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IHAVEANIDEA.ORG > articles >  Cannes Will Never Be The Same, Fortunately

Cannes Will Never Be The Same, Fortunately

Posted on December 14, 2011 and read 5,005 times

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rijkenberg Cannes Will Never Be The Same, FortunatelyJan Rijkenberg
Founding CEO
BSUR Amsterdam

I don’t know when it was exactly, but it was roughly ten years ago. I wasn’t enjoying the Cannes Festival anymore. Why, I thought, I have had great fun here for years? What’s changed?

After giving it some serious thought, I knew: absolutely nothing.

There I was, at one of the DDB, TBWA or whatever ‘networks I once worked for’ parties, looked around, seeing what I’ve always seen – same kind of party, same kind of people, same kind of music overkill that didn’t help me chatting with my former colleagues. Is this all there is?

Come Thursday night and I see my Dutch colleagues discussing the TV shortlist results for the Netherlands. Two nominations less than last year (sad faces), or two more (joy everywhere). But once again, for the same old clients: the insurance company with the humour approach; that car account; the candy bar. Always the same agencies milking awards out of the same clients. Really, is that all there is?

What about other clients? Those other 80% we never hear about. What about celebrating new categories that had just recently been introduced? Why no cheering when an agency wins there? Instead, there was an overwhelming sense of “Oh yeah, congratulations, maybe better next year in TV, mate!” It was clear the ‘TV generation’ felt it was their festival; they were there to win the awards that would make or keep them famous. Is that all there is? Yes, for them it was. For me it wasn’t. And that is why, when walking along the Croisette a decade ago, watching the circus, I suddenly felt a strong emptiness. I went home earlier that year.

Fortunately, we humans tend to forget the negative sooner than the positive. And anyway, we have this rhythm of booking the same hotel for the next year every year, and we hadn’t cancelled it. And then there was an email from a Japanese agency looking for a partner in Europe: “We assume you will be in Cannes, we will be there too, can we have lunch, please?” So, here we go again. As we did the year after, and the year after that.

Ten years on? Now I enjoy it more than ever before. My maudlin mood a decade earlier had to do with the ‘in between generations’ momentum. An energy where everybody knows times are changing because things need to change. But people just can’t.

Cannes will never be the same. Creatives at my agency hardly go into the Palais to watch movies for hours, like they would have done previously. Why would they? They’re so connected these days. Anything screened in a festival hall these days has already been seen on the web. Creatives – anyone – have already shared their favourites online, commented on them, and read what others think of the ‘best of breed’ creative work. What they did do, is go to many, many seminars. About up-and-coming technologies, about recent social media developments. And so much more.

There is yet more new fun. The ‘other categories’ are no longer seen as ‘also rans’, treated as minorities, but integral to the mix. After all, this is where the youngest generation of creatives started. Their kick comes from a couple of million likes on Facebook worldwide and an integrated campaign strategy, rather than from one TV commercial screened in one country. Once.

Many years ago I heard gossipy critics of Cannes juries moan that “fewer awards went to the old world, since now those pesky Brazilians, Japanese, Koreans or whoever are on the juries. They don’t understand our work. Damn!” A clearer example of tunnel vision is hard to find. Ten years later, in 2010, the ad industry is deservedly awarding the likes of Romania, South Korea, India and China. As it should be. My favourite? I like the JWT Shanghai ‘Heaven and Hell’ ad for Samsonite. A piece of work that is different, and could not have been made by the old Anglo-American world that dominated our business (and the Cannes Festival) for so many decades. Shame on whose headline in their 27 June article this year still says ‘underdogs’ prevail at Cannes. Wakey wakey!

So here we are today and Cannes is finally starting to represent what the world and our industry is about. No Anglo-American dominance, but instead inspirational new cultures coming up with ideas never created before. Not so much TV dominance, but a wide range of categories and media reflecting today’s complex, fragmented communication platforms. As an industry we can always do with seeing excellent work, as well as learning about what will become the new opportunities for communication tomorrow.

And what a joy, to meet and exchange views with people from the ‘new world.’ Sure, they were around ten years ago, but we didn’t integrate with them, for all sorts of reasons. Now a greater percentage of the world speaks business English better than ever, and this in itself enables a healthier mix of ideas and cultures within our industry. For that alone I am so happy that Cannes will never be the same.




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