Mumbai: Philip Thomas, chief executive of Cannes Lions 2008, 55th International Advertising Festival, talks to Mint about highlights to look out for at this year’s festival and its definition of scam ads. Cannes 2008 starts on 15 June and ends on 21 June. It has attracted more than 28,000 entries from 85 countries, which will vie for the various awards.
Thomas has previously worked with media group EMAP Plc., and has held various senior roles across the group, including managing director of EMAP Australia, managing director of FHM Worldwide and managing director of EMAP Media, where he had overall responsibility for the management of titles such as Shots, ScreenInternational and Broadcast. Thomas took up his role as CEO of the International Advertising Festival in 2006.Edited excerpts:
Sky’s the limit:Philip Thomas, CEO of Cannes Lions, says he aims to make his festival the best.
Has participation from India been increasing over the years?
Well, entries last year from India went up from about 700 to about 900, and this year we expect even more, probably over 1,000. This makes India one of the biggest entrants to Cannes, ahead of countries like Italy, Argentina or Japan. India is growing all the time. But you know that—it is growing in every way.
What are the highlights of this year’s festival?
We have more seminars than ever before, more than 50 from the world’s great thinkers. We have workshops that are clustered around subject matter: production, media, creative, content. We, of course, have the design category, which will add a fantastic new dimension to the festival.
We have also opened up our film category beyond cinema and TV, and are now welcoming Internet, mobile and other screens films, which is a big departure.
Perhaps, most importantly, this year we have increased our commitment to the Young Lions and our students, so that we have a brand new area in the Palais, where they can go to learn and be inspired. We have some great speakers; among them are David Droga, Bob Isherwood, Matt Freeman, Ji Stengel—the world’s leaders.
Where would Cannes Lions rate itself in comparison with other global ad awards such as The One Show and Clio Awards?
I think it is true we have more entries than those awards and, of course, Cannes is the biggest festival in the world of advertising. There is nothing like it. But I let others judge where Cannes is, rated against those competitions. My job is to make Cannes the best, and let others judge if I have achieved that.
Any ads you found memorable from India?
I loved the Happydent ad last year (done by our Outdoor Lions president this year, Prasoon Joshi), but this is just my personal preference. I run an award show and a festival. I have jury members who pass comment on the work.
A lot of ads that are entered for international ad awards from India are one-off ads, not long-running campaigns. What is the Cannes definition of a scam award?
Ads must have been run on behalf of a client who paid in full or in part for it. It is very clear within our rules. Here is the wording from our entry forms: “All entries must have been made within the context of a normal paying contract with a client, except in the charities and public services categories. That client must have paid for all or the majority of the media costs. The festival reserves the right to request a full media schedule from each entrant company to verify the authenticity of the ad(s) in the event that entry is shortlisted or a winner.”
How does Cannes Lions put a check on scam ads?
Cannes is now of such a stature that for an agency to put in a scam ad—it just reflects so badly on the agency. We have no problem in publicly withdrawing awards from known scams, and we will do it if the charge is proved.
Anyone who enters a scam ad is playing with fire, because it will become public and it will be extremely embarrassing for the agency.
All our jury members are aware of it, and often ask us to check an ad and whether it is real. We do, and if we find it isn’t, we withdraw that ad.