Cannes Lions wrap: MAA’s GP of GPs, James Murphy’s choice

Does Cannes matter? This is a question we asked at the very start and our answer is, yes to an extent (just as well as we covered it in some depth although we eschewed some Grand Prix which seemed to have more to do with ingenuity than creativity.)

It matters because it’s now the world’s biggest ad festival by some distance even though, rather like Glastonbury in the music world, it’s showing signs of middle-aged spread. Its stars aren’t quite as old but it’s noteworthy that the younger lot seem to lacking the the appeal of their elders.

This time there seemed to a needed re-set towards the commercial at the expense of purpose. One person who knows something about this is James Murphy (left), CEO of New Commercial Arts, an avowedly commercial organization, and, before that, a co-founder and CEO of adam&eve (now adam&eveDDB), Cannes’ most recent Agency of the Decade.

Here’s his choice from Cannes, one which was noted but didn’t win big, and feelings about the festival as a whole.

James Murphy’s choice

Now the curtain has come down on another Cannes, MAA asked for nominations for their own Cannes Grand Prix and a flavour of how the festival felt.

Well Cannes 23 felt like it was making up for lost time. A buzz around the work, a buzz around the business being done and a feeling that it was OK to party a bit on the side as well.

And while there were the debates over the purpose of purpose, the existential threat of AI and the perennial “creativity ain’t what it used to be” crisis, there was a piece of UK work that came through the middle showing what great, populist commercial creativity is all about.

McDonald’s “Raise your arches” has a simple, celebratory confidence that reflects a brand and agency (Leo Burnett London) who know exactly what they’re doing together. It won some gongs, but definitely deserved more. It stands out as piece of work that is entirely self-contained. It stands or falls entirely on what you see, hear and feel in 60 seconds on the screen.

There is no back-story, no higher moral calling, just the reductivist joy of creativity where you feel nothing could have been added to make it better, and nothing taken away. It revels in the brand’s ubiquitous and iconic identity and the insight that a guilty pleasure is even better when it’s shared.

Cannes is a global showcase and this is such a simple, universal idea from the UK, it could run anywhere.

What else caught our eye? This joint winner of the Film Grand Prix (still the biggie) rather shamefully eluded us in the rush of last day awards. Good to see 30-seconds can still hack it.

P&G’s ‘The Name’ from R/GA is just a completely charming film. No idea what it’s selling but it makes you feel better about P&G.

But the MAA Grand Prix of Grand Prix? Has to be the other Film winner, CALM from adam&eveDDB. At one point it looked as though this would bag loads of Lions but miss out on a Grand Prix (it fits into numerous categories) but justice was done in the end.

It certainly isn’t avowedly commercial (but not everything has to be) but really couldn’t be done better and can stand against any Cannes winner. Highlighting male suicide is a worthy social service.

A&E has had a few reverses over the past year or so, losing out in the Virgin/O2 pitch and seeing the National Lottery under its new operator go elsewhere. John Lewis had the effrontery to review and A&E chose not to repitch. Does the retailer know what it’s done?

But A&E is up there with the world’s historic great ad agencies (admittedly an Anglo-centric list): CDP and BMP in the UK, DDB (very back in the day) and Chiat\Day in the US, BETC in Paris (why don’t French agencies do better at Cannes? Maybe the jurors are smarting over their drinks bills.)

We could do with another one or two.

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