Any art director or account manager who has ever worked on a TV campaign will be more than aware of the tough constraints they face to prevent ads from costing a fortune. So it’s a tad ironic that the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity has just bestowed its prestigious grand prix award on two comparatively lengthy campaigns, neither of which was ever intended for a TV ad break.
Online creative genius
The awards are testimonies to the creative genius that can be found in innovative online advertising agencies, which generally don’t have to reckon with the time constraints TV ads demand. But does that mean that art directors and account managers who focus on online campaigns are at something of an unfair advantage when competing with their TV counterparts at Cannes?
TV advertising expert Jason Stone certainly seems to think so. In an article for the UK’s Guardian newspaper, he notes that the Cannes judges have now handed out the top prize to films lasting well over the upper TV limit of 2 minutes for the fourth time in five years. And that’s despite the fact that the very same judges have expressed “disdain” for the growing tendency amongst agencies of submitting long stretches of video content exclusively for online campaigns.
The winning ads (Australia’s viral “Dumb Ways to Die” rail safety campaign and the six-episode Toshiba/Intel campaign) were undoubtedly brilliant, highly entertaining, engaging and memorable. But the playing field seems far from level: the “Dumb Ways” ad lasts three minutes, and each of Toshiba/Intel’s “episodes” last around six minutes (that’s 40 minutes in total).
A new category?
Stone takes issue with those who claim that Dumb Ways to Die is an “effective” safety campaign. Popularity doesn’t necessarily translate into rail safety (it’s been viewed an estimated 500 million times on YouTube). But while that’s many more times than Australia has people, no one actually knows yet whether it’s actually had an impact on reducing rail deaths.
Art directors laboring on TV campaigns and struggling to keep their budgets within the going rate per film of $920 (€700) are entitled, Stone argues, to feel “disgruntled”. He believes that the Cannes Festival needs to create a separate category for online campaigns.
One thing that’s for certain is that online ad agencies are sizzling with creative power.