From an advertising perspective I guess the big news of the day is that Cannes Lions Awards has been cancelled for 2020.
For those on the inside it probably represents more of a confirmation than it is does news, but either way it will a major disappointment for many creative companies and individuals for whom Cannes Lions represents the big stage and the big chance to make your name and stake your claim.
Scant consolation to know that they join the ranks of many other talented people around the world who have had their aspirations shattered this year. Tokyo Olympics cancelled. Wimbledon. Countless marathons including Paris, London, Boston and our own Two Oceans Marathon cancelled. How tragic to think that the Boston marathon ultimately succumbed to an entirely different form of terrorism in 2020. Literally thousands of people at the peak of their performance who will not be able to compete.
It made me reflect on an equally sad time in the history of our country and on the phrase no normal sport in an abnormal society. Today there can be no normal advertising in and abnormal COVID-19 society. We must accept that reality, but we must also reflect on how we can future-proof the advertising industry in a post-COVID-19 landscape.
As a media man, many people assume that my default position would be to downplay the significance of Cannes, other than as an exercise in creative self-indulgence. It’s true that I lean more intuitively towards outcomes-based awards, but having been a judge at Cannes in the past, I recognise the importance of this creative showpiece. Not least of all in motivating advertising talent to strive for excellence.
Motivating people in a post-COVID-19 landscape is going to be a massive challenge for creative agencies, media agencies and media owners alike. Global advertising budgets have been slashed and the retrenchments have already begun. When we emerge from the commercial lockdown this industry will be running harder and leaner, to service smaller budgets and earn less.
Without peer recognition how do we motivate our best people to perform under these increasingly thankless conditions?
In a this week’s episode of The Doc and The Guru Podcast, The Doc and I chatted to Koo Govender the CEO Dentsu Aegis Network SA and chairperson of the AMF (Advertising Media Forum) about the state of media agencies.
Koo cites “lack of traction”, or staff turnover, as a major issue for AMF members and links this inter alia to the average agency’s inability to pay “fancy salaries”. But in order to retain top creative talent, fancy salaries are not enough.
In a recent HBR (Harvard Business Review) article on burnout, author Jennifer Moss (Unlocking Happiness at Work) notes:
For organisations looking to retain their top talent, it’s important to understand that boredom is kryptonite for high-performers and inspiration-seeking millennials.
Leaders in creative and media agencies need to give employees the autonomy to increase purpose and meaning in their roles and reduce the repetitive tasks that fuel chronic stress and burnout. And it you’re in media your mind has no doubt already focused on global networks’ apparently insatiable desire for reporting.
Top advertising talent thrives on constant stimulation and the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to their own, and to their client’s business. Like any Olympic athlete they need to go head to head with the best that the world has to offer.
Citius, Altius, Fortius!
Urging creative teams and media executives to invest the unpaid extra hours and angst needed to excel beyond the boundaries of corporate expectation, without the peer recognition inherent in industry awards Cannes Lions, is like asking Usain Bolt to run against himself in an empty stadium. And expecting him to break a world record.
Every performer needs an audience.
Gordon Muller is Africa’s oldest surviving media strategist. Author of Media Planning – Art or Science. Mostly harmless! Read his Khulumamedia Blog here.
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