Creativity roars!


South African PAM MARSH of Hello Charlie reports on the recent Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, one of the premier advertising awards and conference events on the global calendar.

While my plane hurtled through the sky en route to Nice, I wondered what Cannes Lions would bring this year. Well, it brought an astounding 11 000 delegates from all over the world and an equally astounding 35 000 entries into the competition.

One of the highlights of Cannes Lions is the seminar programme. Innocean Worldwide presented a seminar called The Regeneration Project, a great piece of branded entertainment. Client Hyundai Veloster was looking for a new audience which they called “the young creative class’. In order to connect with this new “tricky and discerning’ audience, they realised they had to be what people are interested in.

It was the first outreach of this brand to the audience. They challenged DJs to re-inspire five genres of music and to create five music tracks with traditional artists and this was documented into a movie. Although YouTube was used as its platform, it was launched like a traditional film. The client was really interested in capturing the authentic moment. This movie earns attention and you can watch it on:

I was very excited to attend the seminar on Google Rebrief and loved this story when I first saw it on YouTube. It was wonderful to see these advertising veterans in the flesh. Google and their agency created a challenge – can the most iconic advertising campaigns be re-imagined for a modern audience? These were: Coke Hilltop; AVIS We Try Harder; Volvo Drive It Like You Hate It and Alka Seltzer I Can’t Believe I Ate the Whole Thing.

Here are some statements from the veterans: All you have to do is think it, let the techno guys do the rest. Ask yourself, what is the goal? Everybody needs the same goal. You can choose to either believe you are giving in to the client or learning from the client. Take the time to think of the problem and solution; take time to consider, it’s our job in communication to take time to think.

If you haven’t yet seen this documentary, it is really worth watching on-line at:

What is creativity?

I also attended a couple of workshops, among them Selling Creativity by Landor. They started by saying: Our clients need creativity more than ever. What is creativity? — The capacity to bring together knowledge and imagination; to bring original ideas that give value.

It would be great if great work sold itself, but that’s part of the problem. We create brilliant ideas but spend too little time preparing our presentations to clients. It’s about inspiring your clients to see the potential in the work you have generated. We are often asking clients to take a leap with us but most ideas are pitched poorly. The sad thing about this is that mediocre work gets produced.

They left us with this thought – creativity is courageous. Creativity and courage are brothers.

In short

I loved Jung von Matt’s Mercedes No Emission. Even though some naysayers said it had been done on Top Gear, clever JvM made it into clever advertising. That’s our job, right?

The Austria Solar Company Annual Report was fabulous. It was written in ink that only becomes visible in the sun! As the jury president commented: “This was a special concept with a very brave client who needs to be commended.’

I was pretty blown away by former US President Bill Clinton who announced: “We are here to re-imagine the world,’ and ended with: “We all need mutual empowerment… with a lot in between.’

Sir John Hegarty and Dan Wieden’s banter about what makes great advertising was really enjoyable.

The South African party at La Plage Royale was great as always. Thanks to the main sponsors – 7 Films; AFS Productions; Egg Films; Gatehouse Commercials; Lucky Rabbit Films; Moonlighting; and Orange Films.

Jury presidents’ insights

Sheng Yon Lo, jury president Outdoor: “Present a case on behalf of your client that is beautiful and inspiring.’

Rui Alves, executive creative director of Y&R SA and member of the Outdoor jury: Technical and traditional were split in two. They were looking for quick, simple and very clever ideas. As there were so many entries the jury split into sub-categories to get through the work.’

2012 brought South Africa the first ever mobile winners. Jury president Tom Eslinger had this to say: “This category spanned big brands to small business. Mobile has an ongoing engagement with people, it is a ubiquitous connection. Even though mobile is about the connection it is also about the idea.’

The Creative Effectiveness category comprises advertising that won the previous year and is then re-submitted with all the data required, to prove its effectiveness. Jury president David Jones said: “There were a lot of entries where the entrants were quite lazy and this was a problem as the jury wanted real return on investment (ROI) data. A lot of work is required for this category.’

The Radio category was up 31% this year. Rob McLennan, executive creative director of Network#BBDO and radio jury president: “The categories at Cannes are getting more diverse. Radio is being used with impact like never before. The jury debate was a tight decision between the battle for traditional or for innovation. South Africa has the best reputation for radio in the world; it also had the highest entries. We won Grand Prix in both 2009 and 2011 and all the Gold Lions in between.’

Cyber chair Iain Tait: “This category is the evolution of the industry; everything has a digital consideration these days. The standard is getting better but there is not enough breakthrough work yet.’

Titanium & Integrated jury president Rob Reilly said the jury was blown away by the work. ‘Most importantly it was fascinating to see where the work came from, places like Colombia, Tunisia, Lebanon, Finland and Latvia, to name a few. It was completely inspiring to see the entries, which delivered all sorts of cultural nuances. These are amazing pieces of communication. The jury agreed that the definition of the Titanium Lion will be debated forever, as it will be ever changing.’

Espen Horn, Film Craft jury president: “Judging craft is about looking for enhancement and development of the craft.’

Branded Content and Entertainment jury president Avi Savar: “This was the debut year for this category, which is about building brands through real storytelling and real people engagement. It’s about embracing content to connect and cultivate a better world. It’s about – engagement, creativity and story.’

Film Jury president Khai Ming Tham: “We had to remember it’s always about the idea, simply executed in an engaging manner.’

Catherine Ireland, creative director of Amplified and member of the film jury, shared her experience with me. “This year, films that won at Cannes needed to be powerful enough to entertain and move 23 jurors from around the world. This is no mean feat. Especially since the jurors in question were sequestered to dark rooms for 15 hours a day for seven days. Occasionally someone would come in with some baguettes or a pizza and the jury would descend upon the humble fare like a bunch of shipwrecked sailors. We were there to watch over 3 000 films, to sort the “ho-hum’ from the “woohoo’. The process involved repeated scrutinisation of any work that was deemed brilliant enough to be on the shortlist.

“Initially the jury is divided into three groups and each group is shown a different portion of the entries. It really is very difficult to get onto the shortlist and creatives that managed it this year should be really proud of themselves. Work that had the potential to make the world a better place or the ability to change how we think about social issues was generally unanimously awarded.’

So what does all this mean? Consumers, especially young ones, want more than just ads and easily reject obvious efforts to persuade. More than ever advertising needs to provide value.

South Africa’s ability to compete in this space will not be limited by our budgets. And it can’t possibly be limited by our creativity or brevity. Right? As to what South Africans should be doing more of? If you’re not sure if it’s any good, go with your gut. Next year’s film jury will. (Thanks to the RAB for covering my expenses while in Cannes.).

Congratulations to all the South African Cannes Lion winners!


  • Gold – Metropolitan Republic – Wimpy Braille Burger
  • Silver – Metropolian Republic – Wimpy Braille Menu
  • Bronze – Ogilvy CT – SAB Be the Coach


  • Bronze – Ogilvy CT – SAB Be the Coach
  • Bronze – Ogilvy CT – VW Bluemotion


  • Silver – TBWA/Hunt/Lascaris – Tigerbrands Enterprise
  • Silver – Y&R – Land Rover Defender
  • Bronze – Net#workBBDO – Mercedes Benz


  • Silver – Ogilvy CT – VW Bluemotion
  • Bronze – Black River FC – Nando’s


  • 2 x Gold – DDB – McDonalds Kids Party
  • Silver – TBWA/Hunt/Lascaris – Tigerbrands Enterprise
  • Bronze – TBWA/Hunt/Lascaris – City Lodge Hotels
  • Bronze – DraftFCB – Media 24 Die Burger
  • Bronze – DDB – McDonalds Kids Party


  • 2 x Gold – Net#workBBDO – Mercedes Benz
  • Bronze – TBWA/Hunt/Lascaris – Tigerbrands Doom
  • Bronze – Net#workBBDO – Galderma
  • Bronze – Net#workBBDO – Chicken Licken Hot Wings
  • Bronze – Ogilvy JHB – Greenpeace
  • Bronze – Ogilvy CT – Stimorol
  • Bronze – TBWA/Hunt/Lascaris – Tigerbrands Doom


  • Bronze – King James – Santam Insurer

Screen Africa magazine – August 2012


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