Confusion in Cannes


If one piece was the talk of Cannes, it was HBO’s “Voyeur.” BBDO weaved together 11 different elements, including a compelling video-rich Web site, an outdoor projection, TV and print, to show that HBO remains the king of storytelling. But the strength of the campaign raised questions as to what exactly “Voyeur” is — a Web effort? Outdoor? Film?

In the end, “Voyeur” took home the Grand Prix in Promo and Outdoor, plus an additional gold and a silver in Promo, two golds in Film, gold in Cyber, gold in Design and bronze in Media. Yet, for a campaign that showed such strength in many categories, it fell short in the Titanium and Integrated competitions, where the jury debated whether the effort had enough at its heart. “You can look at different components, but when you look at the totality, you see it wasn’t anchored in a big idea,” said one juror.

The fate of “Voyeur” highlights an underlying theme at this year’s International Advertising Festival: The awards are not keeping pace with the infinite ways in which brands reach customers in today’s fractured media landscape. Rather than honor holistic systems built for brands to reach consumers in many places, Lions are given to objects created within those systems. This is a situation that many complain is untenable.

“The world is changing too fast for those categories to make sense,” said Michael Lebowitz, CEO of Big Spaceship and a juror for the Cyber awards. He knows about the complexities: Big Spaceship built the Web component of “Voyeur,” but was not a winner of the Cyber prize since the work was submitted by BBDO, New York, which was also named Agency of the Year.

Even the top honorees in Film were part of campaigns with legs beyond a single medium. Fallon, London, won a Grand Prix for “Gorilla,” created to promote Cadbury through a video of an ape drumming to Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight.” The effort was as much a YouTube hit as a TV commercial. The jury also awarded a Grand Prix to a very different campaign, “Believe” from McCann Worldgroup and T.A.G., both San Francisco, for Xbox Halo 3, chosen as much for its multimedia approach as its TV spot.

“You can’t reconcile two almost different worlds,” said Craig Davis, Film and Press jury president and CCO worldwide at JWT. While “Gorilla” is a single 90-second execution, “Believe” is a different animal: several spots and longer-form video content for the Web. “It’s the first time Cannes is acknowledging both kinds of work,” he said. “It’s a significant and important signal for the industry.”

Other work also caused confusion. Take “Uniqlock,” the double Grand Prix winner in Cyber and Titanium. The Uniqlo effort from Projector, Tokyo, rethought the Web clock by adding offbeat video of young women enacting the time, set to music. Its honor in the Cyber category was expected — it has received top honors at The One Show and the Clios — but it was not thought of as a top contender in Titanium, designed to reward breakthrough ideas.

Titanium juror Paul Woolmington, founding partner of Naked, explained the jury felt “Uniqlock” “transcended its medium,” adding that it was a big idea that lived 24/7, was entertainment and a catalogue for the Japanese retail chain. It “caught the imagination of anyone that came by it,” he said.

Another Cyber Grand Prix winner also highlights the problem with categorizing work. 42 Entertainment took home top honors in the category for its “Year Zero” alternate-reality game to promote Nine Inch Nails. Cyber jury president Colleen DeCourcy, chief digital officer of TBWA\Worldwide, said the message the jury wanted to send with the award was the importance of “collaborative development.” The game was based in digital, but included several different executions in the real world, such as hiding zip drives with clues in bathrooms and at events in cities.