Statue of Limitations?

On his last day in Chicago before leaving for the 54th International Advertising Festival in Cannes last week, Bob Scarpelli contemplated his role as jury president of the Film and Press competitions. The 54-year-old chairman and CCO of DDB Worldwide, a copywriter by trade, leads the most-awarded agency network in Cannes, including a 2000 Grand Prix win by the Chicago headquarters for its infectious “Whassup?” TV campaign for Budweiser. These days, he acknowledged, the sparkle around the Film Grand Prix has dimmed a bit, the result of the advent of the digital age and branded entertainment. “We are doing more and more different things as an industry these days,” he explained.

The entries have indeed moved in the same direction that marketers have shifted their attention—towards digital and nontraditional solutions. While the total number of entries this year is up 3 percent, submissions in categories such as Film and Press are down, Film nearly 8 percent (from 4,860 entries in 2006 to 4,474 this year) and Press 5 percent (from 7,387 entries to 6,984). The greatest jumps have occurred in the youngest competitions, including Titanium, Integrated and Promo, launched in 2006. (There are 10 categories this year: Film, Press, Promo, Direct, Media, Outdoor, Radio, Cyber, and Titanium and Integrated.)

“It really just shows that what happens at Cannes ultimately is a reflection of what’s happening in the business,” said Cannes festival executive chairman Terry Savage. “In Film, it’s the third successive year we’ve seen a decline in entries. It’s a trend indicative of what we are reading about in the papers every day.”

“Money that used to be spent on those traditional avenues is going to digital and other things,” added David Apicella, co-CCO of Ogilvy & Mather in New York, who was a Film juror last year. He noted that Lions rewarding multimedia solutions are most sought after this year. “I would rather win an Integrated award,” he said.

The Titanium is the accolade conceived by Wieden + Kennedy co-founder Dan Wieden in 2003 to acknowledge category-defying work that pushed “the industry forward.” Its addition was the result of the groundbreaking online series BMW Films being overlooked in 2002. (Fallon in Minneapolis was awarded the first Titanium Lion.) This year, entries are up 60 percent to 324 from 202 last year.

“It’s great to see the Titanium entries growing; it’s a sign of where our industry is going,” said Scarpelli.

Not everyone seems to understand what the Titanium (being judged by one jury, see sidebar) is rewarding, however. Gerry Graf, ecd at TBWA\Chiat\Day in New York, whose agency has already won numerous awards this season for its Skittles and Combos TV ads, added that “most people I talk to would rather win a Titanium. I don’t [even] know what the Titanium is. I’d rather win the Integrated award. … The Integrated award celebrates the campaign.”

The definition of awards that recognize innovation is inherently murky, noted Alex Bogusky, CCO of Crispin Porter + Bogusky in Boulder, Colo., who is jury president of the Titanium and Integrated Lions.

“Integrated is somewhat straightforward, but people [still] get confused by it [as well],” he said. “Sometimes people think of it as 360 branding and making sure you’ve touched upon a bunch of media, but I think certain campaigns integrate well and others don’t. I look for an idea that … worked online, on the radio, TV—whatever media was chosen, not where it’s the same expression in every media or force [fit] from TV onto the Web.”

Not surprisingly, some view the Film category, which launched the festival in 1954 and is described as the world’s “best commercial break,” as being limited due to its exclusion of executions on the Web or mobile devices. (It consists of TV and cinema advertising.)

“Maybe the 30-second format is dead, but the idea of using film as content to reach the hearts of consumers is very much alive,” said Tony Granger, CCO of Saatchi & Saatchi, New York, which took home third-place honors as Cannes Agency of the Year in 2006. “Even the term ad break is counterproductive.”

Scarpelli said he discussed with the festival the possibility of including work such as viral videos and other commercials distributed in new media in the Film competition: “The category is film, not TV. Maybe some day film [will be] film no matter where it shows up.”

Cannes’ Savage said the category criteria have been evaluated, but there are no plans to include viral or other media executions in the Film competition. “We canvas that issue every year with industry leaders,” he said. “Inevitably with the many different platforms that are emerging it will be a pressure point, and we will examine it every year to see if it’s appropriate. … The reality is that Film might be in decline in terms of entries, but it’s still a very big category. It’s a downward trend, but it’s not a death trend. I think it will continue to be a strong category in Cannes going forward.”

Coincidentally or not, there’s no anticipated Grand Prix Film winner. Some noted that most of the eligible commercials they know of are visually enthralling and exceptionally produced, but not as roundly supported as past Grand Prix winner, such as last year’s Guinness “noitulovE” or 2005’s Honda “Grrr.”

“There’s not one piece of work that stands head and shoulders above the others,” said Mark Tutssel, worldwide CCO of Leo Burnett Worldwide, the agency that produces a yearly Cannes predictions reel. “Rewatchability is the key to winning. Each time you watch that spot you are rewarded. Those are the spots that win and are hallmarks of a fantastic film.”

For his part, Scarpelli said he is simply going to ask the jury to judge each Film and Press entry on its own merit. “We’ll judge the Film and Press for what it is,” he said. “How does it make me feel? Is it a great idea? Is it relevant? Does it have impact? Is it original? I’m asking all the judges to keep an open mind. To trust your instincts and react to it just as you’ve seen it for the first time.”