Judging at Cannes Lions & the 'Patriotic Vote'
Everyone who is or ever was part of a Cannes jury has heard the expression ‘patriotic vote.’ Cannes jurors are creativity ambassadors and have to judge under a world flag, not their country flag. There’s no place for bias in jury rooms. The ‘system’ will recognize bias and defend itself from ‘wrong’ motivation. Patriotic votes impact jury credibility and, rightly, need to be eradicated from deliberation.
Yet, patriotic work is, increasingly, the kind of work that I prefer most these days. Ideas that, in marketing terms, elevate all of us from the condition of ‘consumers’ (or ‘targets,’ as we very stubbornly keep on being called) to being treated in a way that makes us feel like the ‘citizens’ that we are.
This perspective came to me when I recently visited our excellent office in Peru. While doing a routine creative review, I expected to see and enjoy great work. But something else happened that I didn’t expect. Apart from feeling enormously proud of Peru’s creative prowess and the consistency that can only come from signature work, I found myself feeling – for the first time in my life – like a proud Peruvian. As a fairly settled citizen of Portugal, it was a very strange and surprising feeling. The work made me feel like a citizen of Peru. It made me want to defend that country’s flag, culture, and values.
I was ‘getting it.’ I started to understand what it meant, where it differed, what it was all about to be a Peruvian. I learned and listened to stories that could only have come from that place, at that moment.
Amazingly, it wasn’t a documentary that I was watching. It was advertising! Intrusive, hard-selling, paid-for advertising. The more I saw, the more I felt rewarded and celebrated in my (new) citizenship. And I became addicted to it.
Cannes will provide a perfect opportunity to again debate the role of brands, how to best connect with people, and how to make a real difference in the lives of citizens.
Work that changes behavior – not just attitudes, as my friend Nigel Jones would say – will and should be recognized and celebrated.
As big global brands and big global networks take their places on global Cannes stages to talk about big global trends, I can’t help feeling that the best thing this industry can do to justify itself is to focus on people’s strongest forms of identity. To tap into what is genetically our plural sense of belonging – the thick, proliferous load of local genetics that make up our global nation.
When we do this (and do this well), it leads to a higher level of work. Work that beyond making us feel good about products or brands, makes us feel good about advertising.
The ambition I used to have for my work was that it would make people lean forward. Fighting not only for attention but also for interest, commitment, and engagement. I have a more difficult objective now: I want to do work that makes people stand up and proudly take a stand. In our Cannes nation, it is possible to stumble on great expressions of this ambition. Hopefully, we will continue to see more of it because we have a big (and real) world to collectively conquer.