Guest post: How good does it really have to be?

Incredibly privileged to have a guest writer on my blog. One of the legendary creatives whose landmark campaigns has defined the advertising world for decades: Mr. Jeff Goodby of Goodby, Silverstein and Partners. I thought it would be interesting for marketers to get Jeff’s perspective, as he has been a fixture at Cannes for many years, including being the President of the overall Cannes in 2002. 

Jeff Goodby's bio:


Jeff grew up in Rhode Island and graduated from Harvard, where he wrote for the Harvard Lampoon. He worked as a newspaper reporter in Boston, and his illustrations have been published in TIME, Mother Jones and Harvard Magazine.

He began his advertising career at J. Walter Thompson and was lucky enough to meet the legendary Hal Riney, whom he still thinks of as his mentor, at Ogilvy & Mather. It was with Riney that Goodby learned his reverence for surprise, humor, craft and restraint.

He also met a guy named Rich Silverstein at Ogilvy & Mather. They founded GS&P in 1983. Since then, the two have won just about every advertising award imaginable.

Two commercials he directed were selected to be among the top 30 advertising films of the 1990s by The One Club. In 2006 he was inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame.

Jeff lives in Oakland, California, with his family, a dog, a cat, a rabbit, three horses and probably some other things he doesn’t know about.

Jeff's Post:

One of the themes I heard about from several sources this week might be described as “the return of content.” 

It’s not like content has gone anywhere. There’s more of it now than at any time in history, and we’ve created a maw that will only demand greater shovels’ full.  

What people are talking about, I think, is a return to content of a higher quality per unit time. It’s a recognition that, in a now sped-up content war, it’s better to drop bigger and bigger, higher quality bombs during the moments we have with our audiences.  

This was a theme amidst the two most interesting conversations I had this week – with Nick Denton of Gawker, and Jonah Perretti of Buzzfeed. Both said, in effect, that there would be a greater and greater emphasis on the quality of content as the number of pipes we could push it through leveled off over time.  

Jonah cited the “Short Girl” phenomenon. “We ran a feature about short girl,” he said, “and it was such a hit that we had to keep putting out more and more content around the same theme. Eventually, it was ‘Adventures of Short Girl.’ People loved it. And then it was over.” 

It struck me that this was more or less like network television showrunning at light speed. The show was hatched, episodes ran, themes ran their course, all in a few days. The quality per episode hasn’t had to be all that high.  


How good does our content have to be, to do its job? So far, not all that great. But as time goes on, it will have to be better and better. Because, as Peter Mead quotes David Abbott in his terrific new book: “Crap at the speed of light is still crap.” 

A few questions arise. What is the role of agencies, going forward? Who will run this world? 

I think the winners will be anyone who rises above the hack level and starts to produce quality, lasting, really fast stuff. It’s like eye-blink Merchant Ivory. These new companies might be agencies, if they’re smart, but they might be more like a new kind of production company, built to have a particular sensitivity to marketers and advertisers. You could argue that content companies like CAA and smart clients like Nike and Frito-Lay are already in this business. But it will get so much more sophisticated over time.  

We are a long way from dedicating ourselves to great quality per unit time, however. Think about it. Will people excitedly enjoy reviews of the Internet content of our era?  Maybe in concept form – “Hey, remember cat videos?  Remember Bubble Boy?”  -- but not in specifics. There will be no amount of nostalgia that will make us revisit reality TV celebrity selfies in the same way we watch, for instance, old media like great Levi’s commercials. People will not fill the Grand Audi auditorium to watch presentations of “Remember when we hashtagged the shit out of that party?” 

Buried in here of course are deeper questions about us all as humans. Will we demand this higher level of quality or just settle for the smattering onslaught of so-so content we love to gobble from the big fire hose? Will we evolve and even change genetically into a race of animals with shorter attention spans and shallower yet faster processing capabilities?  

When I start talking this way, I think I must be nearing the end of Cannes week.  

I hope you all had fun and learned as much as I did.  

Final thoughts from Cannes Lions

We have come to the end: this is my final report from the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity.

It’s been overwhelming and inspiring. The sheer volume of work on display was daunting and I won’t pretend that I was able to see more than a small portion. But what I did see renewed my faith in the ability of like-minded people to come together to find creative solutions to some of our biggest challenges.

Much has been written about how some Cannes entries seem designed to be, well, Cannes entries. There were lots of PSAs and one-off projects that told a great story, but some question if they were really in service of a brand and its business goals.

But that strikes me as a cynical view. I saw a lot of great work that strived to add value to consumers’ lives. Great brands understand that adding value is the best way to get consumers to reach for them on the shelves. I’m all for marketing that puts more value into the marketplace.  

As the festival winds down, the final batch of awards was handed out for film and film craft, for branded content, and the “granddaddy” category: integrated/titanium. 

By the final days of the festival, some campaigns are well known, having collected awards in earlier categories, and this final batch serves a victory lap where they add more to their haul.  Campaigns like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, House of Mamba and #LikeAGirl (highlighted in earlier posts) received more top honors at the final ceremony.

Some other standouts: 

Emoji Ordering – The Titanium Grand Prix went to Dominos for this simple but smart idea: let people order a pizza simply by tweeting the pizza emoji. And kudos to the jury for celebrating an idea that actually sells a product. (Ironically, this campaign didn’t even shortlist in the “Mobile” category, which just goes to show how subjective this whole award thing can be.)

Clever Buoy – Talk about “adding value” for your customers, how about saving them from a shark attack? This clever campaign took home a Titanium award as well.  

RE2PECT – Nike’s impressive campaign that tapped into social media to showcase the love that players, celebrities and fans had for Derek Jeter at the time of his retirement took home the Integrated Grand Prix.

Un-Skippable Ads – A why-didn’t-we-think-of-that idea from Geico built on the simple, but revolutionary question, “What if we made a pre-roll ad that people didn’t want to skip after 5 seconds?” (And I like that a great insight about online/mobile behavior was the genesis of the Film category’s big winner).

Monty the Penguin – This charming holiday spot from John Lewis won the Grand Prix in Film Craft. A reminder that great storytelling combined with craft can lead to something special. This was also one of the most shared pieces of content last year.

Whether branded content or film or integrated, the best-of-the-best had a clear point of view, told a compelling story, was emotionally engaging and (here it is again) provided value to those who interacted with the work. It’s a great reminder of what we should look for whenever we marketers green-light new work. 

Many post-mortems will be written about what this year’s festival means for the future of advertising. The rise of ad tech and gender equality in advertising were two big themes this festival. But the biggest theme, for me, was the transformative power of creativity: what it can do for people and, yes, what it can do for brands. 

I’m grateful to everybody who helped make possible my first trip to the Cannes festival, especially the Frito-Lay team back in Plano who kept things rolling while I was away. I’m coming back with lots of inspiration and a new appreciation for what’s possible in our work together. 

Highlights from cyber, er, digital…or whatever we’re calling modern marketing

The anachronistically-named “Cyber” category is full of a wide range of work showing that the lines between traditional-digital-mobile-experiential are forever blurred. 

Here are a few of my favorites: 

Honda – The Other Side – This ingenious execution received a lot of deserved attention when it launched a few months back and it’s racking up wins this year at Cannes. This product demo feels like a feature film with a digital interface -- a technological marvel with a great story at its core. 

Nike – House of Mamba – The coolest basketball court I’ve ever seen. As Kobe Bryant himself said, “I didn’t even know this was possible.” For a brand like Nike, which has embraced technology to provide a better athletic experience, this was a real-world digital execution that perfectly manifested Nike’s core values. 

Samsung – Safety Truck – A great example of a brand using technology to improve the lives of its customers in a very direct way. As their case study proclaims, “instead of changing people’s lives, we’re saving them” – now that’s a big idea!

Deep dive on mobile

Regular readers of this blog know my feelings on mobile: it’s really the only screen that matters.

So I spent some extra time this week digging into the Mobile entries. There is an incredible range of smart, interesting work happening in the space. And yet, it still feels like we’re in the early days of really uncovering the full potential of the medium.

I think that’s one of the reasons that Google Cardboard won the Grand Prix in Mobile (I wrote about it earlier on my post about ad tech).  Everybody is searching for the next big thing and those companies and brands that are pushing the medium into new territories are being rewarded.

Here are a few other favorites:

The Unforgotten – Heartbreakingly powerful work from the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence. This was an art installation with a mobile component, providing a forum for the physical and digital worlds to mesh, without any of the usual clunkiness. Mobile video made it come alive but it was woven together in such a way that the story was the story, not the technology.

Madden Giferator –  Built upon insights around how competitive football fans can be, this combined so many elements integral to mobile-social culture: second-screen commentary/banter, real-time content generation, memes, gifs, and more. And the brand was a critical element of the execution, not merely something tacked on at the end. This was also a great example of a partnership between a brand and multiple agency partners. 

Hammerhead – One of those ideas that you see and say, “Of course!” This product is a wonderfully intuitive use of mobile technology for cycling and an application that can make our roads safer. 

Inspiration everywhere you turn

There’s so much inspiring work to see and nowhere near enough time to see it all. The exhibition hall is jam-packed with so many ideas, ads and case studies that I know I’ll only be able to see a small portion of all that’s here to take in. 

To see the shortlisted and award-winning work, I encourage you to spend some time “wandering the halls” virtually on the Cannes site (Public access is limited to this week and a short time after the festival, so please visit soon).

Always #LikeAGirl – I’d seen this work when serving on the Grand Effie jury earlier this year and it’s still just as inspiring. It won a well-deserved Grand Prix in PR, collected honors in other categories and looks like it will be one of the big winners at this year’s festival. It tapped into a cultural movement and supported the cause, the hashtag was memorable, easily sharable, and it reiterates that the classic persuasion model is dead. You have to create content that consumers want to embrace.

Dove #SpeakBeautiful – Another entry in the long-running Dove Beauty campaign, this is a great example of using the power of social media to tap into pop culture and stamp out negative self-image tweets from women. Tactically, it was smart to center it around the Oscar broadcast, when so much attention is paid to the way women look. Oh, and it had a great hashtag. You know how I love a great hashtag.

The year of ad tech

In the weeklong hothouse of Cannes Lions, different themes, gossip and predictions rise and fall amidst the chatter between the seminars, after-award presentations, and the thousands of meetings that take place along the Promenade de la Croisette.

Certainly, the well-documented rash of media account reviews (more than 20 in the last eight months, representing between $17 and $25 billion in business) is a hot topic. Technology is undoubtedly one of the driving forces behind this phenomenon. With the rise of online video and the maturation of mobile and social channels, we marketers want to be sure we have best-in-class partners as the media mix shifts. 

Plus (and this will come as no surprise to regular readers of this blog) there’s a desire for analytics that more clearly demonstrate ROI. Marketers are seeking next-generation metrics that reflect real engagement and value, not just clicks or likes.

It’s also clear that ad tech is a major topic at this year’s festival. Long-time attendees tell me that the presence of vendors in the ad tech space this year is unprecedented. 

And that makes sense. The ad tech marketplace seems to double in size each year. Earlier this year, put out this vendor snapshot that confirmed that I wasn’t imagining the increased number of tech pitches I was seeing in my inbox.

Many of them are here at Cannes too. 

And it’s interesting to me that one of the early Grand Prix winners (the first four were handed out Monday) comes from one of the biggest players in ad tech: Google.

Google Cardboard won the Grand Prix in Mobile, beating out thousands of app entries and digital ideas. The win was not without controversy: it was submitted directly by a client and not an agency and, technically, one of the most traditionally-technical prizes was captured by, well, a cardboard box

Ironic as it was, this illustrates what Cannes was designed to celebrate: innovation. This low-cost virtual-reality solution created a platform that opened the door for others to create their own ways to use technology. 

I’ve written before about how platforms like YouTube gave Doritos a chance to embrace a customer co-creation program like “Crash the Super Bowl.” To me, Google Cardboard is another such platform whose potential has been barely scratched.

As technology dominates more and more of the buzz at Cannes and beyond, it’ll be interesting to see which of these break out to become true game changers and which will simply be swept into the bells n’ whistles box once the dust and glitter settles. 

Seek innovation, not perfection

Later this week, I will not be sitting here: 

Instead, I will at the Cannes Advertising Festival observing, learning, and bringing lessons back from the most innovative work in the world to inspire my marketing department.

This will be my first time attending Cannes, so naturally I’m very excited about it. 

Beyond the rosé and the beaches (I hear that’s what they do in France, but I don’t drink) what I’m most excited about are Frito-Lay’s submissions to this year’s festival -- especially because they are all ideas borne out of a personal philosophy of mine:

“Imperfect action trumps thoughtful inaction.”

It’s a maxim that isn’t often followed in the marketing industry, but should be. Don’t wait around to make something perfect when you’ve got something great that you can run with today. 

Think about it. You usually know whether an idea is going to be great or not the minute you hear about it. So why spend countless hours iterating, perfecting, tweaking and over-thinking when you can perfect it as you go? The marketing landscape is littered with great ideas that never saw the light of day because perfection was the team’s goal, rather than success. 

You can’t have success if you don’t put something out there. 

I’ve talked about the 70/20/10 principle on this blog before. Originally covered in the Harvard Business Review, the principle refers to a balanced approach to innovation where 70 percent of a company’s efforts should be focused on core activities, 20 percent to adjacent ones (validated risk), and 10 percent towards transformational ideas. 

At Frito-Lay, we have applied this principle to marketing, and we have empowered our agencies and the marketing department to bring more 10 percent ideas. These are ideas that aren’t fully formed nor perfected, but they are different, game-changing, and great the moment you encounter them. 

I charged myself and our leadership team to approve more of those ideas and charged my teams with getting them quickly out into the world once approved. Modern marketing departments need to be full of idea makers, not idea iterators. 

This is how you are going to win in the digital world. Everyone is a creator. There are no boundaries. 

We are fortunate to have agency partners like Goodby Silverstein & Partners, OMD, TMA and Ketchum who also fully embrace this new world – they did it with Crash the Super Bowl early on – and they continue to do it as we explore new marketing territory. 

The most validating aspect of all this is the fact that all of our submissions to Cannes were 10 percent ideas. 

Enjoy a few of them below, and look out for more missives as I post from Cannes in the coming days.

Tostitos Chip Kelly 

Every Chip Gets a Dip Tostitos Campaign. Watch the ad here.

Doritos Boldest Radio

Cheeteau, the wonderfully cheesy fragrance that Chester Cheetah graced the world with on April Fool’s Day. See the ad below; see the Cannes Lions video entry summary here.