David Reviews

 Biting the hand that feeds us since 2002.

CAPTAIN'S BLOG: CANNES: WE KICK IT.
28 June 2018

Sometimes it takes a genuine outsider to reveal the complete absurdity of what is happening around you. So it was for DAVID as he was stood up to his waist in the Mediterranean Sea and a woman with a broad Yorkshire accent sidled over and asked: "what's going on?"

She had ventured to Cannes for the day with her husband to celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary. With their children safely ensconced with their grandparents, they envisaged a day on the beach, and a few glasses of wine during a romantic meal in a quiet bistro. What they couldn't have anticipated was that the French resort would be overrun by lanyarded louts brimming with self-importance, and other determined networkers vainly hoping for the chance encounter that would justify their week in the sun.

Tellingly, she was surprised that it had anything to do with advertising. Walking along the Croisette and spotting giant logos belonging to Google, Apple, Facebook and Twitter, she and her husband had determined that the chaotic crowds were there for a tech conference, and - let's face it - she wasn't nearly as wrong as we wish she was.

DAVID warned her that things were likely to get pretty messy if she and her husband stuck around until the end of the evening. She glanced up and down the beach with a sceptical eye as if thinking: 'this lot wouldn't last five minutes in a Leeds nightclub'. She wasn't wrong about that either.


Two key decisions taken last year ensured that the 2018 festival would be a bit different. The Publicis Groupe's decision to boycott this year's event left Cannes Lions reeling and it led to their bold decision to contract the festival from eight days to five. Publicis's discontent wasn't isolated... there have been mutterings from WPP and some of the other networks for years about the expense of sending hundreds of staff on an all-expenses paid blow-out on the French Riviera. Whatever the motives, the abbreviated Festival certainly felt a little more business-like and a Friday finale is a big improvement on the traditional Saturday finish.

The Publicis Group's non-participation was - it turned out - something of a canard. A painful series of rationalisations set out in a pre-Festival press release revealed what everyone had suspected for the last year: while the group's agencies hadn't paid for their work to be entered into competition, they had 'encouraged' clients, production companies and post companies to do so instead. They also attended the Festival in their droves but only "at the invitation of Cannes Lions" themselves or as "guests" of other participating companies. The Publicis Groupe reduced itself to the status of someone stood outside a pub chain smoking everyone else's cigarettes while claiming they've kicked the habit.

Meanwhile, the contraction into five days certainly didn't thwart the Festival's appetite for expansion. In total, Cannes Lions handed out thirty Grands Prix this year - the most ever. While this is a indicative of a splintering landscape, it's also indicative of the Cannes Lions pyramid scheme.

There may soon be an egg-and-spoon Grand Prix for the companies who were unable to win a Lion in any of the other categories... prizes for all the boys and girls.


It's not unusual for Martin Sorrell's stunted shadow to loom over Cannes Lions but this year was different. No longer at the helm of WPP and unable to deflect rumours about bullying and consorting with prostitutes, Sorrell nonetheless bullishly returned to the fray. His appearance was akin to the disgraced Louis Winthorpe III turning up at the Heritage Cub in the film 'Trading Places' and expecting everyone to greet him as they always had.

Sorrell took part in two events in Cannes. The main event was an unedifying wrestling match with New Yorker journalist Ken Auletta as Sorrell aggresively attempted to control the agenda but was nonetheless obliged to once again issue a nuanced denial that he hadn't used company funds to pay for prostitutes. The other encounter was much more friendly, as Stephen Lepitak of The Drum allowed the troubled tycoon to filibuster to such an extent that it was like watching a drawn out edition of Radio 4 favourite 'Just A Minute'.

If Sorrell didn't use WPP money to pay for his peccadilloes then it could be argued that it's not really anyone's business but his own. But when an England footballer is dragged through a tabloid maelstrom because of a tattoo on his leg on the basis that he's a 'role model', perhaps Martin Sorrell should be held to similar standard.


This wasn't just a live issue because of Martin Sorrell though. Pitch magazine founder Sherry Collins revealed to the BBC that her first trip to the Festival was sullied when she was mistaken for a prostitute.

Collins opted to put a message on the back page of the latest edition of her magazine: "We are black creative women heading to Cannes, please do not ask us how much for the night."

It's a massive reality check for the industry. All the brave talk about diversity and inclusivity in the daytime seminars doesn't count for anything if those delivering their pious speeches are yielding to their racist misogyny by night.


What then of the prizes themselves? British advertising did rather well - there was a decent number of London-bound personnel at Nice airport being stopped because of Lion shaped statuettes in the hand baggage.

And our companies picked up a few Grands Prix too. Though not in the coveted Film category. This year's jury couldn't decide between two US ads: 'It's a Tide ad' which wowed everyone at this year's Super Bowl, and P & G's 'The Talk'.

Both were well deserved, with 'The Talk' scoring a unique double. The night before his film was awarded the biggest prize in advertising, Corner Shop director Malik Vitthal had picked up a Gold at the Young Director Awards.

While success at the YDAs frequently signals future achievements, it's unprecedented for that success to arrive in less than thirty-six hours!


Anyone who attended May's CraftWorks at the LSE will be in no doubt how much James Rouse's film for the Red Cross means to the Outsider director, so to see it pick up the Grand Prix in the Film Craft category must have been a tremendous reward for his hard work.

Without signalling what had won, Diane McArter - who was president of the Film Craft jury - revealed in the podcast she recorded with DAVID REVIEWS that she and her fellow jurors had identified an extraordinary piece of work, and she was right about that.

It sounds ridiculous to say that a film which picked up a Grand Prix had a disappointing Cannes, but expectations for Nike's 'Nothing Beats a Londoner' were so high that picking up the big prize in the new Social & Influencer category seems an inadequate return... even though it also picked up a Gold Lion for W+K and RiffRaff's Megaforce.

AMV and Somesuch's Daniel Wolfe picked up the Glass Lion Grand Prix for positive change for their brilliant Libresse ad.

adam&eveDDB won Agency of the Year for the second time in five years, a tremendous achievement for an agency that's so well established that it's almost impossible to believe that it's only just celebrated its tenth anniversary. AMV BBDO came second.

Production Company of the Year went to MJZ, with Australia's Revolver in second place and The Corner Shop in third.

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David Reviews - Lovely Lenzie Ltd, Woodbourne House, Seven Sisters, Lenzie, G66 3AW. Telephone: +44 141 776 7766. Editor: Jason Stone.