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The Europeans Just Don't Get Us: Part II

U.S. direct and interactive marketing agencies often scratch their heads once the results of the International Advertising Festival's Lions Direct and Cyber Lions are announced. Some cry foul when smaller campaigns win over U.S. entries that fought harder to achieve equally impressive results.

Last week, Lor Gold, executive vice president and chief creative officer of Draft Chicago, gave his take after his first stint as a Lions Direct judge. This week, it's Wunderman New York executive vice president and chief creative officer Joel Sobelson's turn. Here's what Gold's fellow Lions Direct jurist said about what makes the jury tick.

“I think it brings it down to something very basic: the definition of what direct marketing is in the States and what it means in Europe,” Sobelson said. “We look at it as something that changes behavior and evokes response. But this year, at Cannes, that was almost too general a definition that included almost everything in the show.

“I went to a Media Lions presentation, and some of the media entries were the same as the direct entries. So to distinguish direct marketing from everything else, I think there needs to be another definition. For me, direct needs to be about creating relational behavior as well as transactional behavior.

“One of the things that Lor was referencing was here in the States there's the opportunity to run branded advertising alone. Because of the cost of media and production in Europe, European direct marketing needs to rely heavily on carrying the brand message at the expense of the sales message. So we see very few European pieces that actually do any heavy lifting.”

Sobelson gave an example.

“Out of all the work I saw in the prejudging, judging and final judging, there was only one piece that had anything to do with money,” he said. “Now I define money by the price offer or a price-driven offer. So on the surface it would appear that anything price-driven at Cannes is a dirty word, a dirty thought.

“Personally, it's more of a creative challenge to come up with a piece that's truly creative and truly sells an offer. This may be why so many of the Wunderman entries, especially from New York, continue to win awards at the Caples, at the Echoes, while at Cannes they don't even make it to the final round.

“For instance, in the DRTV category, the only work we really saw was for fundraising. While fundraising is a valid category, it doesn't leave room for real clients.”

Sobelson's solution was simple and one that calls for perspective.

“If Cannes Lions is as important as people think it is, we have to play by their rules,” he said. “I think they are valid awards, but I also think the Echo awards are very valid awards. I think the Effie awards are very valid, I think the Caples are also very valid.”

Please let DM News know your thoughts on Cannes Lions and improving U.S. performance overseas by e-mailing Mickey Alam Khan at [email protected] .

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