COMMENT: UK ad agencies are 'too busy pitching to win Cannes Lions awards'

Arnold: UK agencies operate in 'recessionary' environment
Arnold: UK agencies operate in 'recessionary' environment

Will Arnold-Baker, managing director at Publicis London, has a few theories on why UK agencies had another barren year at the 2011 Cannes Lions Festival

The Cannes Lions festival has fewer attendees than its senior sister, the film festival, yet, like the unruly sibling it is, legend has it that three times as much alcohol is consumed. One tweet nailed the English as the culprits.

While we're on the parochial subject of the English, it might be timely to look at how we performed this year. The first headline I saw lamented the 'radio silence' in that category from the UK again this year. A second blog post bemoaned that Costa Rica and Bahrain had scored as many Press nominations as UK agencies.

Consider the following, however: the UK bagged three out of the first 10 nominations in the inaugural Cannes Effectiveness category. That Grand Prix went to Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO for its 'Sandwich' work for Walkers, with Leo Burnett winning Silver for McDonald's.

In the Titanium & Integrated category, my own agency, Publicis London, was nominated for the second year running and picked up Silver for 'The Megane experiment', our work for Renault. The other three of our four Lions this year were for entries in Media and Direct.

So what does all of this add up to? You can interpret it any way you want. For instance, UK agencies are more heavily regulated than their counter-parts in emerging markets. Or perhaps it's because UK creative teams don't believe that radio and other traditional categories are worthy of their efforts.

I think the truth is somewhat more heroic. UK ad agencies operate in a 'recessionary' environment and an oversupplied market, where everyone pitches for everything. The best way to get noticed is to grow your clients' business and that doesn't necessarily equate to a shiny press ad or celebrity-laden TV commercial.

We think this is indicative of a shift to whatever channel it takes to get the job done, rather than a technical malaise in the old ones.

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