Cannes Lions Diary: Creativity beats a crisis any day

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If print media is dead, no-one told the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival.

The paper shortlists, released this morning, for the year’s best marketing campaigns weigh about the same as a novel. And they do not yet include television and the internet, the two most-awaited categories.

With a 12.5 per cent rise in this year’s awards entries, there is little sign of the advertising industry reported to be in an existential crisis triggered by the rise of digital, mass media’s waning and the spread of “No Logo” anti-branding sentiments among consumers. 

Some 24,863 entries from 81 countries have been submitted to the 53rd Cannes Lions, prompting unlikely speculation this could be the year China (internet entries - 33) wins its second “Cyber” Lion or Indonesia (internet entries - 1) its first.

And although submissions are being judged on creative rather than anything so vulgar as selling power, the industry’s “suits” can afford to sound upbeat.

For the first time since the decade began, all 56 national markets measured by Initiative, the media buying network, are predicted to show increased advertising spend this year.

Asia is set to overtake Western Europe as the world’s second largest advertising market, according to the same forecast. And internet advertising is growing at a rapid clip everywhere, including emerging markets such as central and eastern europe. Almost $400bn could be spent on global media advertising in 2006.

So as executives descend on the French Riviera resort - those who have truly arrived come via yacht and helicopter, the still-aspiring take cabs - grounds for optimism are not hard to find. 

True, the seminars which accompany the frequent awards announcements include titles such as “Hire them before they steal your job” and “The strange death of modern advertising”.

But the over-riding theme of the festival - ”Where do the best ideas come from?” - is large enough for every sector and every agency, large or small, to make a case for its enduring relevance in the age of MySpace, the community website, and other me-generated media. 

And they do. With typical bullishness, one event promises to reveal ”Tomorrow’s communication today”. Confusingly, it has already happened by the time this is written. Does that make it yesterday’s tomorrow’s communication today?

Such timetable clashes are an inescapable part of the week long event, which includes a daily diet of seminars and workshops, hourly screenings, and an exhibition of other work. 

In Cannes, there is always too much choice. Delegates can choose between listening to Michael Golden, publisher of the International Herald Tribune, on the future of newspapers. Or they can see Martin Sheen, the actor who plays the US president in ”The West Wing” television series, speaking on popular culture. Or they can do both.

And it could be argued that whole official event at the quayside Palais is a sideshow to the flurry of meetings in hotels, yachts and out of town villas between the agency and client executives who come here once a year to pitch and bitch and poach.

This week’s announcement by the Global Media Aids Initiative that leading advertising agencies and media owners are joining forces to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS, should remind delegates of the relatively minor dramas being played out over the next six nights at this year’s festival. But it probably won’t.

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