(Picture: the Nedbank ad and Al Gore at the Y&R; Conference) During the last edition of the Cannes International Advertising Festival (June 17th to 23rd), which is the most important event in the world for the advertising industry, green was the theme of the moment. Major agencies network Young & Rubicam invited former US vice president Al Gore to discuss how advertising can contribute to the Global Warming struggle, there were prizes to conscious advertising (one of which Lloyd informed about here), lectures on green marketing, an exhibition with the best conscious ads from the world, and even the 'Young Creatives' competition had Global Warming as brief. Then there is also the recently launched MTV Switch campaign, for which several major ad agencies worked free to create ads that help raise awareness on the subject in young people. Having been in the festival and having seen some creatives speak their hearts out about how advertising has to aim for bigger messages than just selling and others just loosing their nerves about how many awards they had gotten, we left with the doubt: Was it a real try to awake some minds? Is the industry only trying to learn how to sell to green conscious people? Or is it just that advertising, as usual, is embracing the trend of the moment? While we could go for the skeptical, we want to think it is probably the three. Since companies started to have policies over revealing their incomes or profits, awards became bigger and bigger issues in the ad industry. As networks fight to become the most creative ones, receiving 'Grand Prix' 'Gold' 'Silver' and 'Bronze' lions in Cannes is like receiving Oscars in the film industry. Therefore, the fact that this year the Grand Prix for the best outdoor was to a charity and green piece (Power to People, by Network BBDO for Nedbank) was a big sign. "This billboard is more than advertising, it is help and hope. An outdoor sign touches so many people that it has to go beyond just a selling message", said Jean-Remy Von Matt, founder of agency Jung Von Matt and Outdoor jury president when presenting the award. "If we award something that matters, creatives will copy it next year and we can encourage this type of work", he added explaining why this is a big deal for the industry. Another awarded green advertising was the Saatchi NY print campaign for Tide, which shows how much energy can be saved while doing laundry with cold water (see it here).
[UPDATE] Two big ideas that not only were advertising but had actually a big impact in the environment were also awarded within Titanium, the awards' biggest category: the Tap Water campaign and the Earth Hour campaign. The first, by agency Droga5, made tap water a brand and sold it in restaurants across New York to raise money for Unicef (while contributing to decrease the use of bottled water). Read more here. The second is probably known for you (and covered by us here): Earth Hour, created by agency Leo Burnett Sidney, proposed turning out the lights for one hour in Sidney to save energy and raise awareness on Global Warming. See more on the case here.
Continuing the green-award theme, this year the 'Young Creatives' competition, a section where young professionals work during the festival to produce a piece with a given brief, was also inspired in Global Warming. Specifically, on small steps you could take to fight climate change. The winning piece was a commercial asking to have short showers.
You could see more conscious ad work when you left the Palais des Festivals, where the event takes place. Right next door, the Act Responsible exhibition called: "There is a time to meet and there is a time to act". Act Responsible stands for Advertising Community Together and 'gathers key players of the worldwide communication and media field together for a Sustainable World', as they say in their website.
On the last working day in the festival, it was Al Gore's hour and the creatives packed the Grand Auditorium to hear him speak. "We are living in a time where advertising is playing a larger role than any other time in history. Messaging has to be part of the solution. You need to find ways to use the skills you have in abundance to communicate the solutions", he called in a conversation with Young & Rubicam's CEO Hamish McLennan and Kevin Wall, executive producer for Live 8 and spearheading SOS Live Earth. "The ad industry is one that in the past has been pointed to as crass and exploitive and focused on ends over means... but it has men and women that care so deeply to use their talent and experiences to lead", he pointed according to The Guardian. If you are wondering how Y&R; got Gore to the French Riviera, know that they do pro-bono work for the Alliance for Climate Protection.
Cannes Lions closed its 2007 edition with yet another conscious message: a Grand Prix for the TV commercial Evolution, for Dove's campaign for real beauty. The ad shows how a woman's transformation from its real face to the one seen in ads.
"We're waiting for green and social messages" seemed to be the festival's instructions for next year. As this event's prerogatives are like mantras for the industry, be ready to see more ads that meet green and humanitarian standards.