Cannes: The view from London

This time last year I was in Cannes. This year I am not. Have I missed anything? I think not - apart from a Rose hangover.

Cannes has turned into an orgy of advertising egos, argues Warren Johnson
Cannes has turned into an orgy of advertising egos, argues Warren Johnson
It seems to me that Cannes has turned into an orgy of advertising egos funded by ludicrous tax-free piles of tech money. 

Aside from the fact that Cannes is close to becoming a parody of itself; it is meant to be a showcase of inspirational creativity – across the entire spectrum of communications, including PR. 

But the vast majority of PR Lions were again awarded to ad agencies. How can this be right?

The reason of course is simple. Apart from the well-documented accusations of "block voting" – back in 2012 Sir Martin Sorrell accused Omnicom of colluding to vote for their (advertising) group’s work – the judging panel is led by advertising people who fundamentally fail to understand the difference between advertising and PR, with a set of opaque and often misguided voting processes and guidelines to match – that are just not fit for purpose to recognise the extraordinary achievements of PR. 

Furthermore, the entire concept of having to enter a PR award in the favoured ad agency format of a 30-second TV slot is surely utterly absurd.

Beyond this, Cannes and its advocates are also missing the point. 

What is the purpose to a brand of creating awesome advertising, if no consumers ever see it and it doesn’t actually make a difference to clients’ businesses? 

At the most basic level people in advertising are no longer producing advertising for consumers on the street. They are creating it for 10 people on the judging panel, a handful of clients, and the audience of their peers. A self-indulgent exercise designed to progress their careers and secure a big bonus. 

As Sir John Hegarty, aptly, pointed out last year: "The problem is, we’ve created a beast called awards and it’s taken over. What Cannes should be about is how creativity aids branding and builds business."
Despite PR’s unprecedented capabilities in delivering actual business value, it will never fare well at Cannes because we are just not shouty enough.

So, my recommendation for next year is that, as an industry, we boycott Cannes completely and hold our own event in the sun. 

Mykonos or Ibiza would be more fun than Cannes, which is rather old hat these days. And much more representative of the industry we are proud to be a part of.

Warren Johnson is the founder and chief executive of W Communications

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