Claire Beale On Advertising: Proof that we Cannes make a difference

Last week was Cannes week. In boom time, that means that pretty much the entire London creative community with access to an expenses account decamps to the South of France for a few days of eating, drinking and messing about on yachts. In recession, it means that boasting about the size of your vessel has been replaced with boasting about the poverty of your accommodation. Some adlanders even took their tents but plenty didn't go at all.

Attendance, in the end, was down by about 40 per cent as the industry put aside pleasure for prudence. At every turn, money is seeping out of the business, so splashing some of it around on the Côte D'Azur was not for the nervous. In fact, as a result, Cannes was rather more purist than usual. This year it was a place for winners and for those agencies that have approached the economic downturn with ambition.

Oh, and it was also a place for the big network chiefs to play trumps with their contacts books. Really, it got a little out of hand. Publicis Groupe's chief exec Maurice Levy delivered Google boss Eric Schmidt as speaker; DDB snared Barack Obama's campaign manager David Plouffe; Young & Rubicam offered up The Who's Roger Daltrey and the music impresario Harvey Goldsmith. But Euro RSCG won the biggest headlines with Kofi Annan and Bob Geldof. If you were in any doubt, the seminars were at least as important as who won what in the Palais des Festivals this year.

In fact, the 56th Cannes Advertising Festival has thrown the whole value of creative awards into question. With almost half the industry bowing out, it is easier to ask whether such glitzy affairs and the trophies they confer have any real value in a world of unrelenting budgetary pressures and fearsome sales imperatives.

Advertising awards generally fall into two camps: those that concern themselves with an ad's style, imagery, design, innovation and all the other subjective criteria that together make it "creative" (or not), and those that worry with whether the beautifully crafted confection in question actually sold anything, or met any robust business criteria whatsoever.

The first sort of awards, the creative ones, oil the ad industry. Higher salaries, tempting job offers, better assignments will all flow towards those creatives with handsome trophy cabinets. And more advertisers spending more money and seeking better creativity will flow towards those agencies that employ such decorated creatives.

The second sort of awards, the ones about effectiveness, are testament to the power of advertising to oil other industries, building brands which, in turn, build balance sheets and strong economies.

These second sort of awards schemes are, in a recession where every penny spent has to deliver a real return, more important than ever. They help prove to those advertisers considering culling their campaign budgets that, rather than being a cost, advertising is an investment.

But the awards such as Cannes that celebrate creativity pure and simple are also more important than ever in a climate where clients are more risk-averse and more easily tempted to consider price over quality. Advertising is teetering on the brink of becoming a commodity, "bought" by the procurement directors at big companies on the basis of how cheap the ad agency will produce its work for.

But creativity, that wonderful, intangible magic that can produce the sort of advertising that touches us (oh, and which, as a consequence of that, actually sells us stuff), cannot be packaged as a commodity. It cannot be costed alongside paper clips and office furniture; it cannot be purchased simply on the basis of a cheap deal.

And that is why Cannes matters, recession or not. Seeking out and celebrating this sort of transformational creativity has never been more vital.

Best in Show: Volkswagen (DDB London)

*Talking of awards, DDB London has bagged a few this year for its print campaigns (Harvey Nichols and Marmite, in particular).

DDB also does fine work for Volkswagen. VW was named Advertiser of the Year at Cannes last week, so it seems appropriate to choose DDB's latest print work for the German car-maker as this week's Best in Show. The ads are typical DDB: clean layouts, crisp copywriting, elegant art direction. But they have few words, which is the point. VW's eco BlueMotion cars save fuel and cut emissions, So the ads cut words to create a simple, stand-out message.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Jay Z has placed a bet on streaming being the future for music and videos
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This publishing company based i...

Ashdown Group: Content Manager - Publishing

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Guru Careers: Report Writer / Reporting Analyst

£25 - 30k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Report Writer / Reporting Analyst is nee...

Guru Careers: German Speaking Account Manager / Account Executive

£24-30K + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A German speaking Account Manager ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own