Cannes Lions: creativity back at the top of the agenda but there’s still work to do

So who was the most creative agency at Cannes?

We now know that don’t we: the UK’s AMV BBDO with five Grand Prix and lots of Lions besides. And network? Interpublic’s FCB which pipped WPP’s Ogilvy. Holding Company? WPP back on top for the first time since 2017.

Points are garnered for everything from shortlisting to GPs so the results are, presumably, fair. But do these results reflect reality?

In reality big agencies, networks and, especially, holding companies are old-fashioned department stores. There’s the fancy stuff at the front and in the window but lots more inside and at the back – which may make more money.

Some of AMV BBDO’s work is outstanding, chiefly Essity’s Bodyform which won four of its five Grand Prix. Some other clients, quite a few of whom including BT and Asda have departed, less so. Runner up in the big agency category Publicis Italia does seem to perform across the board although it’s hard to be sure from a distance.

FCB won best network narrowly from WPP’s Ogilvy, which hoovered up Lions for Dove. FCB (in particular its Chicago HQ, third among big agencies) does seem to have responded cleverly and appropriately to Black Lives Matter especially. FCB has quietly motored on under CEO Carter Murray.

Omnicom’s BBDO will be disappointed to lose its best network crown to FCB, especially given the stellar performance of AMV.

Among independent agencies Wieden+Kennedy Portland came top as it probably should, it’s the biggest. But W+K recently replaced Eric Baldwin, long-serving CCO at Portland (not the network) with new ECDs Ana and Hermeti Balarin from Mother London. AMV’s CEO Sarah Douglas has been replaced by Sam Hawkey from Saatchi, so maybe not everything in these gardens is as lovely as they’d like.

WPP CEO Mark Read will see the holding company gong as a sign that his road to becoming the world’s best “creative transformation” company is reaching sunnier uplands although earlier this year he hired Rob Reilly from McCann as WPP’s new overall CCO. So maybe there’s work to do at the back of the store at WPP too. Even newish Ogilvy CEO Andy Main may not think everything is going swimmingly despite his agency’s heroic efforts for Dove.

But creativity is back at the top of the agenda – briefly maybe – thanks to Cannes and some brave advertisers – and that’s the sign of a successful Festival.

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About Stephen Foster

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Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.

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