Analysis. What have Romanian advertisers learned from Cannes Lions 2016

Newsroom 11/08/2016 | 13:24

Some 187 entries, 24 shortlists and 11 trophies (two golds, four silvers and five bronzes). This is Romania’s record at the most prestigious advertising festival in the world: Cannes Lions 2016. BR found out more.

Romanita Oprea

McCann Bucharest was once again the most awarded Romanian agency in the festival, with a win for “Bittersweet Pies” for Paul Restaurants, three bronzes in the Promo & Activation, PR and Media categories, plus one silver in Creative Data. Also from McCann, “Pay with Blood” for UNTOLD Festival won a bronze in Media and a silver in PR, while “Go Mono” for Radio 21 won a bronze in Promo. For McCann Worldgroup Romania, 2016 is the sixth year in a row that the agency has won awards in Cannes and it remains the most awarded agency in Romania at the international creativity festival.

“This is the best year for the McCann network in Cannes. Europe is the region with the highest contribution, 39 Lions, and Romania is the second best agency in Europe in terms of performance. I believe what is most important is to repeat the performance every year,” said Adrian Botan, global executive creative director at McCann Worldgroup.

“This year too we are preparing to celebrate after Cannes, as it is the sixth consecutive year we have won awards. We are proud we have managed to create a culture in which performance is part of the day-to-day work. It isn’t a surprise or a one-off. I also want to congratulate the other Romanian teams who won. Together, we can put Romania on the world creativity map and bring more respect for the work and executions from our country,” added Catalin Dobre, executive creative director at McCann Bucharest.

During the last six years, McCann Bucharest has won the following awards at Cannes: 2011 – the American ROM campaign wins nine awards, including Titanium and Grand Prix, 2012 – ROM’s Romanians are Smart campaign gets three awards, two silver lions and one bronze, 2013 – Digital Library for Vodafone gets two silvers and one bronze), 2014 – Vodafone and ROM each won one bronze for Ghita the Shepherd campaign and, respectively Bucharest, not Budapest and 2015 – Ghita the Shepherd and Sunday Grannies get four awards for Vodafone and McCann.

The only gold trophies this year went to two agencies that haven’t won before in Cannes: Cohn&Jansen JWT and Jazz Communication. Cohn&Jansen JWT received a gold in PR for “Purity Test”, for the client Aqua Carpatica, the campaign that also brought the agency the two most prestigious awards in the Romanian advertising market: the Grand Effie and the “Campaign of the Year” at FIBRA Awards.

Jazz Communications won a gold for “A Voice for Songbirds #SAVEOURSONGBIRDS”, for the Romanian Ornithological Society and Natura 2000, at the Entertainment Gala, a campaign created with the help of the PR agency Rogalski Damaschin.

Publicis Bucharest came second for the number of awards, its campaign ACR Street View Test” winning one silver in the Promo & Activation category and the “Bernie Speed Test” (for the client ArCuB Bucharest) getting a silver as well, in PR.

On the entries list, this year brought a few firsts: Bitdefender, a client, entered work done in-house and MindShare, a media agency, had three entries. After last year’s absence, Tribal, Webstyler and Digital Star contributed one, two and five works, respectively, therefore confirming the digital industry’s interest in competition. Kubis Interactive joined them, with eight entries, compared to just two in 2015.

After one year’s leave of absence, the PR industry came back through MSL Group The Practice (two entries) and Rogalski Damaschin (three entries).

Amongst the agencies that did not compete last year but were very present in 2016 were: Cohn&Jansen JWT (13), Mullen Lowe Profero (four), Media Concept Store (three), Jazz (three) and Ogilvy (two).

Upping their game in the number of entries (compared to 2015) were GMP (six versus two), FCB (three versus two) and the highest rise, McCann (63 versus 43).

Continuous interest came from the Romanian agencies with a tradition in Cannes, despite a drop in the number of entries from some: Leo Burnett presented 14 entries, versus 21 last year, just as Publicis entered 36 versus 39 in 2015 and Geometry Global 15 versus 27. A few names dropped out of the competitor’s list from 2015: Tuio, SuperSomething, Propaganda, Ampro Design and Starcom. All in all, the agencies with most entries at this year’s competition were McCann (63), Publicis (36), Geometry Global (15) and Leo Burnett (13).

The Young Lions teams, who competed in the Design (sponsored by Nikon Lenswear) and Cyber (sponsored by Renania) categories, and a student at the Roger Hatchuel Academy, complete the Romanian presence on the French Riviera. At the same time, Miruna Macri was selected, following recommendations from Cannes Lions Romania, to take part in the prestigious “See it Be it” program, for women in the creative industries. Furthermore, Razvan Capanescu, chief creative officer at Leo Burnett, took to the festival’s stage to give a Master Class and Mihai Fetcu, creative director at Geometry Global Bucharest, was appointed juror at this year’s festival, with the mission to evaluate hundreds of works from all over the world, in the Promo & Activation competition.

Cannes 2016 also saw the launch of Ladies First – a project initiated by ME.ALCHEMY and Cannes Lions Romania, through the Love and Lobby platform – whose objective is to promote Romanian talent internationally.

The competition through agencies’ eyes

But how was the competition seen this year by agency representatives? “You go to Cannes to see pieces of work that make you say ‘Damn, I wish I had done this’. Not campaigns that have a million dollar budget, but campaigns that are constructed using weapons that we often use: provocation, guerrilla, real time marketing, etc. (McWhooper, House of Cards for Netflix, etc). These campaigns make you more enthusiastic and build up your energy for the year to come,” comments Catalin Dobre, executive creative director at McCann Bucharest. Present in the last six festivals, Dobre is already a connoisseur of the event.

“For us it’s the sixth year in a row when we have thrown a party after Cannes; the sixth year when we have scored lions at the festival. This time we got seven trophies, the best result after the big hit in 2011, when we got 12 lions and two Grand Prix. I’m particularly happy because four of our campaigns were shortlisted and three of them awarded. This means we are doing more good work for more clients, both small and big,” added Dobre. But how does he explain the agency’s constant results? Is there a recipe? “Our main asset is that we managed to build a great creative culture in the agency that focuses on generating ideas for everyday work. Doing campaigns that are featured in the mainstream media around the world and winning creative awards doesn’t come as a surprise, it comes as an ambition for most of the briefs we are working on. Of course we don’t always succeed, but the process is more important than the win itself. It is like the training of an athlete, only that we are training our creativity,” concluded the McCann Bucharest representative.

By contrast, for Alex Negoescu, creative director at Cohn&Jansen JWT, it was the first time at Cannes Lions. “Because of its sheer size, it was very different than I had expected. The experience was extremely brief, but nevertheless extraordinary. The quality of the ideas was, as usual, truly impressive. Most inspiring, for me, were the data-driven ideas, like the campaign from Costa Rica’s Ministry of Woman’s affairs where they used the 911 domestic abuse reports during football matches to outstanding effect,” said Negoescu. As for the win and agency’s success, he was very surprised to see the campaign winning the Gold Lion and believes the key was the honesty, in all development stages: honesty about the target, the product, and finally about the idea, to keep it as simple as it was. “I thought a nomination was more than enough (though some of my colleagues may disagree). For me, personally, it represents proof that real work for real clients can be Cannes material, if only a bit more difficult. For the agency, I hope it will mean new business opportunities. We’ve been on this road forever and I’m glad it has paid off. We try our best on every brief we get, and come up with extraordinarily relevant solutions. Sometimes, they get awards, and we’re all very happy for it,” added the creative director of Cohn&Jansen JWT.

Cannes Lions 2016 was a turning point in Jazz Communication’s history as well. The creative agency was the only independent Romanian agency to win a gold, from entering only one campaign. It was also the first time the agency had entered the fierce international advertising competition. According to Irina Pencea, Jazz partner, the trophy is confirmation that the agency’s initial vision, that of making a difference by itself, without the support of a network or investor, had become reality, as she put it, a confirmation that great ideas are powerful beyond the politics and strategies of festivals, that there is still hope for great and honest work to stand out in global competitions. “We do not play the game of international festivals. We do not have a ‘festival strategy’ or a ‘festival budget’. We aim for the best ideas that change something in people around us, for brands or causes we believe in. If these are good enough to win the hearts of a festival jury, then we are more than happy. But we don’t do it for the festival. That’s why, for us, gold in Cannes is a confirmation of our power to change things even if we are independent,” said Pencea.

In her turn, Andreea Ghenoiu, group creative director at Jazz Communication and the initiator of the winning campaign, believes that the gold in Entertainment is confirmation that small and independent agencies can set trends on the market, can be a real, authentic voice. “It means that you don’t have to be big and famous and all over the world to stand a chance at creativity. Creativity is about people, not structures and corporations. It felt awesome to be the only independent agency in Romania winning a gold. Unbelievable… for the first, let’s say, 72 hours! But then we thought… what next? And we have to see what next… that’s where our focus has moved now,” added Ghenoiu.

What will this win mean for the agency and what are its representatives hoping? “The first doors that the award has opened for us are the doors inside our minds. We dare to aim further than what we have done so far. We dare to think globally and not locally. We have already done this through several regional projects for our clients, but this definitely raises the bar,” said Pencea. As for the signal given to the Romanian advertising market, she brings up the honesty mentioned by Negoescu of Cohn&Jansen JWT. In his case, the award being for the Romanian market a call for honesty, for work done with energy and enthusiasm. A challenge, as Pencea points out, “to play this game in the right way, with real work that makes a real difference for real people”.

For her part, Ghenoiu believes that this gold represents an opportunity for the agency and the chance to tread new paths, but one that rests on the fact that Jazz wins not only at creative festivals, but also at efficiency ones. They must now prove that this was not just a one-off or beginner’s luck. The pressure is now fully on the members of the agency’s teams, who attribute their success to their energy, talent, determination and hard work. As expected, such a performance doesn’t come easily. “Work, work, work, trial and error, start all over again, honesty. We believed in the project. We loved the project and knew it was a good one, a piece of communication that really changed something. The campaign was not done for a festival. We said from the very beginning that if it doesn’t change anything we will not enter it anywhere,” concluded Ghenoiu. According to Eugen Suman, creative director of Kubis Interactive and president of the ADC*RO, this year’s Cannes competition level was good. But then again, it was always good. “From the tens of thousands of submitted entries only about 10 percent go on to reach a shortlist. To win a lion puts you in the rarefied top 3 or 4 percent in the world. Even though the number of awards might seem like a lot, you must consider the number of submissions. And since there are so many entries and the juries are not robots, bad things can also slip by, shortlist positions might be given to work that doesn’t deserve it, even lions might end up in the hands of the unworthy. However, mistakes are few, they don’t invalidate the festival,” commented Suman.

Romania’s performance

According to Catalin Dobre, Romania had a good year in Cannes. “I’ve always said that we need to build a creative reputation for our country. We can do it only by winning year after year with campaigns that generate conversations in the festival. We are winning more and more. We need to focus on creating ‘famous work’, campaigns that people remember, recognize and respect as ‘that great campaign from Romania’,” said Dobre.

Andreea Ghenoiu is proud of Romania’s results as well. She believes that Romania is growing in Cannes and that there are more and more creatives thirsty for smart ads. “We have the minds, we have the souls, we’ll keep on having the stage,” said Jazz’s group creative director.

“Romania had two Gold Lions and that’s incredible, not to mention the silver, bronze and shortlists we made. So it was a great performance. If the trend continues maybe next year we’ll get to see a Grand Prix again,” added Suman.

Still, Negoescu sounded a less optimistic note, pointing out that Romania’s results are still not representative of the everyday work in the industry.


Unfortunately, the Romanian marcomm market is still characterized by some degree of envy, hypocrisy and gossiping, say players. Instead of taking comfort in the good results and encouraging and congratulating advertising colleagues, many industry representatives are still choosing to pass comment on the winning works and their real value or lack of it on the market. “There are two things that will never change: haters and campaigns that win too much. And this generates a huge conversation. Some of them are right: maybe there is too much social work, of course we should get rid of the ghosts [e.n. a campaign created by the agency without a prior brief by the client, with the purpose of winning a creative award in a competition] and, yeah, maybe some campaigns do win too much. But we must notice a big trap here: we need to discuss, but we shouldn’t get trapped in this conversation and get defocused from our objective. Our job is to create great work, not to comment on bad work,” argued Dobre.

In turn, Suman also believes that there will always be voices criticizing works and the big awards – usually people who have never won anything and are suffering from sour grapes. “I’m not saying ghosts don’t happen, because they do (there were two big scandals this year in Cannes – Almap BBDO, which has returned the lion, and Grey Singapore, which has yet to do so). But to say that the whole festival is about scam work is just plain wrong. To these people I say: haters are going to hate. However, in clear-cut cases of proven ghost work, I think Cannes should do more than they are currently doing. I would like to see the agency responsible banned from entering any work for five years. That would make people think twice before doing something like this,” said the Kubis Interactive creative director.

His opinion is shared by Andreea Ghenoiu, who doesn’t see an end to this discussion. “What I have noticed though is that big winners, big advertising men like Droga or Hegarty or Serpa were never involved in such discussions. They came as jury presidents to Cannes several times; they recognize the importance of Cannes. They have so many awards they have lost count and kept on making their best work despite criticism and endless ‘ghost’ discussions. These are the advertising gentlemen in my opinion and we should learn from them. Make work before criticizing! Criticism and hate only ‘eat’ your creative energy,” concluded Ghenoiu.

Lessons for the future

Every year Cannes has been seen as the icon in the advertising industry world, say pundits. The place to go and get inspired, return home and want to be the best for your agency and country. The place that motivates advertising people and marketers. And according to the specialists who spoke to BR, the trend remains the same. What should Romania learn and keep in mind for the years to come? While Negoescu hopes the local industry’s representatives will raise their creative standards and trust that creativity can bring the best results, Dobre says that many people complain that the festival has become too big, that it has too many categories and tech companies entering the festival. “But we need to remember that the title is “International Festival of Creativity”, not “Advertising Festival”. So of course you have entertainment, of course you have more start-ups and tech companies entering. Creativity comes from many more industries than advertising. So, if we want to grow, we need to find ways of collaborating with these industries, not competing with them,” added Dobre.

“Never give up. Have higher expectations. Do better work no matter what. Be inspired by real life and be inspiring for real people,” concluded Suman.


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