There's been lots of talk this week this week about how there was a seismic shift at Cannes this year. A lot of people are pointing to the fact that it was a piece of film for the internet made by a digital agency that won the film Grand Prix, Obama's web driven campaign won the much coveted Titanium Grand Prix (as well as the integrated prize) and a PR campaign for Tourism Queensland won three Grand Prix (the first campaign ever to achieve this). It made Ad Age declare that the 'ad age is over'.
Yet when you look at the industry chatter this hasn't been the real conversation. There's been much navel gazing by digital agencies at their poor haul of cyber lions - only 12 of 83 Cyber Lions came from pure digital agencies and the Interactive Agency of the Year was an ad agency not a specialist. A few seem to be taking some solace in the fact that Cannes is an 'advertising' award when digital can be so much more.
What really scares me about this is we're getting caught in the same debate again about labels and types of output, rather than thinking about how we can create real innovation that solves business problems which is what commercial creativity should be about. Perhaps the closest thing to this from an advertising or digital agency was AKQA's work for Fiat that won an interactive Grand Prix. That, to me, is the shocking truth of Cannes this year.
It's time we stopped obsessing about labels, accept that advertising has a broader definition than messaging and make stuff that excites people and solves business problems in the most effective way possible. Sometimes this will be about the craft of communication. Other times it might be about baking marketing into a product or service. More often than not I think, it will be both.
One place to start is to look at our structure. There's been precious little innovation in how agencies are structured or the type of talent they attract which is a recipe for replication rather than progress. Thankfully, some of the more progressive agencies are trying some new ways of working through the creations of labs focused on marketing R&D. BBH has had the wonderful BBH Labs for a short period of time, and now W&K London has launched Platform a hothouse for new ideas and a natural progression from WKSide. Let's all try some new things to move the industry forward. Labels don't matter but the work does. And if we embrace the risk of failure and experimentation we so often preach to our clients, then perhaps we'll be seeing some more innovation and fresh problem solving at Cannes next year.