THE CANNES LYIN’S, 2019: AN EMBALMING IN TWO PARTS

I hadn’t really planned on writing (again) about advertising’s biggest narcissist clown confab, the Cannes Lions—or, let’s call them, more appropriately, the Lyin’s—but the comedy material crapped out from La Croissette this year was so deliciously full of self-destructive self-delusion for both the industry and the compromised hacks who cover it, it would be irresponsible of me to let it slide when the Establishment tinder is practically begging for an arsonist.

 

Where to begin? How about “Mr. Cannes” or the “King of Cannes” himself, Michael Kassan? The fact that a non-creative businessman is now hailed with both those ass-kissing sobriquets by the obsequious industry “news” media pretty much lays the foundation for all that’s wrong with the Cannes Lyin’s. And it’s a foundation for a big house, with few windows.

 

In the so-called “golden age” of advertising (which, don’t get me wrong, also sucked but for different reasons) and maybe even up until about when Alex Bogusky bravely sorta-retired (before discouragingly returning, much diminished), the default position for “The King of Cannes” would presumably be a CREATIVE person at the “Festival of Creativity.”

 

The fact that it’s not, that chessboard moves master MIke of MediaLink is now hailed by that monicker, is so revealing. The Cannes Lyin’s isn’t a Festival of Creativity. It’s just another networking event, albeit in a nicer place than anywhere else, far away from the wife and kids (sorry dad! You missed Father’s Day—priorities!).

 

You don’t have to take my word for it; I wasn’t there. But let’s go to a blog entry from London’s Jane Austin, one of the few advertising people I can stomach nowadays (tho not sure the feeling’s mutual, LOL), who is no bullshit:

“Amid all the noise and nonsense of the three-ring buzzword circus that is the Cannes festival….[t]op awards contenders are on display in the basement of the Palais. It’s worth a visit if [you] want to see some actual work or get some peace and quiet – ironically, it’s one of the few areas in Cannes that’s usually pretty deserted.”

 

Jane is rarely wrong, at least about marketing stuff, and she’s not when she uses the word “ironically.” But “tellingly” and “tragically” would’ve been just as appropriate, maybe moreso.

 

What else was sparsely attended, showcasing the difference between ad industry lip service and actual engagement? Well, again, I wasn’t there, but I did read the still-credible Michael Burgi’s LinkedIn rundown, where he writes:  

 

“The real wakeup call for all concerned revolves around diversity and inclusion. This was the first year of Inkwell Beach, a stage devoted entirely to addressing the -ISMs of our industry: racism, sexism, ageism. It was discouraging to see many of its panel sessions and talks were sparsely attended.”

 

Shocker!

 

But the bigger question about sparse attendance should really be just how sparsely attended the Cannes Lyin’s were this year. Seems to be so bad that nobody dare talk about it, possibly for fear of upsetting the “King of Cannes.”

 

But one of my favorite things is digging into what nobody wants to talk about. And when trying to figure out what’s really happening in our current oppressive mainstream media climate of spin, hype, secrets and lies, one strategy is to look to Sherlock Holmes and always keep an eye out for “the dog that doesn’t bark.”

 

Thus, when the biggest story last year was Cannes’ disastrous TWENTY-FIVE PERCENT collapse in entries and attendance, the logical question for any genuine reporter — as opposed to PR driven publications — the question any real reporter would be asking is:

 

“HOW WAS CANNES LYIN’S TURNOUT THIS YEAR GANG?”

 

Should be easy to find some reporting on that, right? How many people, how many entries? Wellllll….good luck. That dog ain’t barking.

 

After rummaging through the garbage on the ad trade propaganda sites, I  managed to find a story out of India touting the increase of entries from that country. It also mentions the total number of entries for 2019 was 30,953, another 4% falloff after last year’s devastating drop.

 

Once I had that number and plugged it back into a search engine that’s not Google, I was able to find this actual piece of journalism from Campaign magazine. Thank you, Omar Oakes.

 

Kudos also to PRWeek’s Arvind Hickman, who noted the Lyin’s PR entries “plummeted to their lowest level in six years,” crashing 12% after a 4% drop last year.

 

But how about this article from The Drum? It’s a masterful piece of bullshit lies by omission, constructed in a way that makes the reader think things are just dandy:

“The 2019 Festival of Creativity has recorded a bumper haul of award entries…In all, the competition has revealed that some 30,953 entries were drawn from 89 countries during a year in which Creative Strategy and Sports Entertainment emerged for the first time, drawing 848 and 702 submissions respectively. Numbers were further boosted by a healthy turn-out from China and India, where entries rose by 5% and 8% respectively as well as Creative Effectiveness Lions, recognising the creative risks being taken by brands, surged by 34% over the year.”

Yeah, but….weren’t there 32,372 entries in 2018, The Drum? WTF kind of publication are you? Obviously not a “news” publication. The US trade media may have ignored the dark harbinger of Cannes Lyin’s continuing collapse, but The Drum literally beat it into a “win” and that makes them a bunch of losers. But maybe somebody’ll get a job at MediaLink someday!

 

At least we did find entry numbers. Nowhere can I find any reference to the actual number of registered attendees at the 2019 Cannes Lyin’s, which suggests that number’s higher than the -4% drop for entries.

 

Of course, I’m writing this Saturday, by Monday perhaps we’ll see better reporting from US ad trades about all this. Maybe they just needed to get out of the King of Cannes’ domain. Because, to be fair, from what people tell me, Mike Kassan isn’t particularly well-liked or respected, but he sure is feared.

 

So with that zinger of industry Truth on the table, we’ll say “au revoir” until tomorrow, when we dig around a bit into the ridiculous virtue signaling of the Cannes Lyin’s Grand Pricks...pardon me, Grand Prix.

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Cannes is no longer the festival of creativity, it's basically an adtech festival and utterly irrelevant

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