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Some Say Obama Campaign Shouldn't Have Won at Cannes

Posted by: David Kiley on July 1, 2009

Author Rick Mathieson [Branding Unbound] writes that The Obama Campaign should not have won awards at the International Ad Festival in Cannes.

“Call it the audacity of hype. There’s a lot of commentary right now about the Obama Campaign for America winning two Grands Prix in the Titanium and Integrated Lions categories at the Cannes Advertising Festival last week.

But in my opinion, the campaign should not have won these prizes for a couple of reasons:
1. Cannes is about creativity. The Obama campaign was not about creativity, but about strategy - using myriad channels to get out the message and the vote. Sure, there was the idea that strong community building enabled consumers to help build the Obama brand. Yes there was all the text messaging and what not. But there was nothing especially creative about that, or any particular element or mix or elements.

2. Some are arguing the campaign won for effectiveness. Well A.) Cannes has never been about effectiveness - any number of infomercials would win over creative work. And B) though this may sound contrarian, I’d argue there was nothing especially effective about the campaign, despite the candidate’s decisive win.
It’s interesting that Mathieson says that the most effective campaign of the last 12 months shouldn’t have won anything. The chatter this year, more than any other, was whether the Cannes festival still carries relevance.

I don’t think, as Mathieson says, that the awards should be about creativity alone, as in creativity of copy, art direction and cinematography. The awards should reward creativity of idea and execution no matter who it is achieved. And divorcing creativity from effectiveness seems like an irrelevant notion to me.

How many times have we seen seriously creative and beautifully executed ads win big awards and have almost no effect on the product or brand? Answer-plenty. That’s why for years we saw agencies enter ads that they created and ran once or twice on cable so they could enter the work in an award show. That’s not creativity so much as it is commercial masturbation.

Having a really well orchestrated, multi-dimensional and creative campaign win at Cannes is a good lesson for the industry.

Reader Comments


July 3, 2009 2:07 PM

This ad for Sontagg Zeitung says it all about Obama

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News, opinions, inflammatory meanderings and occasional ravings about the world of advertising, marketing and media. By marketing editor Burt Helm, Innovation Editor Helen Walters, and senior correspondent Michael Arndt.

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