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Jane Austin in Cannes: creativity under fire – but a richly-deserved Film Grand Prix for CALM

Cannes week has ended and the AI backlash is already in full swing. Maybe it’s the collective hangover, but along with talking smack about AI, some Cannes attendees gave the industry’s creative output a bit of a mauling in the press.

TBWA\Worldwide President Troy Ruhanen thinks creativity is ‘bloody average’ and ‘not in its boldest place’, and complained that it is being overshadowed by AI hype, in an interview with AdAge.

Advertising’s creative offerings haven’t gone down well with Spike Lee either. At a press conference, the legendary filmmaker and Cannes’ Creative Maker of the Year, complained about all the rubbish TV ads he had to sit through during lockdown.

“I watch a lot of sports and some of these commercials ‘I’m like, who wrote that? Who thinks that’s funny?” Lee said, adding: “And especially these fast food [commercials]. I mean especially with the pandemic there are more fast food commercials now than ever and I don’t understand it. They’re not even trying to be creative.”

Oh dear. It’s tough love like that can knock the last remaining shred of confidence out of an industry undergoing an existential crisis.

On the upside, there were some rays of creative hope among the winning entries at Cannes. It was particularly heartening to end the week with adam&eveDDB’s “The Last Photo” campaign for suicide prevention charity CALM winning the Grand Prix in Film. This powerful campaign, which featured footage of real people living seemingly carefree lives before they died by suicide, started a national conversation around the fact that the signs are not easy to spot and how suicide can hide behind a smile.

Purpose-led work for a charity or NGO isn’t exactly the order of the day at Cannes anymore as juries seem to be moving toward more paying client work. But the CALM campaign is a crucial reminder of what can be achieved when creativity is applied to an incredibly important cause.

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