Cannes Lions: TBWA boss Ruhanen blasts creative standards and bent juries

It’s always good when an industry high-up cuts through the bullshit so congratulations to TBWA\Worldwide president/CEO Troy Ruhanen (below), discussing the Cannes Lions with Ad Age.

Amid the usual dreary questions about AI, Ruhanen has this to say about the prevailing level of creativity in adland:

Q/Do you feel like AI is overshadowing any topics this year?

A/It’s overshadowing the fact that I think the work (across the industry) is still pretty bloody average. There’s a lot of work that has a purpose, and then it’s about trying to find a client. It’s better that we’ve seen more real clients doing real work, getting rewarded. That to me is massively important.

But I do think we have to talk about where creativity is at. Creativity is probably not in its boldest place right now. And it’s been three years and we’re out of COVID so at what point are we really going to acknowledge that?”

Not at the Cannes Lions, one suspects. Then:

Q/What are you hearing about the judging criteria for juries at Cannes this year?

A/I’m hearing about certain companies educating their employees to do jury training to sort of make sure that they can steer (awards) toward their work. It takes away from the purity of this thing. I know that’s a naive statement, but that’s just going too far for me.

“That’s not Cannes’s fault per se. They could probably try to find a different way again to change the criteria, but I think it’s also in the heads of juries and I think they’ve got to be more aggressive against the people that are in that room and stop the games that are getting played. And if you’re a jury head, take responsibility.”

This, of course, will be dismissed by some as sour grapes but if there’s any truth in it – and there surely is, Ruhanen’s no fool – it’s scandalous.

The two issues are, of course, linked. Clients are going to be suspicious of creativity and the risks it entails if they think creatives are abandoning their better judgement (assuming they have any) to suck up to their bosses. As for the bosses..

Time to grow up.

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