Now that I'm back from Cannes and putting aloe on my sunburn, and getting a blood transfusion to replace the toxins I ingested at Cannes, I wanted to say a few words on Publicis' decision to pull out of Cannes (and SXSW and CES) next year. I'm just kidding. I didn't go to Cannes. I was working my ass off for a campaign that will air in another country and I've been living on two different time zones for the past six weeks.
1. Creatives at Publicis were right to be upset.
For a creative, awards are usually a big way of getting a raise at your current job or a great way to get a raise and hired at a new job. Like it or not. High-profile work gets you known. It's the world we live in. How will the network gauge who to give raises next year? Or will they simply not give anyone raises? If they have a measure in place to compensate the current crop of creatives (and everyone else for that matter) based on their exemplary work, great. If not, then they are no different from the smarmy agencies who act like it's privilege to work there while those at the top make tens of millions a year. If they don't plan to give raises at all, then you can expect a mass Exodus this time next year and watch morale drop even further. I suspect it's already at a low point and people are already on the phone with their recruiters.
While I'm not advocating the incessant drive for awards by any means, and fall into the same camp as those creatives I know (all of them talented and amazing and have won awards in their own right) who have given up on that chase, what I want to say is this: if someone takes the option away, then you have no option. And even if I don't care, I do like to have the option.
2. Publicis might inadvertently be shooting itself in the foot.
For an agency, big or small, in New York or in New Nowhere, winning awards attract new talent that might not otherwise go there. One can argue this is a vicious circle that perpetuates greed, or one can argue that creating high profile internationally recognized work is the best way to do this. How vicious this circle is depends on your viewpoint. There are plenty of great shops all over the world. But unless you're seeing their work when we post them on Adland, you might not know they even exist.
So let's say you want to switch jobs but you want to go off the beaten path or look for an up-and-coming-shop. Those up and comers might just be that way because they won some awards that started ot put them on the map. And while it's all well and good for an agency to attempt to poach creatives form other shops using the social media channel of the moment, how effective is it really? Not as effective of doing work that people see. And in an ad world made up of increasingly fragmented channels (stop with the 360, no ones chasing your ads and you know it) reaching the right audience, be it employer or employee is becoming more and more difficult.
Publicis made a masterful PR move
Don't let's forget this is a one year moratorium on award shows. Not really all that long in this industry, in the great scheme of things. Don't let's forget the big announcement from Publicis is a big PR move which they could have done in silence. Instead they got a boat load of earned media out of it and are setting a stage for their AI project. Don't think for one second they won't enter it in award shows if successful.
Cannes has more to lose than Publicis
As far as I'm concerned Publicis' PR move was a stroke of genius in the earned media department. They will have to live up to it. And they will have a year to do so, give or take. At the end though, Cannes has more to lose. I know of very few actual creatives who see Cannes as nothing more than a necessary evil at this point. Cannes is the place where ads that are fake tend to win, year after year. Cannes is the place where your expert attendees include Sarah Jessica Parker, Iggy Pop and Simon Pegg. None of them work in advertising, to my knowledge.
In other words, Cannes is a safe space for scam ads, stars, and the starfuckers who love them. Now that Publicis is taking away a big chunk of the bankroll, (and possibly WPP as well) how will they attract such important talent to the stage?
It's a lot to think about. And like most interesting topics, it's not a black or white issue. The only thing you can say for certain is Cannes is sweating at the moment, and Publicis is enjoying some mega traction at the moment. How long either moment lasts, or what if any fallout will come, is anyone's guess.