Bodyform The Truth, Red Bull Stratos, Marmite Thatcher, Curators of Sweden, Obama Romey - Nick Bailey, ECD Isobar's Cannes Contenders

In the build-up to this year's Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, which kicks off on Sunday 16 June, The Drum has asked a number of senior creatives to root through the great creative work they have seen produced this year and choose five they believe could and should win big this year. Today's selection come courtesy of Nick Bailey, executive creative director of Isobar.

So it’s arrived again, like a relative come to stay that you can’t help adoring despite the farts at the dinner table and eccentric habits: the venerable, exasperating, exhilarating, always a-la-mode Cannes.

With the Great Hour at hand, convention now bids us to turn our thoughts and pens to the all important question: Who Will Win What. Now I have a view on this which, while hardly radical, is bafflingly still not quite accepted wisdom: that work recognized and awarded by the industry should also be recognized and loved by the real world of real people with real lives who don’t care about what we do every day. I have applied, therefore, some very simple evaluation criteria to this selection of stuff: I have only chosen work that has been shared with me by friends who don’t work in advertising or media.

Completely unscientific, and hardly a representative sample of the world’s population, but at least I know somebody I like liked it, and not just because it was an ‘industry first’ or some such guff.

The Guardian – Marmite Thatcher

The difference between a wit and a bore is not intelligence, but time. Most reasonably smart people can conjure up a satisfyingly apposite bon mot given a few creatively well-spent minutes, or even hours, (in my poor slow case it’s often more a case of ‘esprit de lit’ than ‘esprit d’escalier’). The true creative wit has the mental athleticism to do in seconds what it would take the rest of the world hours to achieve, and that is what makes them special. This is why the haters who dissed BBH’s Margaret Marmite work for The Guardian because of its similarity to an illustration by Lucy Wagg missed the point. It is not the fact that it was done at all that is the source of its brilliance, but when, how and where it was done. Like a great witticism, it expressed what everyone was thinking and in many cases saying, but much more adroitly, smartly, elegantly; in a way that reflected our views and the views of those around us back to us in a refreshing, invigorating light. And like a great witticism, it left those left in its wake, not even with a sense of grudging envy that they wished they had thought of it, but with a confusedly satisfying sense that really they had thought of it, and that they were seeing our own idea played back to them, shining and new.

Red Bull Stratos

I’m sure that pretty much everything that could be said about Red Bull’s Stratos has already been said, but it still deserves to be re-iterated: the fact that it took a simple idea born of a simple product truth and by taking it to its logical conclusion did something extraordinary and audacious. The fact that it was extraordinarily successful; that the story dominated the world’s news channels, which dutifully told and re-told the story hourly to a global audience. But what I think is most extraordinary of all, although perhaps not surprising, is that more brands have not followed this model. It strikes me as depressingly representative of that very human quality of resistance to change; of stubbornly adhering to ways of working that surely (the conclusion is) must work again because they worked before in a different world at a different time. It’s surprising that when there is so much said and written, not all of it unrelated to nonsense, about how the digital and technological revolution has empowered consumers, very little is said about the power this offers companies – and even less is practically done about it. Clients should be grateful to Red Bull for showing them there is another way, offering a path to the truly courageous and visionary. Agencies should take note – change the game before the game changes you.

Visit Sweden – Curators of Sweden

People, in my experience, in the main, are fairly delightful creatures. They’re passionate about the things they love (and the things that they hate), they’re complex, they’re funny, they’re appreciative of generosity, they’re optimistic (mostly), they’re smart, curious about the world, compassionate, interesting and interested. Which is why it’s all the more baffling that such a large proportion of advertising, the intent of which is to persuade them of something, addresses them as if they were half-conscious, half-witted oafs, lurching blindly about in a fruitless effort to satisfy dimly understood primal urges. The Visit Sweden ‘Tweet Sweden’ work is lovely and refreshing and smart and funny and successful because it does the opposite; instead of banking on the stupidity of the audience, it banks on their intelligence. It recognizes people for what they are: sophisticated, smart and receptive to those who treat them as such. I love it because it was risky in a way that innovation always is, but it kept that risk in its proper perspective. And even when they got, inevitably, the loose-lipped loon who started mouthing off about minorities, they kept their heads, because they understood, and trusted the audience to understand, that giving someone objectionable the voice of the nation and tolerating it was kind of the point. Lovely.

Durex, Obama Romney

Truly brilliant creative people are often truly brilliant opportunists. Through their eyes, the world and its mad, ceaseless productions is simply an ever-growing menu of interesting ingredients to do brilliant things with. To see the world like requires you to be slightly detached from it, which is accounts for the fact that creative people can be, I have it on good authority, really rather objectionable a lot of the time. It also requires a genius for pattern-recognition. It’s like seeing a missing piece for a jigsaw you were not, until that moment aware that you have been completing, but on sight of this one piece, can retrieve all the others and put them together in an instant to create something splendid. So it is with the Durex China work featuring Ann Romney and Michelle Obama. Tens of thousands of photographs of each of those women, taken over the course of many months, every public moment captured; distilled into these two. Every nuance of each of these images is perfect; you couldn’t have directed it better.

Bodyform Responds: The Truth

There is an awful lot of self-serving mythology about ‘the creative process’ indulged in by the advertising world. About how long we have to give ideas to develop and grow, about how we must ‘protect’ the creative process from interference, about how you can do something quickly or you can do it well, but you can’t do both. It suits all manner of agendas to pretend that brilliance can’t be accelerated and can’t happen fast – which is why I salute Carat and Bodyform for thumbing their teeth to the whole conceit of slow-cooked creative. Bodyform response was not simply smart and timely from a media point of view. It was funny, sophisticated, brilliantly cast and performed, sharply written. It’s inspiring and depressing in equal measure: inspiring in that it demonstrates how these things should be done, depressing in that it highlights how seldom they are. Anyway, it put me in a good mood for a whole morning, which is a win as far as I’m concerned.

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