The death of disruption and other observations

June 22, 2012  |  Comments

With the end of the 59th International Festival of Creativity almost here, Marketing’s David Brown and Jeromy Lloyd share some of what they’ve seen and learned about the industry, and the Festival itself.

• This place is busy. Really, really busy. The official delegate count is about 11,000 this year, up from 9,000 a year ago.  The awards shows are more full, the lineups for speakers seem longer and streets are buzzing with people wearing their Festival passes around their necks. Even the press room is bigger. Either people aren’t really worried about the still-precarious economy, or Cannes truly has become something bigger and more important. What’s more, it’s been busy since Monday. Typically, the crowds don’t really gather until Wednesday or Thursday. The early and constant crowds suggest more attendees are buying week-long passes.

• The Festival was long known as the International Festival of Advertising, but the name was changed last year to the International Festival of Creativity. The new moniker is so much more appropriate. Advertising still matters, and countless creatives still covet a Lion for creating a memorable :30, but more and more this festival is about redefining the ways brands connect with consumers. The disruption era is over, truly over. We’ve been hearing that for years now, but review the winning work and it’s clear just how profound and complete that change is. Literally thousands of campaigns designed to surprise and delight. Everyone talks about engagement, but really it’s entertainment.

•An interesting debate emerged this year about “storytelling.” There is no shortage of creative experts willing to extol the virtues and importance of powerful storytelling to touch people at an emotional level. Creative superstars Dan Wieden and John Hegarty reminded everyone just this morning, during a fascinating discussion about their recent work, how important craft and execution and good writing remain even in this YouTube era. However, Cyber jury chair Ian Tait and Cyber judge Rei Inamoto talked on Tuesday about how brands must move beyond storytelling and pay more attention to how they actually behave and what they do for consumers. Inamoto talked about moving from 360 to 365: marketers are fascinated by 360 degrees of communication when they should be focused on 365 days of connection, he said.

• Authenticity and transparency: hard to say if these are just the most popular buzzwords of Cannes this year or the two most important watchwords for the industry in 2012. You hear the words come up again and again in judges comments about winning work and from the speakers and presenters. “We have advertising truths and human truths,” said Hegarty, quoting one of his CDs. “And what we should be looking for is human truths.” Of course, both “authenticity” and “transparency” have fairly elastic definitions. On the one hand, there’s the Swedish government giving its official Twitter handle to average citizens to tweet whatever they want—even ignorant comments about Jews—to present a true picture of itself to the world, tweet by tweet. And on the other hand you get media executives holding up Jersey Shore as the epitome of authenticity. Jersey Shore may be an authentic representation of a media brand, but an authentic representation of reality, it is not.

•It’s been 12 years since Bill Clinton was president. He was here ostensibly to talk about how advertising can change the world. He didn’t say all that much about the industry, we’re told, but the fact that so many were willing to line up for so long (two hours under a hot sun) says a great deal about the industry, we think. We’re just not sure what.

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