Terry Savage defends debated Cannes Lions entries saying ‘Super Bowl ads run once’


In a Q&A conducted by email,  Terry Savage, chairman of the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, defends the integrity of the competition and answers questions around scam ads following an investigation by Mumbrella into a series of ads from Australia entered into the Press category which ran just once in regional media.

What is your definition of scam?

“We require the work to have been approved by the client and to have used paid Media in the execution, if there is a query we get validation via the agency the client and the Media schedule that the work has run and complied within our entry rules. In the case of self promotion and NGO that is not the case.”

How many campaigns were disqualified this year? If none, when was something last disqualified?

“We run a number of awards and Festivals around the world  – we have withdrawn Grand Prix , Agency of the Year  and individual awards Awards on a number of occasions if we find the work was not legitimate. Clearly we have a process to ascertain if the work met our rules and if a complaint is raised we investigate to ascertain confirmation from the client and request a Media schedule  – We do not share that information with the Press because it is not our role to do so – we simply  issue a statement that it complied or did not comply with the rules .”

[The Grand Prix which was withdrawn is understood to have been from the Dubai Lynx competition when FP7 Doha was stripped of its title.]

 What do you see as the purpose of Cannes Lions? 

“Cannes Lions like all of our Festivals is to promote, inspiration, learning and provide networking opportunities to our delegates attending  – it also runs awards that recognise the excellence in Creativity that sets the benchmarks and shows the trends from across the planet – The fact is that they happen to be the most important and prestigious in the world be it our Global events or our regional events. Cannes being global and, Spikes, Lynx  and Eurobest being regional.”

What do you make of the number of ‘one-off’ executions which have been entered into the Press category of the Lions?

“It is not our role to make anything of them – we have a set of rules and as long as the rules are complied with then we have to rely on the good faith of the industry that what they are doing is legitimate. With this current set of issues raised by Mumbrella we have spoken to agencies and marketers and have been satisfied that the intent of the work was legitimate . The world is not black and white and strategies that are adopted to test and break new boundaries should be accepted if all parties concur that they were genuine and legitimate. Super Bowl ads run once.”

Whilst the executions Mumbrella has featured in recent days have been within the rules, are they within the spirit of the competition? 

“I have no need to comment on specific work that I have found to be within the rules.”

Does it devalue the competition to have campaigns that are wide running to go up against one-off executions which look like they were geared towards winning an award rather than solving a client’s business problem? 

“The issue here is the use of the words  “look like” – again it is not black and white – whatever it is rather sad that there is a focus on this issue not a focus on what this event is really about, great work, inspirational  executions, brilliant insights – now that is really sensational especially when they have client approval. Even sadder perhaps is that if as much was written about the two Grand Prix winners that Australia secured at Cannes this year also approved by marketers then we would really be focusing on inspiration and great achievement.”

[See more on the two GP winners here: The ANZ GAYTM campaign by Whybin\TBWA Melbourne picked up the Grand Prix in the Outdoor category of Cannes and McCann Melbourne took home a Grand Prix in the Creative Effectiveness category for its Guilt Trips campaign for v/Line]

Are the Cannes Lions rules robust enough to prevent scam? 

“Are the Olympic rules strong enough to prevent drug cheats, our rules are robust, our rules are reviewed on a constant basis. In a complex marketing environment, where marketers are recognising the power of creativity and are willing to experiment with test concepts we believe the rules are adequate. As I have said however we constantly review all aspects of the business including rules.”

Should there be more emphasis placed on demonstrating effectiveness, or at least answering a client brief? 

“If you read the entry criteria it will show you that in several categories results are an element of the judging criteria – these are categories where this area is  relevant.”

How vigorously are entries scrutinised before being accepted? 

“We believe we have a process that is sufficient for the job in hand.”

 Are any entries or winners being investigated at the moment?

“Clearly the issues raised by Mumbrella in Australia and now Mumbrella in Asia [over a winning Guinness ad] are being investigated – if queries are raised by the juries they are looked at in Cannes and the juries advised of the outcome. Frankly most of the queries raised come to nothing due to them being legitimate entries and due to mistakes being made by the complainant. We have recently received a complaint for example about an ad that was alleged not to have run – when in fact the ad in question which was sent to us, was the wrong ad.”

If an agency is found to have perpetrated scam would the Lions take action? If so, what punishments would be handed out? 

“As I mentioned earlier we have removed a Grand Prix for an execution that was clearly not meeting our entry criteria, we will take action if a clear case is established, what that action is will be determined at the time .”

 Are you looking at reviewing or changing the rules? 

“Other than our normal reviews as outlined above no.”

 Is the Cannes Lions festival an advertising festival or a creative festival? 

“It is the Cannes International Festival of Creativity as clearly headlined in the name of the event.”

Some people say the Lions turn a blind eye to scam, especially from major networks, because of the money they spend on awards. What is your response to that? 

“The issue of scam has been around for a long time, in fact well before Mumbrella was around – our view is that it is less of an issue now than it has been in the past . The world we live in is an increasingly complex one, and one that is increasingly recognising the benefit of creativity – marketers have an interest in pushing the boundaries. It is not in our interests to turn a blind eye to scam – when we are asked to investigate work we check 3 key issues, the agency, the marketer and the Media. If they are aligned irrespective of what others think, it is a reasonable position for us to take  the view that the work complies with our rules and is genuine .”

Given that Lions is a commercial organization how does it manage the inherent conflict between wanting as many awards entries as possible and maintaining standards? 

“We have no issue at all – Mumbrella runs an editorial position, awards and events so also has to manage conflicts at a commercial level – because they do all three does not mean they place commercial over integrity albeit if you were a cynic which I am not you could draw that assumption .”

 Do you have a message for people who are entering scam into awards?

“Don’t – it is not worth it – Cannes has 3000 marketers attending this year – – it is not in the interest of the agency- albeit on this occasion even though the marketers concerned have validated the work it seems no one is listening other than us.”

  • Terry Savage and McDonald’s CMO Mark Lollback will be giving a presentation at next week’s Creative Fuel event in Sydney on the topic of “what it takes to win a Lion”.

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