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One Lion is apparently enough.

The great irony from the Cannes International Festival of Advertising is that by far the biggest story coming from this famously bloated bacchanal is that the new leader of Publicis Group, Arthur Sadoun decreed in the forthcoming year zero euros will be spent on advertising award shows! Instead, Publicis has introduced a Siri-like App called Marcel (named after Publicis’ founder), which will unite the holding company’s agencies into a “Power of One.” Furthermore, Arthur stated unequivocally that all the monies that would’ve normally gone into entering award shows (extravagant fees, production for entries, and travel) will now be used to create, optimize and deliver Marcel. Here is the video introducing Marcel. No comment.

As everyone (accept apparently Arthur) expected the reaction was fast, furious and mostly vitriolic. Some of that is here.

So much to unpack…

Rather than vivisect the top paragraph like everyone else in Adland, let’s pick out a few tidbits from the carcass. First, why on Earth would a French advertising concern make such a controversial announcement at the biggest advertising festival in the world…in France no less? For publicity? Mission accomplished, Art. But doing so is, well, rude. Dare I say French?

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Les Creatives? Let them eat cake!

And to justify the move by claiming an Intranet App, seemingly only for Publicis employees, should somehow take precedent is just plain bizarre. There are already a zillion ways to share files and connect. Does Publicis really need a proprietary one? But fine. I’m sure it will provide some utility. Yet linking it with a budget cutting agenda (pork) feels like the worst kind of governance.

Lost in the melee is this business of “Power of One.” Really? Christ, when I was at the former other big French holding company, Euro RSCG (now HAVAS), the “Power of One” was their big, swinging dick. It was the main part of Euro’s credentials and in all of our pitches. Trotting it out now is trite and oblivious.

All this being said, I’m actually for the decree. You heard me. And yes, for the usual reason: that we are an ego-maniacal industry with a profound inferiority complex. Saluting our wares in show after show became pathetic years ago. Yet like addicts we can’t stop.

But here’s a better reason. Advertising award shows are no longer necessary. If and when good work becomes part of popular culture, the so-called conversation, that is all the accolades one needs. It will be heralded in countless venues. Shared by industry wags and real people alike. A lot.

 

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Why do I need a Lion when I rattled this bull?

McCann’s timely “Fearless Girl” statue was the talk of the town well before winning Lions at Cannes. Not winning would have been the only story. Ergo it was already a winner. Its creators were celebrated and undoubtedly got fat raises and job offers. Cannes is merely icing on the icing. The sugar high is fleeting and unhealthy. We creatives may crave the perk but we don’t need it.

Back in the day, before the Internet and social media, shows like Cannes were more vital. Save for the occasional marketing column, It was the only place things got shared. Now, it’s the last place things get shared.

So good on you Publicis. Throw a harpoon into the whale. (Yeah, a bunch of Global Creative Directors may go down with it. But honestly their salaries are where the real savings will come.) Your timing sucks and the cold turkey will too but measures like this are frankly overdue. Let’s see if Arthur can withstand the shit storm of junkies that have already begun pounding on his door.

For award winning work hit me up: https://steffanwork.wordpress.com/

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Putting my ego in its place…

In preparation for my family’s move from Chicago to San Francisco, I threw out six boxes of advertising awards I’d amassed during my 20+ years in the business. Among the discards were countless certificates of merit and honorable mentions. Basically booby prizes. I was tempted to keep my first place trophies and Best-in-Shows but for the most part even those I chucked. Made of metal, they lasted ten minutes in the alley before the garbage pickers got them. They took the framed certificates, too, no doubt for the generic black frames. Zero chance some local picker will have use for a 1997 merit award from the Chicago Addy’s. On the other hand those bronze and silver One Show Pencils weigh a ton. Scrap prices are sky high these days. I wonder how many cents each of them netted at the smelter, or wherever it is metal gets bought.

A pair of old-school, badass Lions

I did keep my first two Cannes Lions, a gold and bronze awarded for a TV campaign I wrote on behalf of Heinz Ketchup. The gold was for a spot featuring a teen-aged Matt LeBlanc (Joey from Friends). It’s shown from time to time on nostalgic TV specials. A grainy version can be seen HERE. Back then there were far less categories at Cannes. And broadcast was the king. Ergo, I’m keeping my kitties.

I also kept three Andy Awards and two Clio statues, mostly because they look cool, as well as the Kelly Award given to me by the Magazine Publishers of America for best print campaign in North America: for Altoids. With only one winner, the Kelly was once highly coveted. I should mention it came with a check for $100,000 dollars. Ah, the days when magazine publishers were flush! Win a Kelly now you get a handshake and a photo in Adweek.

Whatever.

Advertising awards seemed so important then. I kept every certificate of merit, every clipping in AdAge. Oh, how I coveted those accolades! I was like a Roman conqueror collecting statues. I was a God of Advertising! Now, as I look upon the heap of paper, plastic and metal in my alley I feel anything but.

Author’s note: I realize this post probably qualifies as a humblebrag, which, according to the Urban Dictionary is where “one, usually consciously, tries to get away with bragging by couching it in a phony show of humility.” I’m pleading ‘No Contest.’

images3 “Tell me I’m special”

Fact is creative people are an insecure lot. I’m not ashamed to admit it. We crave validation from our peers, bosses, clients and everyone else (also known as consumers). There are so many masters to please, so little time. Then, sadly, if you’re like me (having worked obsessively to please these masters), you end up spending what little downtime you have at home in the doghouse.

Yikes, no wonder we covet awards! As “commercial artists,” we are forever at someone’s beck and call. And our patrons are seldom benevolent. So, we bust our butts at work while mortgaging our lives at home, in both cases craving adulation and respect that we’re likely not going to receive.

Am I being melodramatic? Make the jump and find out:

Creative Insecurity

the creative muse, beset with insecurity.

Busy time at the agency. Lots of pitches. Lots of production. And always lots of meetings. Being both a player and a coach in the creative department, I experience the pressure like a barometer –a sensitive yet accurate measurer of my department’s zeitgeist. And I’m not the only one.

We in creative are an insecure lot. I’m not ashamed to say it. We crave validation from our peers, bosses, clients and then everyone else, AKA consumers. That’s a lot of masters to please. Then, if you’re like me, having worked obsessively, you spend the rest of your life in or near the doghouse at home. Yikes, no wonder we want awards! As “commercial artists,” we are forever at someone’s beck and call. And our patrons are seldom benevolent. So, we bust our butts at work while mortgaging our home life. In both cases craving adulation and respect that we’re not likely to receive.

Am I being melodramatic? Sort of.

I’d also argue that insecurity (with our place in the creative group, the agency, even the world) is part of a creative person’s DNA. Let me explain. We are paid to solve problems with conceptual thinking. Our most important creations are ideas. And, by design, these ideas are subject to criticism. Lots of it. As creatives, we are hyper-aware of this reality. On Day 1, we want desperately to please our new partner and boss; show him or her what we’re made of. In our twilight years, we know the next idea may be our last. In between, we have fought tooth and nail to make a book…a name. “You are only as good as your last idea,” goes the voice in our head.

One can be taught how to better write or render ideas. Copy can be rewritten. There is always another typeface. But your ideas are purely a measure of YOU. And we know it!

As a creative director, I take pride in being able to find a good idea in a mess of bad ones. That’s part of my job. But it’s not my favorite part. I neither want to be the maker of messes or the guy who cleans them up. No creative person wants any part of that equation. Not really. Yet, in order to make an omelet you’ve got to break eggs. Creation is messy.

Under these conditions it’s hard to let go of our ego-driven fears. But understanding what’s causing these insecurities is the first step. Think of it as not crying over spilled ideas.

I manage insecurity every day. Both my own and in others. Accepting it as our reality helps make the creative process more enjoyable, even if it means making or cleaning messes!

I want to give props to a campaign idea that knocked me out. Not so much because of the executions (although they’re fine), but for its line. Yes, this copywriter went gaga over a sentence. It happens. I felt that way about “Curiously Strong Mints” or “Nothing runs like a Deere.”

The current object of my affection is for Secret antiperspirant. The line: Secret. Because you’re hot.

Get it? Women perspire…because they’re hot. And they’re beautiful, sexy, desirable…Hot. That’s good copy, my friends: simple, direct, and original.

Hamstrung by a difficult category, the campaign probably won’t win many creative prizes. But it’s powerful advertising. As a writer, I know how excited I would have been creating and, for that matter, presenting this idea. As a creative director I would have had a hard time concentrating on anything else.

Executed properly, that sentence -nay, that declaration- could transform Secret from a tier two deodorant to a pop culture must have. Done right “Because you’re hot” is the elusive and proverbial BIG IDEA. That’s what clients pay us to create: sentences like that. If you’re a copywriter and think otherwise I want to hear why.

I love it when advertising copy has this kind of power. Lots of clever lines get written, read and forgotten. Few become transcendent. Those lines tend to be more smart than clever. You don’t even have to like the product or the advertising to appreciate them. I worked on the original “Not your father’s Oldsmobile” campaign. That line was a perfect example. “Because you’re hot” might be another.