‘Advertising has gotten a bit too serious’ - Four-panel multiple Grand Prix winners Cannes Lions 2019 on a changing ad industry
Posted on September 17, 2019 | By Nils Adriaans

Cannes Lions' four multiple Grand Prix winners share their take on how they see advertising changing – for better or worse?

In an era where agencies, tech companies, consultants, brands, media outlets and production companies fight over creativity on the one hand (all those huge companies swirling around like vultures) – to reinvent branding and advertising in a world that’s rapidly changing. But where short termism rules and creative effectiveness is in a crisis on the other, we must ask ourselves: what can we, human(e)ly possible, create?

Who better to ask this question than those who are actually unbelievably creative: the biggest winners of Cannes Lions.

 

All creative people get restless

Laurie Howell and Toby Treyer-Evans, a pair of British born creatives working as Group Creative Directors at Droga5 New York, won Grand Prix in the prestigious categories Film Craft and Film with the infamous ‘The Truth is Worth It’-campaign for The New York Times.

 

What was so ultimately special or different about your winning work?

Howell: ‘Advertising can often be in the business of embellishment, of decoration. What seems so special about this work is that we were able to use creativity to tell the truth. The stories and the films had to live by the same standards and rigor that journalism does.’

Treyer-Evans: ‘Ultimately, the idea of the rewriting headline sits at the heart of it – it was designed to drop you into the consciousness of the journalist and discover the story with them, as if they think that way. Bringing the type, the sound and the imagery together was a dance, but it put you in their shoes in a new way. People seemed to feel that.’

How do you see this industry/festival changing, for the better or worse?

Howell: ‘Hard to say. For the better, you’d hope. We’ll all have to stay relevant. You’d like to think the industry will get odder, richer and more differently shaped than it currently is – inventors, filmmakers and businesspeople all in one big, smart bucket.’

Treyer-Evans: ‘Advertising for advertising’s sake can be boring and wasteful, but ideas on the other hand can change things. Hopefully the work we all do will continue to be held to that and will have to live more meaningfully in the world to count.’

Ultimately, we’re in the business of applied arts/creativity and ideas, what would you like to create if possible?

Howell & Treyer-Evans: ‘Wouldn’t this give the game away? But starting out as product/industrial designers, nothing is off the table. All creative people get restless, so it’s exciting to think what could be ‘round the corner.’

 

There has never been a better time to be a creative

Hugo Viega and Diego Machado from AKQA São Paolo won two Grand Prix in two categories with two different pieces of work in a span of two days, which was unprecedented: the video ‘Bluesman’ which won a Grand Prix in the Entertainment for Music category (together with Childish Gambino’s video ‘This is America’) and the second one was Air Max ‘Graffiti Stores’ for Nike in the Media category.

 

What was so ultimately special or different about your – both pieces of – winning work?

Viega: ‘Both ideas show use the power of culture to fight forms of society oppression. Bluesmen not only used music, but semiotic in both design and photography to fight institutional racism. The Air Max Graffiti Stores found a way to get people closer to street culture after the governor erased hundreds of pieces of art. The projects are a clear statement of how our industry and brands have the power to have a positive impact on society combined with great business results.’

How do you see this industry/festival changing, for the better or worse?

Machado: ‘Cannes is proving that Traditional Advertising is a thing of the past. Brands are now reinventing themselves, searching for innovative formats to stay in touch and stay relevant with their consumers. The overall work is truly inspirational and this is still the most important festival of our industry.’

Ultimately, we’re in the business of applied arts/creativity and ideas, what would you like to create if possible?

Viega; ‘At AKQA São Paulo, we're in a quest to create our own products and (business) opportunities, and become our own clients. Our dream is to create something with the power to change a particular problem worldwide.’

Anything else you want to share? Please do, and don't hold back...

Machado: ‘I just want to say that there's never been a better time to be a creative in our industry. Well... there were the Mad Men times, where salaries and glamour were shinier. But to be able to have so many innovative tools and platforms to apply our most creative thoughts is truly a bless.’

 

Advertising is becoming bigger than well… just advertising

Copywriters Dylan Lee and Alex Romans and art director Sara Phillips from Wieden+Kennedy Portland created ‘Dream Crazy’ for Nike, which won the Outdoor Grand Prix and inaugural Grand Prix in the new Entertainment for Sport Lions.

 


What are the new standards for outstanding work, or what criteria does outstanding work have to meet in this day and age?

Romans: ‘It doesn’t really matter how much things change: I think the criteria for outstanding work stays the same. A great idea or a great story, executed with great craft. It’s as simple (and as hard) as that.’

Lee: ‘This is a tough one, and it often depends on the medium. A lot of work can seem gimmicky. Attention spans are getting shorter and shorter, and much of the world is addicted to screens and social media, so advertising needs to quickly cut through. But if so much work is a quick joke or gimmick, then to stand apart, we need to rise above that sometimes. People still love movies and books, so if you tell a better story, you can stand out.’

Phillips: ‘A great idea or narrative stands the test of time. A thought that resonates, challenges, or inspires is powerful across all mediums and agnostic of time. So ultimately, the criteria stay the same. It needs to cut through.’

How do you see this industry/festival changing, for the better or worse?

Romans: ‘The whole world feels pretty serious at the moment, and as a result, I think the industry is feeling the need to put meaningful stuff out there versus frivolous or silly stuff. Maybe if 2020 goes okay (fingers crossed) we’ll start to see the pendulum swing in the opposite direction.’

Lee: ‘If you look at what won this year, including a lot of the work from my own agency, the theme was very apparent: social causes win. We are in a very liberal industry, and a lot of us have realized that we want to say something that helps move the world forward. With advertising becoming bigger than advertising, we’re doing something more meaningful and it’s making our industry better. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy and everyone is on board. I’m a big fan of using ads to do good, but not every assignment (or judge’s decision) calls for a public service announcement.’

Phillips: ‘I think it’s been powerful to see brands taking a stand and to see advertising that’s reflective of that this year, but I would hope that a good mix is preserved. The power of laughter is not to be underestimated, and hopefully a balance between both poles is struck.’

Ultimately, we’re in the business of applied arts/creativity and ideas. What would you like to create if human(e)ly possible?

Romans: ‘How about an award show where instead of trophies, every winner gets a lottery ticket for a chance to win all the entry fees.’

Lee: ‘I would invent the Longer-Attention-Span-Enabler. (I guess it would have to be an app.)’

Phillips: ‘Money that grows on trees or a Coke Super Bowl spot idea, whichever comes first.’

 

Making people laugh seems to have become an underrated art form

Laszlo Szloboda, Associate Creative Director at FCB New York, one of the creatives behind Burger King’s ‘Whopper Detour’: this year’s biggest, triple Grand Prix winner (in Direct, Mobile and Titanium) of Cannes Lions.

 

What was so ultimately special or different about your winning work?

Szloboda: ‘Whopper Detour was one of those campaigns that totally goes against logic. Burger King (BK) had already offered people a Whopper for a penny if they downloaded the new app, which didn’t work very well – this did: sending BK customers to unlock the offer in enemy territory, making the promo fairly complicated, running a how-to promo film that’s almost 2 minutes long – we broke a lot of unwritten marketing rules, just because we figured that if people think “this is fun!”, they’d do it. And they did.’

How do you see this industry/festival changing, for the better or worse?

Szloboda: ‘We are in a new era of mass communication and that should be exciting. A lot more hyper-targeted work is being done largely due to the internet, and marketers now know a lot more about who they are talking to. How we use this knowledge creatively and without being invasive is going to be interesting. But we will use it – especially for BK ;)’

Ultimately, we’re in the business of applied arts/creativity and ideas, what would you like to create if possible?

Szloboda: ‘I think advertising has gotten a bit too serious in recent years, funny campaigns are barely awarded any more, as they aren’t aiming to change the world. But not every campaign should change the world, so I would love to bring back comedy one way or another into the spotlight. After all, it doesn’t hurt to make funny stuff, we’ve shown that. But making people laugh seems to have become an underrated art form.’