Are advertising awards all they have cracked up to be?

Ad agencies, led by Paris-based Publicis Groupe, wonder about the value of award competitions where booze-fuelled beach parties are seen to be taking the spotlight away from serious panel discussions


A decision by global advertising company Publicis Groupe to sit out next year’s Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity — mainly because of high costs — has refocused attention on the value of advertising awards shows the world over, including the local showcase, The Loeries.

But Loeries CEO Andrew Human isn’t immediately concerned, saying the number of early entries for this year is similar to last year and could top 2016, with the introduction of three new categories including design in digital media and data-driven campaigns.

What will be worrying will be Publicis’s absence next year from the Bookmarks (digital media excellence) and the Pendorings (Afrikaans advertising), as the French-based company’s decision also affects all award shows for one year. Local Publicis agencies include OwenKessel Leo Burnett, Publicis Machine, Saatchi & Saatchi, Saatchi & Saatchi Synergize and Liquorice.

Money saved by not entering will be used to fund an artificial intelligence system. But, as the trade publication AdAge suggests, “the festival has lost its way as sprawling rosé-washed parties on the beach and yachts often overshadow serious panels occurring inside the Palais de Festival.”

Rival holding company WPP, which houses big agencies like Y&R and JWT, cut its attendance participation by half this year.

Human wonders how much consultation there was with creative staff at Publicis. He believes awards shows drive competitiveness, which can only be good for the health and growth of a brand. He also points out the Publicis decision is only for a year; and that other local agencies, including FoxP2 and BBDO, have sat out of the Loeries for a year in the past.

A survey of several local agency creative departments, including those in the Publicis Groupe, seem to bear out Human’s sentiments, saying award-show success is good for creative output and marketability of talent. One creative director says: “While awards shows may have a bad reputation of being booze-fuelled nights of excess they are still powerful motivators for hugely competitive people.”

There is no doubt that cost is a big factor when it comes to the Cannes Lions. Entry costs range from R8,000 to R27,500, depending on the category and how early the entry is received. Add to that the cost of staying in the South of France for a week and one can see why some countries with weak currencies balk at participating.

Most SA agencies these days only enter work they know has a real chance of winning. Says another creative director: “It’s a game of percentages. You inherently know what will find favour and what won’t.”

Human says cost is not a concern when it comes to the Loeries. “We are a nonprofit organisation whereas Cannes is a profit machine. The Loeries is also the lowest-priced awards festival per delegate in the world and this year there are eight international speakers.” The average cost per Loeries entry is R2,500.

The Cannes Lions have announced a new advisory committee to help shape the event’s future. It includes top marketers from Procter & Gamble, Unilever and Burger King.



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