Arise Sir Dan, Lion of St Mark. The Dan in question is Dan Wieden, veteran co-founder and global executive creative director of Wieden & Kennedy, currently one of the world’s most outstanding creative advertising agencies. And what at first sight appears to be a Medieval chivalric order befitting the likes of Othello of Venice is, as it happens, nothing of the sort. It’s the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival’s way of rewarding outstanding merit in creative communications.
And why, while we’re on the subject, has Cannes seen fit to invoke the services of the patron saint of Venice for this particular gong? Because the original Lions awarded at the Festival were modelled on the lion statue in St. Mark’s Square in Venice, location of the first Festival in 1954 and alternating host city with Cannes before Cannes became the Festival’s permanent home in 1984.
Whoever the saintly sponsor, there are few in the industry who would begrudge Wieden his recognition. Starting from humble beginnings (public relations, as a matter of fact), the Portland, Oregon, university graduate, went on to co-found with creative director Dave Kennedy a creative boutique that has, in 30 years, expanded into a global micro-network with outlets in New York, London, Amsterdam, Delhi, Shanghai, Tokyo and São Paulo – as well as the home town – and nearly 1,200 employees. More to the point, a whole cluster of blue-chip brands, from Nike to Coca-Cola, Chrysler, Delta Airlines, ESPN, Heineken, Honda, Kraft, Levi’s, Nike, Old Spice and Procter & Gamble, have every reason to express their gratitude.
Wieden is personally credited with coining the Nike slogan, ‘Just Do It’.
The award may sound hoary and ancient but, in actual fact, was minted only last year – its first recipient being a genuwyne knight of advertising, Sir John Hegarty of BBH fame.
It’s yet more proof of the Cannes Advertising Festival’s ever-green facility for sub-brand segmentation. Not a year goes by without it manufacturing a major new award category: Effectiveness last year, Brand content and Mobile ads this year. Wieden himself invented the Titanium Lions, awarded for provocative and mould-breaking work, back in 2003. Entries for this year’s 59th festival are apparently up, but not in the effectiveness and cyber categories.
Who, we wonder, will be next year’s Lion of St Mark? Our money is on Dave Droga of Droga5, although some would say he’s a bit young to qualify for such a veteran award. Maybe Jeff Goodby then.