Matt Williams: my alternative Cannes Lions

Cannes 2014: And finally, another crazy Cannes week comes to a close. Ad execs across the world head back to their agencies with their skin a little more tanned, their livers a little less functional, and hopefully, their pride still intact.

But whilst the debates rumble on about the campaigns that the judges did and didn’t award Lions, let’s have a look at who – or what – else were the winners and losers last week.


imagesBrand of the festival: Beats

The actual Cannes Lions marketer of the year was McDonald’s, and you can’t deny how powerful the fast food chain’s marketing has been over the years. But that’s an award that takes years of great work, a bit of backscratching and a lot of lobbying to win. Beats, on the other hand, was the most talked about brand for the here and now. The sale to Apple, the unrequited love towards the company from celebrities, the fact it can get away with charging hundreds of dollars for what is ultimately renowned to be a pretty poor product…it’s a brilliant example of how a brand can be built on the strength of its marketing. And it was recognised on stage by everyone from Bob Greenberg (who dedicated his session to it) to Kanye West (more of whom later).


Runner-Up: Google

A winner in the Palais (with a great talk from its chief business officer Nikesh Arora) and away from it (with a Creative Sandbox that delighted delegates). Here’s a full, gushing rundown on why Google stole the show.


Top Nation: United Kingdom

Finally. For once we don’t have to put up with the “where were all the UK winners?” questioning. The UK was front and centre this year, winning Grand Prix aplenty. Congratulations to Adam & Eve/DDB for its Agency of the Year award (winning 22 awards across the festival for Harvey Nichols, Volkswagen, Marmite and John Lewis), as well as to OgilvyOne for winning two Grand Prix (for British Airways). There were many that saw the Harvey Nichols success as something of a surprise, but either way it’s great to see such recognition for UK creativity. During a week that England got knocked out the World Cup, it’s nice to see that we’re still good at something.


Quote of the festival (non-Kanye): Jared Leto
“The Bridge Between Reality and a Dream is Work.”

Runners-Up: “The last person I ever want working for me is someone who says ‘that’s not in my job description.” Neil deGrasse Tyson

“Be Willing to Get Fired for a Good Idea.” Spike Jonze

“Sitting on a Bean Bag does not automatically make you creative.” Sir John Hegarty


Unknown-4Quote of the festival (Kanye West): Kanye West (yup, he said so much weird stuff that he needs his own category.)

“What is the most distasteful thing you can do? Kill Somebody. So good taste is the opposite of that.”

“I can’t be with a girl except Kim because that’s the girl who I looked at her picture the most and got turned on by the most.”

“The world as a whole is fucking ugly…Instagram is nice, I’m not knocking that.”

“Empower the best content creators, or fuck off.”


Buzzword of the festival: Storytelling
Sorry, you’d like to things have moved on a little from last year, but once again a session wouldn’t seem complete in Cannes unless you had some creative/journalists/marketer/magician/Kanye West drumming on about the importance of telling a good brand story.


Runner-Up: Simplicity

Taking something complex and making it simple and accessible to the consumer was a theme that kept cropping up throughout the week. It might seem obvious, but it’s amazing how many brands still over-complicate things. And especially with so many new ways to communicate, keeping it simple can often be overlooked.


Best scandal: Mail Online v The Australian

Trust journalists. Even in a town containing thousands of the world’s drunkest creative directors they managed to start one of the more intriguing bust-ups of the festival. Here’s Stephen Foster summing up the incident. Even Sir Martin Sorrell saw an opportunity to join in on the fun.


The ‘What the hell are they doing here’ moment of the festival: David Hasselhoff

Sir John Hegarty speaking at Cannes, we get. Sheryl Sandberg, talking about Facebook, makes sense. David Hasselhoff? Not so much. Apparently a game based on the Baywatch star, #Hoffornot went viral. But so did a cat jumping into a cardboard box.

Enough to justify a panel session and declare the Hoff a social media expert? Probably not. A desperate opportunity to ensure people turn up to your session, even if it’s just to get an ironic picture of the man? Almost certainly.


Runner-up: Kim Kardashian

We’ll give Kardashian a bit of slack because, unlike the Hoff, she wasn’t speaking at Cannes. Her husband was (you may have worked that out by now). But it would have been fascinating to be a fly on the wall during the Cannes Lions party she attended on one of the many boats, having to make small-talk with a bunch of over-excited ad execs. Sadly, we weren’t invited to that particular soiree. Pity, I’d have loved to get her thoughts on the future of eCRM.


The Missed Opportunity: Marissa Mayer

I get it, you’re one of the most powerful women in the world, running one of the biggest companies in the world. But at least look like you want to be at Cannes, and at least pretend that you’re there to build relationships and provide your unique perspective on creativity. Unfortunately, we got a drab, fully scripted Yahoo sales pitch, with Mayer off stage and no doubt jetting off back home well before her allotted time was up.


Image of the festival:
Thank goodness for Twitter. Otherwise 1.1 million Robin Thicke followers wouldn’t have been able to see this picture. Here’s Thicke posing with the most powerful people in advertising, each of them wondering exactly what the hell it is they’re doing there.


Best Powerpoint slide: Adobe

OK, this might be stretching it when it comes to categories now. But I wanted to end on a positive note, because for all the exaggeration and faux-mockery, Cannes can be – and again still was – a place that inspires and excites. And I loved this slide. No glitz or glamour, but just a powerful statement.

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