The Bright SideEditor’s pick

Economic doldrums may have dampened spirits over the past year, but who wants to dwell on such real-world worries on the French Riviera? That’s the hopeful spirit underpinning The International Adver- tising Festival at Cannes this week, as attendees hope to glean some optimism from the range, perspective and quality of the submitted work.

The industry’s premier awards show will surely feel the effects of the recession, with fewer delegates flocking to the beachfront festival than usual. Roger Hatchuel, chairman of the event, expects anywhere from 5-15 percent fewer attendees than last year’s record 9,000.

Entries are also down, by 9 percent overall, the organization claims. Total submissions for the five advertising competitions—Film, Press & Poster, Cyber, Media and, being introduced this year, Direct—number 17,247, compared to 19,013 last year and 16,347 the year before. Considering the economic landscape, that’s not too bad, says Hatchuel, especially since the total is still above that of 2000, the year of the great dot-com surge. “This year is a bit difficult for everyone. The industry is in shambles,” says Hatchuel. “But when we talk about entries, things should be put in perspective. Let’s not forget that 2000 was a great year.”

Jeff Goodby, president of this year’s Film and Press & Poster juries, says even though total entries may be down, he doesn’t expect their quality to have suffered. “The best stuff is still just beautiful, exuberant, witty and even funny, and I’m happy that this is the case,” says Goodby, who will oversee the work of 43 jurors. “It’s a way of saying that we haven’t relinquished our sense of humor and style to terrorists or hard times.”

Goodby adds that the slump in entries matches market conditions. “I do think the amount of advertising created recently has gone down in general, in reaction to 9/11 and the economic slump of last year,” he says. “In that sense, we’ll be judging the best of a smaller body of work.”

U.S. Film entries are down 15 percent, from 1,238 last year to 1,057 this year (worldwide Film entries fell from 6,117 to 5,059). U.S. Press & Poster submissions are down 21 percent, from 1,158 last year to 915 this year (worldwide entries dropped from 10,782 to 9,074). Cyber entries—overseen by Cyber jury president George Gallate, CEO of Euro RSCG Interaction, New York—remained fairly steady, with 290 U.S. entries this year, compared to last year’s 301 (the worldwide total is 1,339 this year, down from 1,471 last year).

Lions Direct, the first competition in Cannes dedicated to direct marketing, will review 1,063 entries, 169 from the U.S. Malcolm Speed, chairman and CEO of Rapp Collins Worldwide, New York, will oversee the jury, which grew from 16 members to 25 after more submissions than expected came in, says Hatchuel.

The only competition to show an increase in entries this year is Media, which was added to the festival in 1999. Total entries number 716, up 11 percent from 643 last year. U.S. entries jumped to 144, from 97 last year. John Perriss, CEO of Zenith Optimedia Group, London, is president of the 16-member jury.

Despite the reduced volume of work being judged, the festival still offers delegates a glimpse of creativity in other markets and a reprieve from the realities of the business, even if there are fewer parties. “It’s a small industry, and you don’t get to see a lot of the work from around the world,” says Mark Tutssel, deputy creative officer of Leo Burnett, Chicago, who helped create last year’s gold Lion-winning John West Salmon “Bear” spot out of Burnett in London. “To stand back and see the best of what we’ve produced en masse over the course of the year is awesome.”

Lee Garfinkel, president and chief creative officer at D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, New York, is attending for the first time, as one of the film jurors. He hopes the event can help the industry re-energize. “People have told me the judging, while really tough, really brings an appreciation of the business,” he says. “I don’t think Cannes can do it alone, but even if it helps a handful of people get psyched about the business again, then that’s a good thing.”

“I hope it is a real learning experience,” says Mike Hughes, president and creative director of The Martin Agency in Richmond, Va., another first-time attendee and the U.S. Press & Poster juror. “I always come back from judging inspired, and there is also the extra learning from people who think differently than I do. We need to look all around the world to see where we can find fresh ways to reach people.”

While scam ads were a hot topic last year, Goodby predicts it won’t be a problem this week since the guilty parties have had their awards taken away in the past and the festival is better at screening. “Jurors are professionals. They’ll know a scam if they see one,” he says. “Besides, if a scam is inspired enough to slip past all of this, it’s probably inspirational in some way. It won’t be the end of the world to have it in the show.”