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Stick or Twist? : Why the radio result was a balancing act of old and new at Cannes Lions

Stick or Twist? : Why the radio result was a balancing act of old and new at Cannes Lions

The sun has set on Cannes Lions for another year and, as rosé hangovers subside, it’s time to reflect on the results. Cannes Lions remains the highest accolade of creative excellence in advertising. The winners’ list is an opportunity to reflect on the current state of creativity worldwide. A year on from the shock referendum result and in an environment of increased security, a number of prominent industry spokespeople were openly critical of the scale and expense of the event, identifying a shift in focus from creativity to tech.

As a medium where the tension between tradition and innovation is very evident, the radio category can almost be seen as a microcosm for this wider debate. The Radio Grand Prix – and a sizeable haul of Gold Lions – was awarded to Ogilvy & Mather Johannesburg for their KFC ads, making it the second consecutive year they have flown home with the top category accolade for the same client. The campaign is an evolution of a creative idea, but this shouldn’t really be read as a case of barrel-scraping in the category: 177 entries made the shortlist, after all. It’s worth remembering that Dos Equis ‘The Most Interesting Man in the World’ and Budweiser ‘Real Men of Genius’ are classic long running radio campaign ideas that have been refreshed and consistently recognised at creative awards. On the contrary, consistency in advertising should be applauded, as all too often creative campaigns on radio are replaced before they have had time to bed in consumers’ minds.  It’s a common shortfall in UK radio that advertisers often don’t commit to a consistent creative construct over time to maximise brand-building impact.

That said, as someone who looks to The Lions for new ideas and inspiration, I felt a small pang of disappointment not to have a completely new campaign crowned. Speaking to Chris Turner from Jungle Studios, a UK juror this year, he believed KFC won because the body of work represented a funny set of scripts that provoked a universally positive response. It demonstrated that copywriting craft remains at the core of great radio. The Grey campaign for Duracell, a series of radio elegies to The Year of 2007, was another stand out example of writing craft, also from South Africa.

Yet Chris pointed to some great examples of subversion and innovation in the category too, not least in the longer form audio and podcasts. Global’s steamy ‘Immersive Erotica for the Ears’ for Mills & Boon won a silver Lion for its innovative use of binaural sound recording. He also highlighted Grey Argentina’s Dental Floss commercial, which plays back the pronunciation of certain foods back and forth, shortened each time until they’ve gone, emulating the motion of the floss cleaning teeth in sound. It’s an arresting little idea that would only work in audio. There were a number of brand songs awarded too: ‘Mariskal Rock Radio’ by Y&R Madrid and the chilling ‘Love Song Written by a Murderer’ by Circus Grey, Peru.  We were delighted to see our bespoke serenade to Craig Inglis of John Lewis, created by Lucky Generals, also pick up a Bronze.

In spite of a backlash against change at Cannes, the radio result says something about the festival. There is most certainly room for innovation and perhaps if there wasn’t evidence of evolution, we’d feel short-changed, but the balance is crucial. Traditional craft skills creatively deployed that are based on genuine insight will continue to reap rewards in the summer at Cannes. However, it is commitment to sustained creativity across the calendar year that will make a long-term commercial difference to brands.

Listen to Clare’s interview with Cannes Lions judge Chris Turner:

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