Why agencies will never can the Cannes

Another year, another Cannes wipe-out for UK direct agencies and their clients. Was it ever thus? Ask the die-hard Cannes attendees and you will discover things have never been quite the same since the good old days.
Exactly when those good old days were no-one can remember, but those with an enlarged hippocampus – the part of the brain that stores most, apparently – say they were glorious times.
At least that’s what they might be telling their finance chiefs as they cough up yet another €468 for each entry, plus flights and accommodation, not to mention the tab at the infamous Gutter Bar. Of course there are those who will always manage to sneak a week-long pass to the South of France, if only for global networking purposes. Others will justify it by claiming they can keep a finger on the pulse of creative innovation.
A quick look at the countries which do well in Cannes reveals many are in emerging markets, such as Brazil, where it is said creatives are feted by clients; they are trusted to do what they are paid to do – come up with great ideas that sell products. In the UK, it is argued, we have become bogged down in process, everything is much safer, clients are unwilling to take risks and creativity is stifled. Others claim it is because we have far stricter advertising regulation.
The truth is probably somewhere in between, but in emerging markets brand owners are fighting to get noticed and this forces them to find more creative solutions. Interestingly UK agencies have fared much better in the digital categories, with a haul of 16 awards, where this country is at the forefront of creative thinking.
But don’t think that winning awards is just an agency obsession. Of course, the days when clients picked agencies solely on awards may be gone, but you should never under-estimate the power of gold. Clients might bemoan turning up to black-tie dos, but you rarely see them complaining once they get their sticky fingers on a trophy.
One thing is certain, though, it is the clients who take risks who will walk away with the spoils.

Charlie McKelvey is publishing editor of DecisionMarketing

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