What was missing at Cannes 2022? Clever ads for dodgy brands maybe

If you were a UK client venturing to the Cannes Lions for the first time this year, what would you have learned? And would it help you, say, sell more chocolate bars or improve the image of your fossil-fuel based energy company?

Would you have gained a valuable steer as to which are the best British creative agencies?

From the table of UK winners (85 Lions in all according to Campaign, subscription required, including five Grand Prix) you would have noted two more more Grand Prix for AMV BBDO, although not for work that might be relevant for you; a strong performance from 4Creative (wouldn’t help you much) and reasonable from Ogilvy (which obviously takes Cannes very seriously indeed – Ogilvy was the best performing network.)

High profile BBH, Droga5 and Uncommon picked up a couple each, Lucky Generals and New Commercial Arts none (they may not have entered of course.) Adam&eveDDB won eight Lions, pretty respectable although it was the Festival’s last Agency of the Decade so it seems to have slipped a little.

You wouldn’t have actually seen that many ads. If you were a student (part-time maybe) of the industry you may have noticed that the widely-praised ‘Open Spaces’ by Megaforce (not British) for Burberry had to be content with a gold. Was it pipped by a lack of ‘purpose?’

One definition of ad creativity has always been to burnish the seemingly mundane, build a brand on seemingly flimsy foundations. One of the most famous ad campaigns remains Hamlet cigars (can’t advertise them now of course), a truly terrible product that seemed to consist of sweepings from the Gallaher factory floor. But the ads worked wonders.

Heineken from the same 70s stable (CDP then, in the case of Heineken, Lowe) did much the same. Heineken in the UK wasn’t much like a “real” lager but the ads propelled it to the heights. Same with Stella Artois. But such ads barely featured at Cannes. It’s almost as though only the only ads (or communications) representing brands on the side of the angels had a chance of winning. Or, if not that, brands noisily trying to join the good guys.

Our client might be justifiably confused. And decide advertising wasn’t for them.

Update

New Commercial Arts didn’t enter this year.

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About Stephen Foster

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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