I spent some time last night looking at various Cannes winners. As a consequence, I also spent some time wondering if I still belong in this business.
I've written before how when I was a kid in the business (when print was much more important) I used to go through every magazine and newspaper I could get ahold of and cut out the ads I thought were good, that I thought I could learn from.
I'd throw these ads into a big corrugated box and when the big award annuals came out--the One Show and the Art Directors' Club primarily--I would compare my taste to that of the judges. I was, I think in alignment with the poobahs of advertising, I'd say, roughly 90% of the time.
Today, I'll admit, I don't understand.
Last night I saw a Titanium-winner for a Argentinian beer brand where lost teeth were replaced with dental implants with which you could open a beer bottle. You can see that effort here. I saw an video about tattooing yourself with a different kind of hamburger than the one you usually clog your arteries with.
Not only do I wonder how a viewer would find these efforts--there was no paid media behind either effort--I found each effort wholly unappetizing, in fact, stomach-roiling. In short, each effort was merely a stunt, with no reach or scale and with little, I think, obeisance to the voice of the brand.
Generally speaking it's not an great idea to intimately show a dental implant in action in juxtaposition with having a beer. Likewise, I think showing un-showered people is not a good long-term strategy for a hamburger company.
I think the industry (and the world for that matter) has hopped on a solipsistic merry-go-round. Self-serving, self-referential, selfish and insular. We have come to a dangerous place: that is, our work appeals not to consumers but to the arbiters of taste and award shows. We are chasing our own tails into oblivion.
Like Alban Berg, however, I am vox clamantis in deserto. A voice crying in the wilderness.
Were I at the lead of an agency, I would respond to a different brief. As an industry, we have lost our relevance and importance. Big companies no longer respect what we do and our ability to drive brands forward. Once we were valued enough to be able to afford office space close to where our clients dwell. Today, we are a low wage industry pushed to the geographic fringes.
Way above is my nutshell view on awards.
To the left is arguably the greatest general in American history, David Dwight Eisenhower. To the right, is General Petraeus, an adulterer and betrayer of national secrets.
We know who was more valuable.
Just look at their awards.