Abundant lessons

2011-07-07 00:00

Attending an event like Cannes gives South Africans the ability to see into the future. What’s happening and on display here and now at Cannes will be happening in SA next year. That means you can anticipate the future and plan for it – though, of course, you still have to work out the timing and the degree to which the South African response will be modified.

The lessons of Cannes this year were abundant. Here are some:

* The recession is over. Or is it? The numbers of entries and of delegates were at record levels, clearly indicating a return of confidence. But WPP CE Sir Martin Sorrell expressed the fear that the world economy is still fragile and vulnerable to an unexpected setback. And while some countries entered in record volumes, many of those in Europe cut back. Britain, usually a top winner of awards, trailed in with entries and wins both substantially down.

* The East is on the rise. One indicator is the success of Far Eastern countries in winning awards at Cannes. As they are wont to do, they have come, learned and conquered. China won its first Grand Prix (in the press category) and Thailand won two gold Lions in the same category. India won a Gold lion in film. The United Arab Emirates, Korea and Hong Kong also took Golds.

 Other newly emerging economies in Eastern Europe are also showing off their talents. Romania won Grands Prix in both direct marketing and promotions.

* Television has en-tered a new golden era and the old-fashioned TV commercial has followed it back. The much-predicted death of the 30-second commercial (by such luminaries as Sir Martin Sorrell, to name but one) is a long way off, as TV again powers its way to the forefront of entertainment, news and content supply. Digital media has simply failed to sweep TV aside, as it’s doing to print.

 As happened in the handheld environment, TV is turning into Smart TV. Your TV set will replace your laptop. Why is that? “People just love TV,” says Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes. “They love the big screen (relative to laptops and handhelds) and the high definition. Soon they’ll have 3D as well, and the TV set will offer all the attributes of your laptop. TV on demand makes the medium more powerful and more attractive to advertisers.”

 Adds screenwriter Aaron Sorkin: “TV is changing from being an appointment to a lending library. People no longer watch TV as wallpaper. You can’t do something else while watching TV any more.”

* There’s a global skills shortage, so we in SA need feel uniquely handicapped no longer. The reasons tend to be the same: salaries in ad agencies don’t match those paid by clients. What was once considered a glamour profession is now disdained, seen as unethical, grasping and self-serving.

“The speed of technology – coupled with increased consumer expectations and a higher level of demand from clients – has forced us to work faster, smarter, better and cheaper,” says Arnold Worldwide CEO, Andrew Bennett. “And it’s having a devastating impact on our most valuable asset: our people. A third of them say they’ll leave their agencies within a year.”