REI-_OptOutside_Anthem_Film_15I was happy to see my favorite campaign from 2015 pick up a Titanium Grand Prix Cannes Lion. Much of the chatter from the festival was predictable (scam ads, the importance of technology, how to deal with the emotional resonance inherent in cause-related advertising). But a few of the big winners surprised me—I wasn’t sure this campaign was going to get the recognition it deserves.

Why do I like it so much? It is a brand sticking to its values in the most important way possible. If the strength of a person’s values can be measured by what they do when nobody is looking, the strength of a brand’s can be measured by what they do when lots of money is on the line. And there’s a lot of money on the line on Black Friday.

REI_OptOutsideonBlackFriday2215.jpgREI_OptOutsideonBlackFriday1215Closing its doors on Black Friday and encouraging people to go outside instead is a simple idea. But it’s also brave and, importantly, perfectly embodies what the brand stands for. It’s not latching onto a cause or topical conversation. It’s creating its own cause: nature>commercialism.

Beyond that, it’s very well executed. The design is great. The tone is great. And the hashtag is a fantastic bit of short writing. Kudos to the teams who pulled it off. Wish I had this one in my portfolio.




This year’s Cannes Grand Prix Winners have been announced. It’s worth checking them out here.

As you view these, here’s something to keep in mind: A few years ago, I posted an idea by Gideon Amichay who was the ECD at Y&R Tel Aviv at the time. You can read the post here. But the Cliffs Notes are that while creative is a good thing to strive for, brilliant is better, different better still, and innovative is the Holy Grail.

Volvo’s “Epic Split,” which won the Cyber Grand Prix and Film Grand Prix is creative, brilliant and different. But maybe not innovative. Same can be said about the Harvey Nichols “Sorry, I Spent It On Myself” campaign, which won the Promo/Activation, Press, Integrated, Film Grand Prix.

I’m not knocking either of these. They’re both fantastic. But it shows how incredibly difficult it is to be innovative in advertising. Even the best pieces in the world have a hard time reaching that mark.

This year’s Direct Grand Prix is from British Airways. And this year’s Cyber Grand Prix is Pharrell Williams’s “24 Hours of Happy.”

Both of these, in my mind, hit the innovative bull’s eye. Pharrell’s video especially, because it reminds us that it’s not just agencies like Goodby and Wieden and BBH and Jung von Matt that are competing for eyeballs. In the Attention Economy isn’t driven by copywriters and art directors alone.

Are Award Shows for Losers?

This piece was penned by Prentice Mathew, a senior art director. In the current annual fervor of Cannes, he claims “advertising awards are now for losers.” You might agree. You might find it heresy. Either way, it’s an interesting read. Anyone agree? Disagree? (And is it easier to agree or disagree based on how many awards you won this year?)

Are You Part of the Talent Crisis?

I think the interviews coming out of Cannes are just as interesting as the winners. They might be more important, too.

Here’s an interview with Ali Ali, the CD at Elephant Cairo. You’ve probably seen his “Never Say No to Panda” work.

He’s got some interesting things to say on talent. Granted, it’s an Egyptian view. Not everything he says will translate to job markets in Chicago or New York or LA. Or will it? Here’s one of his more interesting quotes:

“Agencies need to downsize…You can’t have a creative department of 40 people. I think that immediately means that 30 of them are not good.”

What do you think of that?

Avoid This Pile

If you’ve got a subscription to creativity-online.com (and there’s no reason you shouldn’t), check out the Cannes Diary by Cannes Judge, Blake Ebel, ECD of EuroRSCG in Chicago.
He posted this picture of the print work that didn’t make it to the shortlist:

I’m guessing there are a lot of pieces in that pile that will still be featured on the agency web site, and in the books of the ADs and CDs who created it. There are probably some really nice lines and cool art direction in there. But even though they paid the $350-per-piece entry fee, they still ended up in this pile.

If you’re really trying to do amazing, Cannes-shortlist-caliber work, you’ve got to do more than a nice line and cool art direction. Even in print. It’s becoming a platitude, but it’s true: good enough simply isn’t good enough.

Talk About the Work

If you want to get better at recognizing (and ultimately creating) great work, you need to talk about it. With your partners, with your CDs, with your planners and account team. You probably already do this, but let me tell you why it’s a good thing to do. By talking about the work…

  • You internalize why it’s great (or why it sucks). Those values become a part of who you are as a creative.
  • You open your taste to criticism. And education. (Someone at my office thought this was a great “commercial.” Obviously, we need to talk about great work with her more often.)
  • You become more capable of articulating why something works or why it doesn’t. This is an invaluable skill if you want to be a creative director or judge an awards show. (“It just isn’t working for me,” is not helpful direction.)

Seeing the work Fred & Farid did for Wrangler is good.

Understanding why it won the Grand Prix at Cannes this year is better.

Having an opinion on whether or not it deserved such an honor – and being able to articulate it (see Lubars’ comments) – is best.

And you get bonus points for knowing the opinions of your partner, creative director, agency president, and planner. Because that will let you know what kind of agency you work for. Not because they agree or disagree. But because you’ll know that they’re thinking about what’s great, and what it takes to get there.