It is pronounced “Can”

“20 years ago,” according to Mike Dolan, former CEO of Y&R and current CEO of Bacardi, “Cannes was a job fair. Now it’s about the work, funnily enough, and increasingly even about the clients”. We were on a yacht moored in Le Vieux Port to promote the book, “Does it Work?” He went on talk about how the Festival sponsors are changing too, and the surge of digital in everything. The rest of the panel, Ross Levinsohn, briefly the CEO of Yahoo, and Erin McPherson, Chief Content Officer from Maker Studios, both confirmed the rise of digital.

Cannes Palace

While phonetically Cannes may not sound that glamorous, eliciting images of cheap aluminium drinking receptacles, I would posit that is likely the paragon glamorous lifestyle. Ensconced on the Côte d’Azur, with white-sand beaches flanking La Croisette, billionaire yachts, helicopters, parties to stretch into daylight and $1000-a-night rooms at The Carlton, there is nothing cheap about the town. There is a reason the film awards (and the porn film awards after it) are hosted there. Both of these precede the Advertising Festival. One could imagine staying all three weeks, or even the entire summer, unhinged by constraints that keep the rest of the world in check. The energy is flammable and the egos, suffocating. But it’s ok. This is a concentration of the best creative talent in the world. I see it as a mashup of The Oscars (beauty & craft) and a Nobel Prize (intellect & insight) for global creativity.

Yacht - Panel

On the periphery is the small army of “suits” (client service types), that come to connect, build relationships and hopefully, strike deals. For us suits, it’s like Davos for Advertising. There is simply no better event to network at if you are in the advertising industry. The top executives from clients and agencies will moor at their favourite hotel or restaurant each day, multiplexing their meetings in concertina fashion, often being only half-hour morsels.

For the suits, there is little partying. Rather there is a litany of elevator pitches, trying to catch the attention of these advertising giants, with the hope that you’ll win more time. For the suits, the day usually starts with a couple of hours answering emails and then onto a 10 am “breakfast” for the first meeting. If you are lucky, you have a stack of meetings. And this goes on until dinner, which can start as late as 10pm, and then onto the functions, which go through until the early hours. It is gruelling. Which makes sense, as this is an event for the creative minds to celebrate or commiserate their hard work. To be clear, while it is tough for the account people, if you love deal-making and developing relationships, The Festival cannot be missed.

The Carlton

Last year the key theme for me was “content”. While the ad industry’s always seen itself as storytellers, the format to tell that story was a rigid 30-second television commercial. So “content” at the 2014 Festival came to mean the telling of stories beyond that constraint. And the subtext of this was very much that social media was the framework. Dragging it out of the ‘community management’ ghetto and into a place where the “big idea” could live healthily.

This year, for me, it was all about online video. And this is clearly an extension of last year’s theme but with a clear link to the visceral format that drove the advertising space for the 30 years prior: film. So, I see this year’s Festival as a watershed – where TVCs and the Internet became comfortable bedfellows.

To this end, online film underpinned almost everything I saw. And the legendary David Droga sees this evolution too. To paraphrase: TV is like a Formula 1 one track (rigid, set structure, potentially high performance) and Digital is like the streets (complex, interesting, many routes). It is more complicated but, according to him, there is more opportunity for great ad people.

Perhaps the best example of the growing influence of online film was the Grand Prix winner of the Film category: Geico’s “Unskippable”. It really is an incredible result. To unpack this: a pre-roll YouTube ad, that completes its message in 5 seconds, beat out large budget television commercials, a format that has dominated the category since its inception. By subverting the constraints of the YouTube ad model, it delivered something interesting and entertaining, that allowed it to stand above others both in terms of reach and creativity and therefore, effectiveness.

So to me, it wasn’t only that this year’s Festival is about online film. It was also the start of a new epoch in advertising. A time where the most visceral format, film, succeeds in the multi-format world called the Internet.


– Justin Spratt is Managing Director of Quirk Africa. You can follow him on Twitter @justinspratt.


Interface is the brand, digital maturity, better presentations, Instagram and more… #worthwhile

A nice mixed bag this week, lots of things to think about, and even more to put into practice.

Let’s go..

(ps. drop me a line @thescott if you want to connect)..


From the “interface is the brand” department: Mark my words – the discipline of user experience (UX) is going to be the most important aspect of marketing in a digitally enabled world. Specifically holistic UX, not just the wire-framing and information architecture aspects which are very much perceived as UX in its entirety. User Experience as a higher level strategic discipline is all about understanding people and how to build slick, efficient and amazing brand experiences around them.

The Future of Branding Is User Experience does a great job in fleshing out this thinking..

Similarly, the tools of UX — wireframes, user flows, persona studies, etc.—are just the means to define and plan the experience of interacting with a site, application, or other software. As our landscape is shifting, people’s primary interaction with brands is happening via digital channels and, consequently, the tools of user experience will begin to find their place on the workbench of core branding utilities.

Now, why is this important? Because shifting our perception of branding from logos to experiences is fundamental to understanding how users interact with your brand today. In an increasingly competitive business environment, the stakes are higher than ever and, to stand apart, not only does the product need to be great and well presented, but the entire experience of interacting with the brand needs to be satisfying.

From the “Your organisation is probably an advanced beginner” department: A Five Stage Model for Digital Maturity – Neil Perkin

Using the Dreyfus Model for skills acquisition, Perkin suggests a “digital competency” framework with five distinct stages of learning – novice, competence, proficiency, expertise, and mastery.

Dreyfus Model on wikipedia: “In the novice stage, a person follows rules as given, without context, with no sense of responsibility beyond following the rules exactly. Competence develops when the individual develops organizing principles to quickly access the particular rules that are relevant to the specific task at hand; hence, competence is characterized by active decision making in choosing a course of action. Proficiency is shown by individuals who develop intuition to guide their decisions and devise their own rules to formulate plans. The progression is thus from rigid adherence to rules to an intuitive mode of reasoning based on tacit knowledge.”

Read the rest of the article to see how it all translates to digital competency..

From the “Data versus Creativity” department: Alison Merifield from Quirk London did a nice write up about a recent Google Firestarters event held in London.

So where did Firestarters leave the data vs. creativity debate? Hopefully with creatives wanting to better understand data and data analysts wanting to understand the creative process. It’s not an either / or debate and the battle for the hearts and minds of consumers will take a joint effort. Here’s something else to add into the mix, when looking at data and personalisation. Can algorithms discriminate? NYTimes today suggests they do.

From the department of “Let’s be better at creative critiques”: As a business that produces creative “things”, we spend a lot of our lives either giving or receiving feedback. In 8 types of bad creative critics, Tom Fishburne makes a wonderful attempt to name the worst kinds of creative feedback-givers:

“The Blender”, “The Hidden Agenda”, “The Micro-Manager”, “”The Wet Blanket”, “The Waffler”, “The Crammer”, “The Wannabe” or “The Pet Peeved”

Which one are YOU?


via the “Dept. of Better Presentations”: More wisdom* from Russell Davies on the use of imagery in presentations.

This point in particular:

Illustrate Don’t Decorate

You should use visuals to make the point you want to make, not to make it look ‘more whizzy’. Your visuals should be big and clear, just like your words, you should not have any visuals that aren’t helping you communicate.


  • If you’re talking about budgets you don’t need a picture of some money.
  • If you’re talking about having ideas you don’t need pictures of lightbulbs.
  • If you’re talking about teamwork you don’t need a picture of some brightly coloured people holding a piece of jigsaw.
  • Even more specifically, never, ever use clipart.

Similarly, if you’re typing an abstract noun into Image Search you’ve already lost.

* previous presentation creation wisdom: Make it bigMake it clearOrganise it so people can follow it

From the “Instagram is the new creative canvas” department: Take a look at @Michanotfound ‘s thumbnails: MikahNotFound

Definitely one of the more impressive Instagram galleries I’ve ever seen. Although I think looking at each image itself as they were posted must have been a bit odd..

Speaking of Instagram, eConsultancy’s piece on “How brands are using Instagram ads” gives creatives a nice bit of context…


“The fast adoption of Instagram has been driven by many trends in consumer behavior: the shift from text based communications to visual based communications, the shift from ‘search with intent’ to ‘discovery’ and of course most prevalently, the shift away from desktop to camera enabled, always-connected mobile phones.”

“Instagram has been a fantastic platform for brands wishing to build their audience, drive brand equity and build relationships by aligning their products or services to the lifestyle of the average Instagram user.”

“It’s a powerful engagement tool and users know that when they follow or interact with a brand, there won’t be a hard sell because the functionality just doesn’t exist.

Until now.”

From the “I need a new wallpaper” department: Google Earth View

“Earth View is a collection of the most striking and enigmatic landscapes available in Google Earth. The colors, shapes, textures and patterns all contribute to the strange beauty of our planet, reminding us of nature’s uncanny geometry and bewildering simplicity. Each of the 1500 images featured in this collection was hand curated and available for download as wallpaper for your desktop or mobile.”

Finally, from the “another emotional one from coke” department, we have another emotional one.. 15million views emotional..




What’s the big deal about Cannes and why should you care?

The Cannes Lions Festival is advertising’s largest, most global awards show.  Each year it receives over 40 000 entries, from over 100 countries.  It’s increasingly no longer just a party for creative people: ever since 2003, when marketing juggernaut Procter & Gamble took its first delegation, clients have been coming to Cannes in ever increasing numbers. By 2011, nearly one in five of the delegates at the Festival was said to be from a brand-owning client company.  Unilever CMO Keith Weed has referred to Cannes as the “Davos Economic forum of the advertising world.”

It’s  also been called “The Olympics of Advertising.” And just like the Olympics, it has its fair share of controversy and scandal (although, unlike the Olympics, doping is still quite acceptable).  Let’s look at a sample of some of the more inflammatory headlines from this year’s Festival: “The Empty Roar of the Cannes Lion and An Ad Agency in Distress.”  “Is Cannes getting Bigger and Smaller at the Same Time?” “Why Winning a Cannes Lion Will Soon be Irrelevant.”

Something about Cannes brings out the strong opinions in a way that none of the other awards shows can quite match.  Every year there’s fevered debate about exactly what the winners’ showreels signify for the industry.  And I’m all for it.  It’s how new creative values and practices are debated, negotiated, potentially rejected and re-negotiated.  Whether you think the winners are an inspiration or an indictment, at least you have an opinion, and a benchmark, which you will either choose to reach for or reject.

And creative awards are not simply a frivolous indulgence.  Breakthrough creativity has a strong business case, thanks to research done by Donald Gunn and the I.P.A, which has shown that creative advertising is more effective advertising.  In The Case for Creativity (2011), James Hurman tracked the share price of Cannes Lions’ Advertiser of The Year winners at the time of receiving the award, and in the immediate lead-up to the award. He found that, without exception, each of those companies had enjoyed record period of stock value growth as a result of the greater focus on creativity and innovation, which had evidenced itself in the award-winning creative work.

This year, Quirk got its first shortlist at Cannes, for Orange Babies, in the new (ish) Health Lions Competition. We should be proud of this – less than 10% of all work entered gets any kind of recognition.   What this win also showed is that no matter how technologically advanced the world get, simple, powerful storytelling will always appeal to people.

Whether you thought this year’s winners were breath taking or best forgotten, what new ideas did you take away?

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