The Peanut Gallery

At the end of every awards show, a certain amount of complaining is inevitable. Yet this year at Cannes, the nitpicking over the winners was surprisingly minimal as the crowd shuffled its way down the red carpet at the Palais.

The jury, led by Jeff Goodby, awarded fewer golds than in recent years, only 15. That’s five more than the stingiest year on record, 1995, when the juries, led by Frank Lowe, awarded no print gold Lions and no Grand Prix in either Film or Print and Poster.

“I’d rather see a short reel of great work than a long reel … with only good work,” says Mark Tutssel, deputy chief creative officer of Leo Burnett, Chicago, echoing the sentiments of most of the delegation. “As far as gold winners, it was the highest standard I’ve seen in four or five years.”

Lee Garfinkel, chief creative officer worldwide at D’Arcy, New York, and the U.S. film juror, says the “exhausting” judging process ultimately delivered strong results. “I agreed with about 70 percent of the golds and silvers we gave, which I thought was [a] good [percentage],” he says, noting Goodby’s diplomatic efforts to keep the judging process moving. “That helped to make sure the best work got through.”

Wieden + Kennedy’s winning game of “Tag” won the jury over, and attendees seemed to agree with the choice—though some felt Xbox was more daring than the Nike work. And one client shrugged off the entire show for rewarding “a bunch of films” rather than good advertising.

There were, of course, other complaints. A creative director from Eastern Europe grumbled about the mainstream level of the winners, noting the degree of difficulty facing an emerging market such as his. A production executive from the U.S. would have liked to see more work, even all the bronze winners, to get a better sense of the range and to distinguish between the gold, silver and bronze. A U.S. creative director blasted both his agency for not entering his work (which ultimately was entered by the production company and won a gold). Another U.S. delegate, an agency broadcast producer, complained of the snobbishness inherent in these types of shows—an agency’s reputation often supersedes its work.

What defines advertising today and in the future became the topic of choice, especially since Fallon’s BMW Films effort was slighted in the Media competition, only to be awarded a Grand Prix in Cyber later in the week. “Eventually, the show will have to deal with where to put work that crosses boundaries,” notes Ann Hayden, executive creative director at Young & Rubicam, New York.

Many U.S. delegates would have liked to see BMW Films honored in the Film category. “That stuff was more gutsy and more out there than anything else,” says Mike Campbell, ecd at J. Walter Thompson, New York. “Why not have a Grand Prix for the best idea [instead of one for each media]? Why not let them compete against each other?”

For now, the industry will have to be content with the fact that the caliber of the winners illustrated that creative breakthroughs can happen even in the toughest of times. A few days back from his trip, Garfinkel says he feels energized by the experience. “I’m pretty cynical about these things,” he says. “But it did inspire me to come back and do good work.”