers to your every unspoken question, you’ll also get a smart toothbrush that wants to teach you Portuguese. As with any period of rapid evolution, it’s going to be a battle for survival, so there likely to be just as many evolutionary dead ends as there will be successes.
Publicis withdrawing from awards shows
Spending $10,000 to travel to the French Riviera to stay in a plush hotel, drink your body weight in rosé and maybe, if you are lucky, glance at a couple of ads in the fleeting moments between sobering up and hitting the terrace, does feel like the modern day equivalent of a five Martini lunch and a six figure expense account. Of course, this is a bit of a caricature, but I do feel that there has been an increasing sense of unease within the industry, as some of the more excessive aspects of Cannes don’t really reconcile with the other measures that agencies are taking to modernise. While this is definitely not the end of Cannes, it is a wake-up call. I do believe that other agencies will give it a pass next year, as it’s becoming increasingly hard to justify. However, there will always be a place in our industry for celebrating the greatest creative work and there will always be a value placed on the inspiration that can be found there, but for Cannes to not lose out to a new generation of industry gatherings, they have to get back to focusing on what made it great in the first place.
With a busy summer of work to do and increasing difficulty justifying the investment, our Cannes contingent was pretty light this year. When it came to the work, the one that fascinated me most was the Fearless Girl campaign, it seemed to represent some of the greatest aspects of our industry, as well as some of the greatest questions that we have yet to answer. On the plus side, it was a remarkable piece of creative, with an incredibly powerful message. I mean, who would have thought that what was effectively an advert could become one of the most visited tourist attractions in New York? It is an incredible testament to the cultural impact that great creative work can have. But on the other hand, it raised a lot of questions too: was it okay for a commercially sponsored piece of communications to subvert the meaning of a work of art that had been donated to city? And in an age where purpose-led marketing has become an effective marketing tool, what responsibility does an agency have to make sure their clients live up the purpose they want them to sell?