A Mannes in Cannes: Shortlist Monday

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As I write this the Dutch Young Creatives party is going full tilt across the road from our apartment. This is a bit like Armageddon at 160 beats per minute. The DJ has just played a set composed almost exclusively of themes from 80’s and 90’s video games. They are now thrashing around to Die Antwoord which, apart from inspiring a bout of masochistic patriotism, seems appropriate. Every now and then loud hill-billy like screams rise up out of the music, as if to suggest one of the Dutch Creatives has perhaps found the block of hash that went missing while flailing wildly to the tune of Pacman moments earlier.

Shortlist Monday began much earlier though, with Jack Black and Yahoo on stage for a seminar. I am not quite sure of Jack’s connection with Yahoo, neither was Jack for that matter ( it appears he may be making “content” with them) but let’s face it, Yahoo needs all the help it can get at this stage. Jack Black had the pleasant outlook of someone who went to bed drunk and woke up still feeling fairly tipsy. He was funny and said the word “internets” a lot, which I think was his way of trying to pay his dues. Also on stage was a fuzz-faced 17 year old in bright yellow trainers named Nick D’Aloisio. Nick was having a good day, in fact it is safe to say Nick is having a good life. At the age of 15 he raised enough venture capital to launch Summly, a news aggregation program which he recently sold to Yahoo for 15 million dollars. Nice one Nick. As I said, Yahoo needs all the help it can get, especially from brilliant 17 year olds in yellow trainers.

It was Shortlist Monday, so the Palais was filled with neurotic ECD’s charging up and down the display boards trying to find their work. The search was partially successful in South Africa’s case, with a fair smattering of Shortlists jumping Donkey Kong-like into view (the video game metaphor decision is one I am beginning to regret so I may not persist with it). I am backing the “Selfies” campaign for Cape Times to collect metal, perhaps Gold, in Press or Outdoor. South Africa was well represented in Outdoor, not so much in Promo and Direct and PR. That’s important to note, because the interesting, gamechangy work is happening in those categories, so we need to be stronger there.

One of the highlights of yesterday was an unscheduled meeting with Sir Donald Gunn, he of the fabled and crucial Gunn Report rankings. I call him Uncle Donald, because he is an old mate of my dad’s and also because it greatly elevates my self esteem by mentioning that. Besides offering a gratuitous name dropping opportunity, coffee with Uncle Donald was important for another reason, he is very plugged in, and we had a lovely chat about the potential Film Grand Prix. Of course the crowd favourite is already Dumb Ways to Die from McCann’s Melbourne (they were clapping and singing along with it at the ceremony last night already). However the Chairperson of the Film Jury is a certain Sir John Hegarty, a difficult and contrarian and brilliant adman, who is unlikely to let the jury default to populist choices. Uncle Donald seems to think it will be a straight fight between the wonderful “Susan Glenn” story for Axe and the DWTD (this abbreviation of Dumb Ways to Die now being necessary because of serial mentions that will greatly increase my word count, although this lengthy explanation of the abbreviation has kind of defeated the object a bit). Thing is, said Sir Donald, the Susan Glenn film is by Hegarty’s own agency BBH. So the plot is simmering into a nice thick fishy provencal broth on that one.

In the early evening we took our place in the queue behind the 2 thousand Japanese creatives (who had been waiting patiently for 5 hours in order to secure picture friendly seats) for last night’s ceremony. First up was PR. I must say PR is becoming increasingly crucial to what we do, and the work progressively more interesting. I suppose the rise of “native” advertising is driving that to some extent ( mentioning “native” advertising as often as possible seems to be very trendy at Cannes) I have yet to find out what it is but when I do all will be revealed. I loved the Google Plus work by Ogilvy Paris, “Same Sex Marriage”, proof that you can create a story around the story with masterful PR, or “newscrafting”.

Predictably the Dove “Sketches” work from Ogilvy Brasil won multiple Gold Lions, including a few for PR. It got a huge cheer. It is now one of the most watched pieces of content (lank points for mentioning “content” again) of all time, the cats will not be pleased. Biggest PR cheer of the night was for an idea we could do with in South Africa, from Voskhod Yekaterinburg in Russia for the ura.ru City website. Check it out, really smart and funny. The Grand Prix in PR went to DWTD by McCann’s Melbourne, I suspect the first of a few Grand Prix for them this week. Warning : if you watch the case study the tune will lodge in your head for days, which is probably better than carrying around the theme from Donkey Kong that currently haunts me.

Next up was Promo and Activation. I loved, and always have loved, the work for the London Borough of Greenwich by OgilvyOne London Group. It is important if only for the fact that it uses a behavioural economics insight, something which will come to define our industry over the next few years, I suspect. The Grand Prix went to a fabulous idea from Ogilvy Brazil for Sport Club Recife FC. It has everything, drama, huge emotional appeal, a public service spin and to top it all a simply brilliant idea. Advertising that saves lives will always transfix a jury. Ogilvy Brasil went on to win 8 Gold and a Grand Prix last night, they are now the Usain Bolts of the ad world, making all the rest of us feel inadequate and weedy.

I was a bit disappointed with the Direct Lions. There has always been a preponderance of Charity and PSA work at Cannes, the obvious emotional appeal of causes and appeals makes it an easy target for awards hungry agencies. But as a jury, and especially as a Chairperson, you need to accept and try and mentally account for that. Not the Direct Jury. Oh no, they were flinging Gold Lions at charity work like French Air Traffic Controllers chucking stale baguettes at a wildcat strike. Mark Tutssel, the Chairperson of the Direct Jury, should stand on a street corner and self-flagellate, possibly with a stale baguette. If I was a client watching that lot I’d be pissed off. Then the Direct panel topped it off with the monumental howler of the week so far and gave the Grand Prix to a film, DWTD. Yes, there’s was a reachy attempt by the agency to make it a “direct” idea, but come on Direct Jury, get a freaking grip people.

Last up was the first Effectiveness Lions. A nice sprinkling of work with once again some decisions more questionable than a Bafana Bafana defensive performance. They gave an effectiveness award to John Lewis for, er, being brave enough to run some lovely commercials. Brilliant. They redeemed themselves somewhat by giving a Lion to American Express for Small Business Saturday, but they will have to do better next year.

Well done to the lads and lasses at Y&R SA who picked up 2 Silvers last night for their “Hope Soap” idea. Apart from that the SA pickings were lean. Tuesday sees the Cyber Shortlist, so we’ll find out if Graham Warsop’s case of Champagne will be liberated this year or not. I must say I do fancy striding into his office and lifting it off the Chesterfield. If we don’t Shortlist then, well, there will be much flailing of arms and moaning and drowning of sorrows in bottles of Rose served by diffident and unsympathetic waiters. We live and hope though.

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