“…a bunch of overpaid dinosaurs sunning their fat asses.”
-anonymous comment, Agency Spy

And so, Cannes… Last year the economic “crisis,” as it was referred to in Europe, took its toll on the international advertising festival. Both attendance and submissions were down considerably. This year the lion has roared back, with over 8,000 delegates attending, nearly 40% more than last year. Some 50-plus seminars will be taking place, including star-studded panels featuring Yoko Ono, Ben Stiller, Spike Jonze (Will you PLEASE read my screenplay?) and Facebook’s Mark Zuckenberg.

Social media is, as one would expect, a huge topic this year; indeed, the festival kicks off on Sunday with a workshop entitled, B2B Gets Social, hosted by IBM and my agency, Euro RSCG. B2B Gets Social: IBM & EuroRSCG

Company man that I am, I’d like to attend that workshop -but first I’ll need to register, something I tried to do this morning (Sunday!) at 8:30 AM. Unfortunately, the queue was already as long as any ride at Disneyland, too much for my sorry, jet-lagged body to endure. Did I mention Air France has yet to locate my luggage? (Incidentally, my apologies to Edson Matsuo for quarreling with him at the complaints department in Nice. I was very frustrated.)

line to register, Good morning!

Sipping my “espresso double” from a park bench outside the famous Palais des Festivals, I observe hordes of international advertising people –many of them very young- posing for photos on the famous red carpet. These are the same stairs Brad Pitt and Angela Jolie paraded up during the film festival in May, amid a cacophony of press and paparazzi. Colin Firth may have actually thrown up here!

When I first came to Cannes –I believe in 1998- the primary focus for the festival was films. Of all the categories, nothing was more hallowed than winning a Lion for 30 and 60-second TV commercials. Much earlier, my first year in the business, I won two lions (gold & bronze) for a campaign I’d written for Heinz Ketchup: Heinz Ketchup \"Rooftop\" commercial It wouldn’t be until the Altoids juggernaut that I’d win here again.

Much has changed since then, in particular the advent of digital platforms. It cannot be overstated the importance the Internet and technology has played in reshaping Cannes. Not only have numerous online categories been added but, in many ways, they’ve usurped TV as the prizes worth winning. Indeed, the Grand Prix (best of show) for Cyber Lion may be the most coveted prize of all.

There are myriad categories and sub categories for entering at Cannes. The lists are readily available on their website –all over the web really. Given that, you’d think it would be easier to become a finalist, let alone win at Cannes. But you’d be wrong. It’s hard as hell. Furthermore, for all the ways to enter the competition there are thousands upon thousands that are entering.

It’s hard for some of us in America to understand the importance the global marketing community puts on winning Lions. In many countries winning is considered a mandate by agencies as well as clients. With so much gravitas attached to the contest, and so many entries from so many countries, it can and does become a national and political race, not unlike the Olympics or World Cup, which incidentally happens to be happening at the same time this year.

We here in the States don’t put such a priority on winning this international prize. Ergo we are often bested by zealous agencies from far smaller markets. Latin American countries, Brazil in particular, are gonzo about their Lions. Like that country’s uber-famous footballers, its creative directors are also treated like celebrities, often seen on the evening news and in the morning papers. National pride is at stake!

With this pressure comes the occasional bi-partisan juror and “scam” ad. Without getting into it here –trust me, it’s a big issue- I think that sort of thing heightens the suspense, adding drama to what is already pretty dramatic.

My creative partner and Co-Chief Creative Officer of Euro RSCG Chicago, Blake Ebel is judging the print category this year. We have a number of submissions and are hoping to make the shortlist. Alas, our chances of doing so may be as slight as the likelihood of my luggage arriving in time for dinner.

For those interested, I am also blogging about the exploding outdoor category on the website for the Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA): Cannes blog: OAAA

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