Cannes Lions – from a marketer’s POV

While awaiting the fate of her short-listed entry in the Outdoor Ambient: Stunts & Live category, an assistant brand manager at Campbell Canada shares with MiC readers her impressions about being a first-timer at the international ad fest.

I am finally here in Cannes. Even I can’t believe it. After my long-anticipated first trip to the Cannes Advertising festival, following my win of the Campbell Canada first annual Creativity Awards Grand Prix, it’s now day two. And I am feeling the effects of a very long day of screenings and a surprisingly short night – yes, I now know where the ‘Gutter bar’ is!

Yesterday morning, fuelled by strong French coffee and delicious pain au chocolat, I sat in a dark auditorium for over two hours and watched 181 ads flash before my eyes, then did it again at an afternoon screening. For my initiation, I chose two close-to-home categories: non-alcoholic beverages and sweet foods and snacks. Almost 400 ads and the equivalent of a full day of TV, with no bathroom breaks!

My first experience could be summed up as sensory overload – messages in different languages with different cultural influences and nuances from around the world. Truly, advertising seemed like an international language. My first reaction was that nothing seems to cross borders more readily and effectively than humour, which sparked the most positive and spontaneous reactions from even the toughest creative critics – and the very occasional client in the audience.

For me, a few memorable examples stood out: slapstick (literally, with wooden spoons slapping) humour for ‘Lift Plus,’ an energy drink from New Zealand; tried & true dialogue humour for Sierra Mist from the US; and even our homegrown Canadian ‘New Diamond’ Shreddies creative. For a hilarious and memorable ad you certainly wouldn’t have the opportunity to see at home, check out Thailand’s ‘Office’ Wrangyer Beverage spot.

What surprised me later, as I walked away from the Palais, where all the screenings take place, was that I only remembered a handful of ads. Were there just too many at once, or was it clutter? Or is it tougher than we think to create breakthrough advertising that’s truly memorable?

One thing is for sure: when the creative is wide of the mark, the screening room fills with reaction that’s the opposite of laughter – whistles, loud and long. On my first day, it was hard to decipher the exact meaning of the whistles. But by the end of just two screenings, I was in no doubt. The whistles are a simple, yet very effective ‘no’ vote from the critical creative audience.

With time to reflect, I’m wondering what the creative outcome would be if we, as clients, were this candid with our feedback at creative presentations? Should we laugh? Should we whistle? Food for thought.

Nicolle Nordmann is assistant brand manager at Campbell Company of Canada. The Grand Prix recipient of the first annual Campbell Canada Marketing Creativity Award for Soup At Hand, she is short-listed at the Cannes Lions for the Outdoor Ambient: Stunts & Live advertising category.