The Aussie Cannes Lions haul is the lowest in four years – so do we suck at creativity?

Alex HayesAustralia took home the least Cannes Lions from Cannes in four years, but it’s the categories there was success in which tells the real story argues Mumbrella editor Alex Hayes.

It’s probably quite telling that the first thing I saw about this year’s Cannes Lions after ending a two-week media blackout yesterday was that tweet of a couple getting it on on the red carpet at the Palais.

Telling because there hasn’t exactly been a lot to shout about for the reporters who made the 24-hour journey to the south of France from an awards perspective – just 59 overall and not a Grand Prix amongst them.

sex red carpet cannes lions tweetIn the last few years Australia has been the darling of the festival, seen as the plucky outsider punching well above its weight, largely buoyed by campaigns like Dumb Ways to Die (2013), GayTMs (2014), Best Job in the World (2009) and Share a Coke (2012).

Last year Aussies grabbed 69 awards, and the year before that 87 (largely boosted by the outstanding performance of Dumb Ways to Die which got five Grand Prix on its own), while in 2012 we managed 59 Lions, and 2011 saw us take home 35 trophies, although there are several more categories now than there were back then.

Those raw numbers don’t look great for Australia, but are things that bad? It could be argued the drop off points to there being a lack of an appetite for creativity from our marketers.

But I’d argue not. You see for my money the categories Aussies are doing best in are the ones that are the most relevant to the marketing industry today, and most importantly tomorrow.

The Lions have faced criticism for years that the current structure of the awards and the fact they are handed to isolated mediums (Print, Film, Outdoor etc) instead of holistic campaigns, but has been loathe to change the very lucrative formula for a variety of reasons.

M&C Saatchi’s Clever Buoy was this year’s standout achiever for Australia and is a good example of the new world order, picking up one of only five gongs handed out in the coveted Titanium category which celebrates “breakthrough ideas which are provocative and point to a new direction in the industry” and the Innovation category as well.

Some have commented on this site asking if it’s a legitimate campaign, mainly because it’s still a prototyped product (although M&C insists it is still very much working on making it a viable product). But it’s the very fact it doesn’t fit neatly into many Lions categories which makes it so interesting. It had success in PR, Mobile and the unfortunately named Cyber categories as well – three which are becoming more important every year.

What will be interesting to see is what M&C can come up with next to back up this work and prove its credentials next year.

Saatchi & Saatchi’s Penny the Pirate work for OPSM followed up a solid year last year with a Bronze in the Creative Effectiveness category – showing creative agencies can turn their hands to media executions successfully. It also scooped a Gold in Innovation.

And in the new Creative Data category Leo Burnett Sydney’s Run this Town game scored a Gold, the highest award handed out this year in the category, showing Aussies can mix it on the global stage in that increasingly important field. Tellingly there was no Grand Prix handed out in that category by the jury.

This year just one campaign won in Print with entries for that category dropping considerably from around the world, as the medium continues to face a tough time. As we decided not to attend Cannes we couldn’t get access to the press centre to see how many Aussie entries there were – but I’d wager they had also declined.

More concerning is the performance in the Outdoor category – another that saw a decline in entries this year – with just one campaign from Down Under picking up a Lion in that category. Australia has won the Grand Prix in for the last two years courtesy of Dumb Ways and GayTMs, and the outdoor industry has work to do to persuade marketers and agencies to up their creativity if they want to hit their ambitious growth targets.

Mobile is also on agencies and marketers would do well to put an increased focus on.

There’s no argument about the importance of creativity in the ad industry, and for many Cannes is the biggest global benchmark of that. It’d be easy to see the substantial drop off in awards as an indication Australia is slipping behind in that field – but for my money our marketers are enjoying success in the areas that really matter.

Ultimately most CEOs aren’t worried about gathering a few doorstops in the sun, but on the bottom line of their businesses. M&C, Saatchis and Leos have all created campaigns that got noticed inside the industry, but more important is the attention they are getting outside the industry – with consumers.

Just think, while the industry will probably remember the Cannes Lions 2015 for the controversy around who created a little metal fish to put in cooking pots in Cambodia, the rest of the world will only remember it for the copulating couple on the red carpet. 

  • Alex Hayes is editor of Mumbrella

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