1500 people -Are you kidding me? (From Adfreak)

And so I’ve come to the end of my duty as juror for the International Advertising Festival in Dubai. As I prepare for tonight’s awards ceremony followed by the long, long journey home (I leave at 2:30 AM!) I barely have time to compose this last post.

Unfortunately, I cannot discuss any of the winners, as the show has just started. Unlike Cannes, where leaks about prizes are commonplace, here they manage to keep a tight lid on matters. Complete secrecy maintains a level of excitement for the contestants and I don’t want to spoil it.

What I can say is that the finest work was found among press and posters. Why remains a mystery. Perhaps creatives are not beholden to local vendors for achieving their campaigns. As reported here (somewhat controversially), the television category was hit and miss, with more of the latter. As is the case in most such festivals, radio was the most challenging. In the end, numerous well-deserved medals were given in all categories. The ceremony should be a hit.

Even if some of the work is not to international standards, Dubai Lynx is by far the most sophisticated regional show I have ever experienced. Run by many of the same people who do Cannes, the size and professionalism of this event is unsurpassed. While similar events in the States comprise bigger names and more celebrated campaigns, the Lynx is a weeklong event, replete with seminars, workshops and glitzy guest speakers. I myself hosted a seminar today and found it to be most rewarding. Hopefully, the young Arabic students felt the same way!

Dubai is a modern city. Hell, most of it is younger than me! This includes the advertising industry. With everything growing and moving at such a furious pace, it’s hard to discuss themes and motifs. What’s the point? Chances are it will all be different next year!

*A special shout out to Phil for his patience and to the Dubai Flower, may she ever bloom!

Given we are in the so-called “creative awards” season I’d like to reflect on the notion of competition in our business. Hunting for awards is one of the ways we compete against each other. But the competition for new business is perhaps more grueling and, given one needs clients to make award-winning work, even more crucial to an agency’s livelihood.

In fact, I was so intrigued by the pursuit of new business, I actually wrote a book about it. The working title of that unpublished manuscript is “Fever Pitch” and it’s all about the pitching process and what it feels like to an agency and the people in it. I continue to be fascinated by rivalry between agencies, and the way in which we “play off” for a given client’s business.

The parallel to professional sports is both eerie and telling. Agencies are truly like ball clubs. We have coaches, star players, win-loss records, and even trade press following our progress.

Think about the competitive landscape in North America. Big cities (New York, Chicago, LA) have big agencies: JWT, Leo Burnett, DraftFCB as well as newer upstarts like my club, Euro RSCG. Smaller markets field some of the most competitive newcomers (relatively speaking), such as CP&B out of Miami and now Boulder. Or Fallon in Minneapolis. The metaphor gets better the more you play with it. For instance does not BBDO feel a lot like the New York Yankees? They win. They have pedigreed coaching. Big stars. And a stellar record in terms of new business and creative awards. I look at Crispin as an expansion team that shocked the world, kind of like the Tampa Bay Devil Rays during their World Series run. They might not like being tagged “lovable losers” but doesn’t Chicago’s own Leo Burnett remind one of the Chicago Cubs? Despite endless near misses and could haves and should haves, LBCO keeps pushing along, remaining a popular team regardless. And what about Management? Is Martin Sorrel the Steinbrenner of our business…or the Bill Wirtz?

Which team does your agency remind you of? And would you want to hang their pennant on your bedroom wall?

Paul Tilley vacated his post in unimaginably tragic fashion. But the fact remains DDB has no Chief Creative Officer. And now our creative community in Chicago finds itself beset by two more high profile defections: Mark Figliulo is leaving Y&R for a glitzy post at TBWA/CD in New York and Marty Orzio has resigned from Energy BBDO for an unknown job presumably in New York. Rounding out our foursome would be the long-time vacant spot at JWT.

Is this pattern indicative of something foul or is it merely coincidence?
Let’s review. One man committed suicide. The ECD from JWT was fired. Figliulo is taking an once-in-a-lifetime gig. And Marty Orzio is going home. Taken in the aggregate these circumstances hardly seem related or symptomatic of sea change.

Still, it does beg certain questions. Namely, is something wrong with our city’s advertising community? Last year Chicago’s creative awards show became almost as infamous as the great Clios fiasco in the late nineties. Look it up. Both shows were undone. The Clios are coming back. I am on a committee with other local creative directors to try and resurrect ours. Marty, Mark and Paul were on that committee. Clearly, we have our work cut out for us.

I do think we are our own worst enemies. Creatives are a cynical lot. Shadenfreud is real in our ranks, and not just in Chicago but everywhere. A byproduct of competition and creative insecurity, it always will be.

Yet, I don’t think Chicago is beset by worse circumstances than any other city. Orzio’s beloved New York has not been a Mecca of creativity for decades. And Figliulo is taking the reigns at a shop in more disarray than the one he’s leaving.

Other than a handful of shops around the country, who’s really tearing it up? Crispin. WK. BBDO. Not many.

In short, things are tough all over. But I like our chances –both my shop and Chicago’s. At Euro RSCG, the bleeding from previous years has stopped. And while I can’t rightfully speak for any other agency in town, A number of them are very capable of opening up their creative engines.

Some prominent ECDs are leaving, yes. But look at it this way. Now we have choice jobs in play. Who out there will fill them?


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