Lions event lets creativity roar

Comedian Kevin McGahern
Comedian Kevin McGahern

There are as many opinions in adland about the Cannes Lions festival as there are on who’s favourite to win the World Cup. While one cohort feels it’s vital in pushing creative standards forward, there are others who see it as a complete waste of time and money, with a strong focus on back-slapping, topping up tans and wetting beaks with rosé.

Foe director Aaron Chalke has just returned from the world famous ad festival on the French Riviera. He believes both arguments merit a hearing. Cannes is all those aforementioned things – but a lot more too. Attending the festival is no mean feat for a small brand activations agency like Foe. Not only is it a week away from normal duties, it’s also a costly exercise.

But, on balance, Chalke regards a trip to Cannes as an investment. The Mayo man says it helps small agencies to sharpen up. It’s an intense yet rewarding training ground, a move away from chasing trends and tech for the sake of it to deriving insights and clever ideas while noting painfully simple executions.

Scratch beneath Cannes’s surface – beyond the beaches, high-profile names and parties and festivalgoers discover festival gold. It’s found away from the sun, underground, in an artificially-lit basement. “It’s here, in the depths of the Palais, the heart of the Lions truly beats,” Chalke told AdLib. “That’s where the judging takes place, all the world’s best campaigns being scrutinised by people at the top of their game.”

Scholarship winner Ruby CorcoranScholarship winner Ruby Corcoran

Scholarship winner Ruby Corcoran

It’s also where Ireland’s Young Lions take pride in competing. But, most importantly, it’s where delegates get to peruse all the shortlisted work. It’s here that the festival has meaning: the work. In browsing through campaigns, every few steps are filled with short bursts of internal rage as work so simple, yet spell-bounding and effective is spotted, making you curse yourself for not thinking of the idea sooner.

Such frustration is creative fodder in need of nurturing. Learnings from these campaigns abound, from detecting insights and challenges to simple problem solving. Taking in as much of the work as possible, coupled with talks from agencies and brand owners – not least, Burger King’s Fernando Machado – can be transformative.

Chalke says watching agencies and clients co-present on stage, taking risks and “trusting uncertainty” together, was inspiring. It brought everything back to creativity. Anything that was not about the work was trivial. No politics, no pandering, no distractions. When work is being judged at this level, it’s creativity that counts and an agency’s size is irrelevant.

Q Staying with creativity, design students and ad professionals go west this weekend for a summer school in Connemara. The two-week getaway at GMIT Letterfrack allows participants to work with top international designers on visual communication, installations and abstract and environmental design workshops. Design West is the brainchild of Design Factory founder and director Conor Clarke and is sponsored by Core. IADT fourth year student Ruby Corcoran won the first scholarship to attend the summer school which runs until July 6.

Q Vodafone and its creative agency JWT Folk are on the lookout for ‘Ireland’s funniest fecker’ as part of Vodafone’s Centre Stage campaign. The mobile phone brand wants people who feel they can make others laugh to apply online until the end of July. Comedian Kevin McGahern got the ball rolling. This year’s Vodafone Comedy Festival runs in Dublin’s Iveagh Gardens from July 26 to 29. Among the Irish acts are Aisling Bea, Tommy Tiernan and Deirdre O’Kane.

Q Bank of Ireland and Oliver deserve bouquets for raising €50,000 from the One in Two life celebration event. The fundraiser was in support of Arc cancer support centres and designer Conor O’Riordan, who sadly died in April after a relatively brief but stoic battle with cancer. RTÉ presenter and Arc ambassador Miriam O’Callaghan acted as MC at the gala lunch in the Shelbourne Hotel. Former rugby international Fergus Slattery managed the auction. Oliver Callan and Mundy provided the entertainment.

Q Etihad is the most popular international airline in terms of brand appeal. The Middle East carrier, whose Abu Dhabi owners sponsor English Premier League champions Manchester City, earned a 98pc rating among 24,000 passengers across 68 countries aged 17 to 78. German airline Lufthansa and British Airways were the most recognised worldwide brands. The poll was an initiative by German logo specialist GraphicSprings.

Q And finally… Heineken Ireland boss Maggie Timoney will soon return to North America to head the Dutch brewer’s US operation. As well as being a marketing and HR expert, Timoney excelled at basketball during her college years. She proved highly popular in Ireland over the past five years and will be much missed. There’s speculation that Dubliner Sharon Walsh, who’s in charge of Heineken’s cider brands, may return from Amsterdam to replace Timoney.

Michael Cullen is editor of; [email protected]

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