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Is It Worth Entering Cannes? The short answer is ‘Non.’

To qualify that, it’s not worth entering if you’re a small agency…. Yes, I’m probably as sour as three-day old Château de Saint-Martin because we didn’t win a single Lion after entering five categories at a cost to make your stomach squirm.

Of course, bigger agencies can and will spend a tonne more on entries, but then that’s partly the problem. How can smaller agencies with smaller budgets compete with that? While more entries doesn’t necessarily equate to more awards, the laws of probability would suggest it makes a difference. I mean, just look at the results: out of 87 Gold winners, 17 of which were UK entries, zero were won by small agencies. Zero… Forget about the Grand Prix.

Unsurprisingly, the main winners of the Gold for animation were Apple’s Share Your Gifts by networked agency TBWA, and Dark Chocolate Humor for Lacto5star (Mondalez) by Wieden + Kennedy.

Are we to translate this that the Festival of Creativity believes no ideas from smaller agencies are worthy of the top prizes; just at the point where smaller agencies are being taken more seriously than ever by clients?

Don’t Panic entered our Wilder Future campaign for The Wildlife Trusts. It was effective; driving 190 pieces of coverage and also recruiting 7000+ paying members. Most importantly though, given the Cannes criteria, it was critically acclaimed… but with all the good it did and received, we’re not sure whether the jury even gave it a sniff, and with the process being completely opaque, who knows? You would like to have thought we’d have been at least shortlisted for animation.

Is it that only networked agencies or very biggest independents can win? What is the reason for this and how can be it be solved?

One reason is that the sheer volume of entries is going to make judging challenging. Once you combine this with the fact that the judging panels are dominated by judges from the biggest agencies, who are going to have to look for shortcuts, one of the short cuts they employ is voting for agencies they’ve heard of and taking that work more serious; especially given there’s likely people from that agency sat next to them, also with multiple entries that are going to need the thumbs up. A (potentially sub-conscious) quid pro quo evolves between the big guns, and that squeezes out the smaller agencies.

Two initial ways to ensure the best work wins at Cannes would be too make all entries blind. That is that they aren’t attributed to an agency. This may not eliminate the big agency bias but it would help lessen it, especially as even the geekiest panellist isn’t going to know who made everything.

A second, more radical approach is to let the public decide, mostly online. These are the people who should tell us what ads are the best as they’re the industry’s primary audience.

Until something changes I’d caution any smaller agency to spend their marketing budgets elsewhere, because as I see it, you just can’t win at Cannes.

Joe Wade is a two-time Comedy BAFTA nominee and one-time winner and the co-founder of Don’t Panic.

One Comment

  1. Here in the Fourth Reich, Flying Pie pizza makes magnificent pizzas. Every spring they close up their three locations and take all the staff for a couple of weeks vacation in the Caribbean. They don’t piss away thousands on entry fees for the Dylithium Pizza Awards. Just a hint on how to spend your marketing budget.

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