U.S. DMers Get an Earful on How to Improve Cannes Performance

The great and the good of advertising and direct marketing were told they needed to submit more entries for the International Advertising Festival’s Cannes Lions Direct awards if they wanted to come home with more than the one award they did in the summer.

That advice seemed fitting from Daniel Morel, a Frenchman who is chairman/CEO of New York-based Wunderman and this year’s Lions Direct jury president.

“What needs to be done is more entries from the U.S.,” Morel told an audience of 130 at Young & Rubicam’s New York headquarters this week. “Quantity is quality — just like French red wine.”

It may have registered with the audience, gathered for a “Cocktails & Cannes” debriefing on why the United States failed to bag more direct honors in June.

Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive of agency conglomerate WPP Group PLC, was there. So were Lester Wunderman, founder of his self-named agency, Young & Rubicam chairman/CEO Ann Fudge and Jacki Kelley, senior vice president of cocktail co-sponsor USA Today.

This writer used tongs to pluck a vegetable roll from the bowl to place in his plate. Sir Martin, standing nearby, simply picked up a roll with his fingers and dipped it into the sauce.

“It’s finger food,” he said. “Use your fingers.”

Those who spent time eyeing the exhibits saw 50 creative and execution reasons of what went into winning entries.

Those who did not view the exhibits saw different excuses than Morel: a Euro bias against U.S. entries (the ceremony is held in Cannes, France), poorly written entry forms, clients unwilling to dally with bold marketing and, of course, the whispered staple — winning foreign entries went to an audience less populated than a U.S. city block.

So Morel merely was voicing the popular opinion of direct marketers who seemed not embarrassed about the U.S. performance but perplexed as to why they were denied more awards.

For them, Morel advised greater involvement in Cannes Lions, arguably the world’s most prestigious advertising awards.

“Ten percent of the pieces came from the U.S.,” he said. “You have to come from the U.S. with more, and with better production. Two, bring sectors that are not usual users of DM to Cannes. If you come to Cannes with three times the numbers, it’ll be a great service.”

Shelley Lanman, chief creative officer of Draft New York and Morel’s peer on the Lions Direct jury, focused on the starting point: the entry form.

“If the objective isn’t clearly laid out, it’s very hard to judge the outcome,” she said.

Lanman also identified other issues that frustrate agencies in their dealings with risk-averse clients.

Agencies often are asked, “Where’s the coupon? How long is the phone number up?” she lamented. “Outside [the United States] they’re much more creative. Don’t rely so much on the mechanics as on the emotional side.”

Smart agencies also would learn to submit entries in categories where their suit is strongest. Take direct response television, where the United States is the largest producer of such ads.

“There were no awards because the entries were so horrible,” said Carla Hendra, president of OgilvyOne North America and also a Lions Direct juror. “The U.S. could come in and win.”

Morel explained the logic of Lions Direct judging. Bronze awards are given for campaigns that did everything right, “but nothing was groundbreaking,” he said. A bronze Lions kept the client happy this year and hopefully led to an increased budget next year.

The silver award winners “did something right,” Morel said. Minneapolis agency Fallon’s BMW Films entry for client BMW of North America won a silver Lions Direct in the Web traffic-building category.

As for the gold winners, they “took risks and did everything right.” And the grand prix winner “used humor, did everything right and got stupendous results.”

Young & Rubicam, Sydney, was this year’s grand prix winner for work on client Jim Beam Brands Australia. Positioning Jim Beam as a macho whiskey, the campaign asked consumers to call a number whenever their manhood was doubted.

The Jim Beam effort helped sell 5.4 million additional cans and raised market share 4.3 percent. It generated $3.4 million in extra profit, or a 70 percent return on the campaign’s cost.

“It’s a completely ridiculous campaign,” Morel said, “but the results are there.”

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