Advertising Cannes Lions Public Relations

Cannes A-Z: Too ashamed to sell?

By Ben Golik | UK chief executive and creative director



The Drum Network article

This content is produced by The Drum Network, a paid-for membership club for CEOs and their agencies who want to share their expertise and grow their business.

Find out more

June 29, 2017 | 5 min read

A simple string of beads. It was a brilliant solution to tracking child vaccinations in the third world. And a wonderful antidote to the tech takeover elsewhere along the Croisette.

cannes lions

Rapp's A-Z of Cannes Lions 2017

Cannes 2017 wasn’t short of uplifting, inspiring ideas. But as the big ad groups defected, it seemed the ads themselves had already departed.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the addition of awards like the Grand Prix For Good. And McCann Health’s immunity charm was a worthy winner. It’s just that it often seemed ‘for good’ could be applied to most other categories.

Pedigree turned a retail display of televisions into a virtual rehoming centre. MTV modelled dildos out of plastic recovered from the sea. Great stuff. But have we abandoned doing good work, in favour of simply doing good?

Perhaps amid the free-flowing rosé, super-yachts and Eden Roc receipts, this is a salve to ease our collective conscience? To buy back lost souls? And it’s not to say all this heart-felt purpose was pointless.

Forget the investment fund it promotes (if you can remember it), Fearless Girl is a whip smart social comment. A single-cell New Yorker cartoon, cast in bronze. Another deserving winner, the gloriously grotesque Graham, made me think about the fragility of my body when hurtling along at 70mph. Amazing work from Clemenger BBDO. Problem is, I failed to see its commercial equal.

While plenty of shortlisted work made me think, there was precious little that would make me act. Click. Buy. Switch. Consume. Our pursuit of purpose seems to be at the expense of persuasion. Solving societal ills, not marketing problems.

A road that honked at hairpin bends was shortlisted in outdoor. It was simply outside.

Perhaps this year’s more hard-nosed work did not work hard enough, and was rightly rejected by the judges? Because I don’t believe our industry has stopped selling things. We have simply stopped celebrating selling. There is a sense of shame about it.

Not that there weren’t fantastic opportunies to sell. And sell well.

I envied Gillette’s carer's razor for assisted shaving. And Savlon’s chalk sticks with dust that turns to soap in wet hands. I’d love to sell that razor. I’d love to sell that chalk. Clear USPs. Defined audiences. The briefs would be killer. Who’s making, and celebrating, that work?

It's not to say I'm looking for the old school. Six word posters. Logo in the corner. I'm looking for innovation in salesmanship.

Some traditional ads lumbered on. For example, ALMAP BBDO’s shortlisted work for Havianas and Red Fuse’s for Colgate. These were mostly picked apart to celebrate their constituent crafts. An illustrator or photographer’s indulgence. Don't mind the copy, coo at the typography. (It was not a great year for words.)

Perhaps the hard-working hard sell has been too consumed by automation and algorithms? These don't look so sexy on an A2 board.

Perhaps I just feel left out? I don’t invent stuff. I sell it. And I’m proud of that.

Surely our industry is big enough for both. To do good – and sell well. And remember to celebrate both.

Ben Golik is Rapp's UK chief executive creative director.

Advertising Cannes Lions Public Relations

Content by The Drum Network member:


RAPP is a global, data-driven creative community that builds direct, meaningful and high-value relationships between brands and people. At RAPP, with our unrivalled depth of expertise in first-party data, we’ve been observing and cataloguing real people’s lives for 50 years. In today’s world the balance of power has shifted, and customers are in control, which is why we put people and their preferences at the heart of the brand experience. With a talent base of more than 1,600 professionals in 18 offices, we help brands grow the value of real people by understanding what really matters and creating experiences that are right for real people, with real needs, in real time, creating marketing that matters. Our expertise in data and marketing sciences allows us to deliver our clients actionable human insight - an incredible understanding of genuine motivations, observed transactions and actual interactions. Our process reflects how real people think; we balance the left brain and the right, and we do our best work when we bring Precision and Empathy into balance. Building on our data foundation, RAPP delivers a range of capability across social, digital, customer experience and technology.

Find out more

More from Advertising

View all


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +