There can be only one word to describe my first day at Cannes Lions 2012. Party. This has nothing, however, to do with red faced Swedish people singing loud tequila-inspired cross country skiing folk songs at the Gutter Bar. It concerns a short, funny Japanese man (not sure of his name, they all look the same to me, haha, ethnic joke, cue social media damnation ). The man works for an agency called Party, in Tokyoand he is very clever and inspiring and, quite frankly, makes the rest of us look quite shit. Shit is a word that came up fairly frequently in his seminar. He said we ad folk are all shit and our work is mostly shit and our clients, they’re shit too. Strangely, people quite liked this and clapped. Of course our shitness, or possible confirmation of it, is something we creative people are instinctively terrified of. Perhaps everyone was quite relieved that someone had finally come out and said it.
Anyhow Morihiro Harano(you see, I do know his name) went on to explain why we are shit. You see, we have been working the same way, art director-copywriter teams, with the same mediums – Print, Promotions, PR, TV, Web for nearly 60 years. Yet we are supposed to be the edgy, frontier-testing cowboys. His, agency, Party, is finding new ways to work, which are producing incredible and smart solutions to client problems. Not ads so much as product ideas, design solutions, strategy interventions. He showed us some of this work and it really is very good, best of all very little of it could be classified as ads, creative yes, ads – definitely not.
That really has been the theme so far this year- changing the way we do everything. As the nice, softly spoken Swede (they’re bloody everywhere aren’t they?) said in the goviraltalk this morning, “We are in the middle of the single greatest change in consumer behaviour in the history of advertising.” The key themes are shaping up already. Social is everywhere, in everything, it’s about groups not individuals. Brand utility, doing something or being something for people, is more important than ever. Content and entertainment and interactive storytelling are the most common tools. And boy does it show when you look at the work. For years I have been coming here listening to people spouting on about digital and social and how interactivity will change everything. Well now it bloody has. The king is dead folks, long live the king.
Take a look at the shortlisted work in the direct category. It is astounding in it’s breadth and quality, in the deep tech that is embedded in so many of the ideas, in the wonderful twisty, unpredictable nature of the storytelling. There is the potential Grand Prix in the “Connecting Lifelines” work for Honda out of Japan. They updated GPS systems to include only the roads that were open after the tsunami hit. Once again a brand going beyond advertising and doing something that builds true affinity. The Audi “Fan messenger” from Kempertrautmann is a wonderful example of how new tech can breed brilliant possibilities. Also a potential Gold, I think, even if it does have hints of Nike “Chalkbot”. Then there’s the “Blood relations” activation created by Baumann Ber Rivnay Saatchi and Saatchi Israel. We often talk about social tension, but this piece has it in buckets. The South African work is there too, which is quite an achievement on this Rolls Royce of Shortlists. Our very own Be the Coach piece seems to be popular, thank heavens. And Metro’s Wimpy Braille Burgers is popping up everywhere. KingJames are in the game too with their superb “Back at ya” work for Sanlam. In all some of the best work I have seen for a long time.
Whatever this thing is that we’ve been banging on about for the past few years, it’s definitely here. Tech is hooking up with social, interactivity is serving the drinks and digital is providing the 5 star accommodation. If you’re not embracing all of these things, if they are not truly (I say truly because a lot of us are still pretending) part of the DNA of your agency, then run as fast as you can towards it. Or alternatively you should just run away. Now I am going to go to bed, and contemplate my shitness. And think what the bloody hell I’m going to do about it.