It's tougher to justify Cannes

When it filed for an IPO back in February, Ascential - owner of the world's biggest and most expensive awards show, the Cannes Lions - revealed that it had earned £41m in 2014, up 37% on the previous year.

Then, last week, Ascential told the stock exchange that entries for 2016 were up to a record 43,101. You don’t need to do the maths to know that, at €459 per entry for the cheapest categories to €1,399 for the most expensive, our industry is spending what some people would call an obscene amount of money in Cannes this week. And that’s just the cost to enter work.

Naturally, few people you meet in Cannes have much of a problem justifying the cost: the opportunity for marketers and agencies to spend time together, to debate trends and strategies, to share ideas and inspiration, is invaluable. So, too, is the sense of community: chances are you’ll bump into old colleagues, old friends and feel the odd beautiful moment of camaraderie. And, heck, there are worse places to do business.

And then – though it’s harder each year to excavate them – there are the Cannes creative awards, which is where it all began. Without question, these celebrate and therefore stimulate creative excellence, motivate talent, secure bonuses and new job offers. And, we have always believed, the awards are also legitimised by the proven relationship between creative accolades and effectiveness. Whatever the frippery around awards, the industry’s research has consistently shown that campaigns that win creative awards are also more effective: for every unit of campaign investment above equilibrium, creatively awarded campaigns drive 12 times more market share growth per annum than non-awarded ones. So relax, have another glass of Domaines Ott and count the metal.

Except that new research from the IPA reveals that the correlation between creative excellence and effectiveness is weakening. As Peter Field reports, since the financial crash marketers have backed more short-term communications and awards juries (presumably with less long-term, brand-building work to choose from) have awarded more short-term sales activation campaigns. Field argues that "creativity inevitably underperforms in the short term" and, when compounded by budget cuts, the power of brilliant creativity to drive long-term growth is crippled.

It’s hard to overstate the potential significance of the findings. If the link between creative excellence and effectiveness is no longer a watertight case, if creative excellence is no longer a business imperative for brands, then creative agencies become simply short-term commodity suppliers. And all the money and hot air sprayed around in Cannes becomes impossible to justify. And the ad industry as we know it rushes faster to its end. 

Are you drinking rosé this week while advertising smoulders?      

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