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“You’re in the great game now…”

Adweek published a story asking the big winners at Cannes 2016 what their “secrets to success” were. You could read the article here or just stay with me and I’ll tell you how to win at Cannes. Forget analysis and trendspotting. Don’t be mystified by all the never-ending categories either. Winning at Cannes has more or less relied on the same formula for years.

First and foremost, do great work. Then get it seen and talked about. This one-two punch, by the way, is the same formula for ANY awards show.

Ideally, at least some of your great work should be real. Real means it went through the gauntlet known as your client (not to mention your agency’s often debilitating process) was brilliantly produced, ran in genuine media, and received boffo results.

Enter the shit out of it.

But, dear friends, you know as well as I do, that it doesn’t end there.

Long ago intrepid creatives learned how to game the system. At first simple cheating, what this looks like now is far more, shall we say, ornate. Boiled down it means mimicking the legitimate. Something like this: Create gorgeous work, share it with select others internally, maybe have a friendly client smile at it wistfully, then run it on your own dime somewhere cost efficient or, even free, like posters at the local coffee shop or via some innocuous website. Take a bunch of pictures of it “in situation,” make a case study video and voila: you have award show bait!

Enter the shit out of it.

Professional winners have huge budgets for entering shows and a complicit team doing it. Mixing in fake campaigns with real creates a juggernaut that is hard to untangle. A few real pieces win; a few scams. Who knows which is which? Who cares – the agency clearly does good work.

Be part of a network that knows all the ins and outs. Networks have a regular, sustained presence and they will massage the process to help you win. Networks know people in high places. Networks get judges into shows. Networks have wags who do interviews, predictions and the like i.e. Global Creative Directors. Networks do PR. Networks spend money.

Gaming the system has become the system. Varying degrees of corruption are tolerated for the greater good. A few unfortunates get caught and thrown to the –ahem- lions. The rest is the rest. If it looks like a winner and comes from a winner then, by golly, it is a winner!

The agencies that won the most at Cannes do all of the above, legitimately and otherwise. Been this way for years.

You can lick the PR with a spoon.

Here are some of the big Lion winners for direct marketing, promotion and PR, by client: The Obama campaign, Hagan Dazs, Queensland Tourism, Guinness, and DeBeers Diamonds. There were others but the above-mentioned fared particularly well. Queensland Tourism managed to get the Grand Prix in both PR and Direct.

Look at that list again. What do these seemingly disparate interests have in common, besides excellent campaigns in their behalf? They are all very wonderful things…

Even if one voted against him, the idea of President Obama was pretty spectacular. Electing a black President elicited tears of joy from even die hard Republicans…some anyway. And who doesn’t love ice cream, particularly the Haagen Dazs variety? Guinness is an icon for pleasure. Diamonds are a girl’s best friend. And the other is an exotic travel destination.

These were clients who, frankly, didn’t need marketing or PR.

In support of Droga5’s wickedly funny “Great Schlep” campaign the jury held up Obama’s win as an example of its effectiveness. Of course everyone in the French theater applauded. But seriously, was Obama’s campaign ever really in doubt? More to the point does anyone out there honestly think this edgy little film helped get him elected?

Dramatizing the awesomeness of beer, ice cream and diamonds seems like driving a Ferrari fast. I’m not sure if doing good work is easier for clients with pleasure built into their DNA but it can’t hurt. Think about it. There is no problem for the marketing to solve. PR is not in damage control. It is, as we say in America, all good!

This is not an indictment of any of these fabulous contenders, merely an observation. Perhaps none of them needed marketing. But what’s even better they wanted it.

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From Talent Zoo, #canneslions