Can the Media Lions ever roar?

I didn’t go to Cannes this year or indeed for any year since 1999. Then I went as a judge of the Media Lions. I felt I was gate crashing someone else’s party (full of achingly cool people)and when I entered the darkened judging room it seemed like a movie in even parts inspired by the 70’s sitcom Mind Your Language and the classic thriller 12 Angry Men. Needless to say I modelled myself on Henry Fonda, not John Alderton.

That year a Newspaper Ad for MS by Saatchi and Saatchi UK won. 13 years on and a Poster campaign for Google has won. Congratulations to the guys at Manning Gottlieb OMD. I feel sorry for them that their victory is slightly soiled by the debate that has inevitably broken out about what makes for a good media award.

Cannes used to be about the celebration of creativity by the creative community. It was pretty Rock ‘n Roll…a bit like Glastonbury used to be. Now it feels more like the Eurovision Song Contest or that Sports Award that happens in Monte Carlo every year. I am not sure ‘Media’ should be there as a separate discipline.

In the UK it is widely recognised that the ‘Daddy’ of Awards is the IPA Effectiveness Awards. To win one requires intimate collaboration between agencies although there is a tendency for the Creative Agency to take the lead in authoring the submission. Whoever writes the entry, you can only triumph if the evidence is conclusive that the MEDIA investment has been effective behind the CREATIVE communication.

I remember years ago BT was a very worthy winner of the Grand Prix. In the booklet that accompanied the winners’ summaries there were a series of comments from the judges and it was highlighted that the winners were fantastic, but they warned a cautionary and castigating note that it had been a poor year for media thinking. A lack of ‘innovation’ in media seemed to be the criticism. I can’t get my head around this. If the BT campaign was massively successful surely the media was brilliant? Why in media do we look to celebrate innovation in its own right, ahead of relevance and effect?

My conclusion at Cannes in 1999 was that the awards should be very signposted as a celebration of innovation and brilliant tactical utilisation of a media opportunity. It’s impossible to judge them on any other criteria….the acid test for the esteemed judges should be a sense of ‘idea envy’ as a result of reading or viewing the submission. There are other complicating factors, largely relating to the flexibility of the media owner in different markets which will tend to favour stunts from developing markets but it will never be perfect. In the end, what the winners always remind us is that a great creative idea is an essential part of a brilliant media award. I have never seen a brilliant media idea with crap creative win an award. I have however seen brilliant creative help average or predictable media strategies to strike gold!

So, from my W1 office, whilst I have no objection to Google and MG OMD winning praise, I vote for Axe to be celebrated as the most effective media strategy at Cannes seeing as it triumphed in the Creative Effectiveness Award category…not sure whether it even got a mention in the Media Lions? Or maybe it wasn’t even entered…go figure, as they say.’’

  • paul c-c

    Bang on the nail

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