Poaching Lions: the bloodlust of Deitloff
June 21, 2008
I’m at the Leo Burnett Party (another global disco affair, this time at the Palm Casino), a German creative director –I’ll call him Deitloff- asks me how I’m doing. I say I’m doing fine, it’s the south of France, the weather is delightful, my wife and I haven’t fought in days… Deitloff stops me. “No, I mean how are you doing with ze Lions?” Oh. That. Well, I tell him, “I got my clock cleaned.” Probably not understanding the reference, he walks off into the laser strobes wondering what the hell is wrong with these Americans.
Deitloff’s sweaty, German intensity about winning Lions bears discussion. Because, there is, and always will be, an obsessive majority of Lion hunters at Cannes. Indeed, around the world, so many creative departments are shaped around this festival. A former colleague told me his current agency in Paris assembles a group of its most promising creatives 6 months in advance of Cannes and its only job is to develop creative to win at Cannes. How it works is the creative is done for current clients without their knowledge and then introduced to them later, packaged with other work from another brief. In America we call this “pork.”
What do you think, Gentle Reader –Is this a brilliant strategy or a bogus move? Either way, it does increase the chances of winning. It also is a breeding ground for scam ads or what the French agencies like to call “ghosts.” If bunches of beautiful campaigns are done in advance of Cannes, and only a few get bought by real clients, what happens to all those gorgeous adverts standing in line? They sneak in.
According to my source, even those that do get “bought” by the client are often masquerading as legitimate. In fact, the client has only given the work his tacit approval. The agency pays for its production. If the client has offered any money whatever it generally has come from another budget’s slush fund. Pork. No wonder, then, so many glorious 2-page spreads at the festival but not in magazines and newspapers!
Often this “legitimate” advertising gets a free ride to the awards ceremony because the real fake ads are considered the ones for law firms and restaurants, small businesses that clearly have no advertising budgets.
But scam ads take many forms. When Lion hunting is taken very seriously there is likely to be some poaching. Ask Deitloff, if you can pry him from the dance floor.