Forty-eight hours across four days in a windowless room in the Palais partly felt like torture when the sun was out. Seen through the rosé-tinted nostalgia of previous times in Cannes, this was real work.
The Direct Jury included ten incredible creatives from around the globe, and being the only non-creative on the jury felt like an incredible honour and a real insight into a different world. I think having a different perspective in the room was welcomed - in fact, it was the running joke: "Come on CEO, what do you think?". Our 1am finish on Thursday morning, meanwhile, felt like the end of a marathon - there were tears, champagne and relief.
I think part of the reason we had such long days and hard debate is because the disruption in the industry is magnified in this category. With over 2,200 individual entries, there were many, many hours of submissions explaining how Twitter exploded, how crypto-currency can do everything, and how pop-up restaurants are the answer to the world’s biggest problems.
So, it turns out every piece of communication created during the last 12 months – every one-to-one connection, call to action, no call to action, targeted audience, the whole Super Bowl audience, a tweet, a like, a look – all of it is Direct.
We quite literally sifted for Gold in this category and some incredible industry-leading work came to the surface.
"Tagwords" by Budweiser in Sao Paolo is a brilliant and modern take on direct response advertising "search it".
"My Line Powered by Google" is certainly direct and game-changing, bringing the advantages that modern technologies are offering to the world to parts of the world that can’t access it in the same way.
"Sindoor Khela" - a wonderful idea from FCB India – is a brilliantly-targeted, beautifully-executed campaign that pushes cultural boundaries and has driven genuine change for women in this country. Work I’d have loved to have been involved with.
And what about our Grand Prix, "The Palau Pledge"? This work gives me goosebumps. The simplicity, the potency of this idea. The simple act of signing your name to pledge to the children of Palau is beyond brilliant and a win for eco-tourism the world over. For the next ten years, approximately two million people will act on this initiative.
I came away fully inspired that creativity is magic and can transform any business problem. And I’d recommend clients and agency heads invest the time to judge at Cannes because it’s the best reminder that we kill or dilute creativity at our peril.
However, I also came away questioning more than ever the dissolving silos that we have long lived with in our industry. For in an era in which the digital-first approach has become another marketing Holy Grail, danger lies in getting too hung up on tearing down walls (or, indeed, focusing too much on arguing traditional media’s most enduring strengths).
Forget labels, success comes from the best creative use of whatever tools are available. Because, just as it has always been, integrated thinking from the outset is all.