The Lion King: The Cannes Advertising Festival Is the Center of the World

By Wolff, Michael | ADWEEK, June 27, 2011 | Go to article overview

The Lion King: The Cannes Advertising Festival Is the Center of the World


Wolff, Michael, ADWEEK


This has been my first year at the Cannes lions festival.

Cannes is the premier advertising festival, but, considering that it is preceded by the much more famous Cannes Film Festival, it can't help but seem a little lame. When, at this time of the year, you say, "I'll be in Cannes," almost everyone outside of the advertising business will say brightly, "For the film festival?" And you must say, sheepishly, "No, for the advertising one."

The first International Advertising Film Festival in 1954, an effort to promote the creative bona tides of TV ads, had 187 entries representing 14 countries; the current one has 24,000 entries representing 90 countries--and 8,000 delegates. And yet, surely, advertising has even less respect and glamour now than it did then. A discordant note here for any outsider is the constant use of the word "creative" in a world where no one else thinks of advertising as a creative act. Movies are creative, advertising...well, hardly.

And yet, movies are a dwindling industry (at the film festival it is much more likely to meet people trying to codger a meal than people trying to buy you one), and its product, dominated by sequels and franchise concepts, is "creative" only by an imaginative leap (movies are surely as committee-driven, manipulative, and formulaic as ads). Say this for advertising, its very form and nature is now so open to debate, reinvention, and unlikely possibilities (the maker of Angry Birds declaring that his game is a much more effective ad medium than television) that this is as much an existential as a commercial event on the beach at Cannes. What once was a boondoggle in a serene climate for copywriters and art directors has turned into a marketplace full of dedicated and aggressive buyers and sellers in search of a product-one without clear form, defined outlet, or certain creator. Ads are not even called advertisements any more; they are called solutions.

Oh, and there is a lot of money here-and, it appears, a desperate desire to spend it on whatever it is that will solve all the problems.

The search for this solution to what remains, at best, a deep conundrum-how to reach an ever-more fractured, jaded, and unmindful audience-makes for an oddly metaphysical marketplace, and elevates the word creativity into even more mystical reaches. …

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