Thought Leaders in association withPartners in Crime

Makers Make, Wafflers Waffle

Advertising Agency
London, UK
INFLUENCER: McCann London ECD Ross Neil feels like Cannes Lions is becoming the international festival of IT and tech nonsense

I think we can all agree that knowledge is power, and by power, I mean it’s the ability to look down one’s nose and scoff “you mean you haven’t even heard of smart dust?”. But is tech chat really knowledge?

I, like many, have just returned from Cannes. The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. I love the sound of this title; lofty, internationally open and above all else creative. The sun-drenched location of Elton John’s “I’m still standing” video, getting hosed down in rosé and talking about great ideas. However, ideas seem to have taken a back seat.

My first time in Cannes many, many years ago, I was accosted by a senior member of management who slurred at me “what are you doing on mobile? On mobile?! It has to be on mobile!”. This was the beginning of the rot, tech was deleting the creative conversation.

Every year I go hoping that it will live up to its name as a Festival of Creativity and every year it sinks deeper and deeper into a tech porn quagmire populated not by creative makers, but by first adopting, tech waffling doomsayers, who claim if you don’t have _______ (fill in as appropriate) then you’re dooooomed.

This year it was AI that we won’t be able to live without.

A couple of years ago, QR codes were going to change the world. They didn’t.

Then Smart TVs were going to change the world. They didn’t.

Then Near Field Communication was going to change the world… you get the idea.

My daughter asked me the other day; “If MTV stands for Music Television, why don’t they show any music?”. Sometimes it takes a child to ask the most obvious questions, right? If The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity is about creativity why is the Lions share (ahh thank you) of the festival dedicated to the tech and the dissection of results?

When did a festival that claims to be about creativity become so obsessed with 'results', 'charts' and 'gadgets'. Gadgets that promise to change the landscape of creativity… FOREVER. And as these new tech devices are presented they are engulfed by the shadow of their own obsolescence. Remember how FourSquare was going to change EVERYTHING (echo, echo, echo…)?

When the Festival was first conceived in Venice and the 'Lion' prize modelled on the lions in St Marks Square, they focused on the craft and creativity of the work. They didn’t put up vast enclosures and pavilions to showcase lens and film stock.

To me it’s like going to the National Portrait Prize, and the bulk of the show is a series of charts telling you which paintings are the most engaging, which used the most paint and why, by someone who is very pleased with themselves and clearly not a painter. Oh, and to make it a little edgy they’ll give you a shocking little stat at the end; “only 3% of portraits entered will be seen by consumers. Ohhh shocking, right?”. But I know what you’re thinking; where are the paintings? I thought this was a painting show? Showcases of brushes, canvases, easels etc. it’ll be a long time before you see any paintings my friend.

Cannes, international festival of creativity has now become international festival of IT and tech nonsense. I’m all for using new tools but this year I heard 'artificial intelligence' so many times that I genuinely don’t think there was any real organic intelligence engaged in those barking on about it.

Don’t tell me a brush is creative. Show me what a creative has made with it.

Drops the brush. Exits stage.

Ross Neil is ECD at McCann London