Quality takes the palm at Cannes

As the dust settles on another Cannes Festival, the world’s advertising agencies are left to review media coverage and evaluate their performance on a corporate and national level.

Europe’s advertising industry press agrees that Cannes 1998 has improved its creative standards since last year. The triumph of strong, simple ideas over production values led many commentators to identify and reward “realism” in advertising. Some called it “honesty”, others “verité”. Whatever the label, the emergence of this trend reflects a growing recognition that advertising is most powerful when achieving a clear insight into the essence of brands and communicating this with intelligence and imagination.

The introduction of Cannes Cyberlions – awards recognising the best new media campaigns – was also welcomed as a positive move. It confirms that interactive media is finding a place at the heart of commercial communications, rather than simply as a modish adjunct. That many of the new awards were picked up by interactive agencies with a background in traditional commercial communications rather than new media technology is further evidence that effective advertising originates from bold ideas.

Inevitably, the question of why some countries pick up more awards than others was again a subject for debate in Europe’s press. Last year, Jacques Séguéla voiced French frustration, and indeed that of other continental European countries, in arguing against the Anglo-Saxon bias of the festival. This year French commentators and agency chiefs adopted a more phlegmatic attitude to the dominance of the US, UK and Brazil. The French Cannes jury president, Jean-Marie Dru, told CB News that he had not expected France to win many Lions and pointed out that while Cannes may be the biggest of all the international festivals, it represents only 0.1 per cent of world production. He also noted that France was handicapped partly by language and partly by falling somewhere between the two poles of Latin and Anglo-Saxon cultures

Italy’s poor showing, however, did provoke some anger and recrimination. The Pubblico Today newsletter argued that the lack of Italian success was due not to weak creative work but to a failure of the Italian jurors to fight for Italian work. In response, one Italian juror pointed out that Cannes is no longer driven by lobbying and horse-trading, but by a genuine desire to reward the world’s best communications work.

The results of the 1998 festival, and indeed the comments they have provoked, suggest that advertising quality rather than nationality remains of paramount importance and that the world’s advertising community is increasingly attuned to the belief that the best advertising is that which transcends national boundaries through the power of simple ideas.

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