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2013 marked the 60th annual Cannes Lions advertising festival.

I wrote a bit about the Lions last week. I also hadn’t realised until this year that The Guardian is an official Cannes Lions representative.

At the Palais des Festivals where the week-long conference is held, there was an exhibition celebrating 60 years of advertising. Many iconic adverts from the West were on display from print and television media. It was open to the public, so SpouseMouse and I took a trip down memory lane.

In the room next to the exhibition was another large area which The Guardian had reserved for an opening night welcome party for the Lions. They also held smaller dos at other venues in Cannes; we happened to be at some of the same places.

Our hotel, not surprisingly, had a large number of delegates. All 12,000 stayed in or around the city, sometimes in rented accommodation. You will be lucky to find a taxi on your own during that time. When we checked out of our hotel, the woman at the desk said she wasn’t sure how long we would have to wait because none were available. In the event, we no sooner walked out and one was there; we were able to share with someone else who was on his way to the airport.

Also in the hotel were copies of the Cannes Lions daily journal. I picked up a copy. Whilst most of it listed the hundreds of firms and people listed as finalists for the year’s best advertising, the first few pages were devoted to the global advertising strategy for the future.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is a big part of this. Nearly every article mentioned it. Their challenge is called Cannes Chimera, and registration for the 2013 one is now open. In this new video, Mrs Gates explains how important advertising is in urging the West to improve the Third World, e.g. vaccines and contraceptives:

This video shows soundbites from past Cannes Lions festival guest speakers — among them, Bill Clinton, Al Gore and Bob Geldof — discussing the role that advertising can play in nudging the West into improving equality and fairness (read ‘wealth redistribution’) in other parts of the world:

One of the Cannes Lions daily journal articles featured a quote from someone who is working with young advertising talent straight out of university. He said:

We want young people to say, ‘Hey, isn’t the world a wonderful place? Let’s change it.’

If it is wonderful, then, surely, there is no need for the almighty Change.

Whilst studying the adverts on display at the Palais des Festivals exhibition, I noticed that the adverts from 2008 — principally Obama’s first campaign but other subjects — began to get heavier in tone and content. Whereas earlier advertising spoke to people of all ages and backgrounds, the new work is often quite gloomy and ‘worthy’ (not a compliment in British English). The only exception on display was a clever, interactive award-winning Super Bowl piece featuring polar bears; one could even go online to play a little game with them as well as watch their adverts, which were quite funny.

Therefore, with the Gates Foundation, The Guardian and other left-leaning change merchants involved, our advertising will look dramatically different than it has done previously. More new media will be used and the messages will be presented in a ‘nudging’ manner and with a social message. All the more reason to skip the ads between programming segments on television.

Bill Clinton said in the video above that he hopes the Cannes Lions will change the face of advertising for the next 20 to 30 years. That’s a heck of a long time. It’s one generation in traditional terms, but, if we look at our colleagues and neighbours who are ten years older or younger than we, there are subtle differences between ourselves and them.  If you’re 55 you may be a bon viveur and a libertarian. If you’re 40, you might be preoccupied with wearing sunscreen and ensuring personal safety.  If you’re 65, you think it’s cool to vote Labour and rent an allotment.

I had a peek at some of the 2013 winners, which will be available only until August 1. My blood pressure soared with the few I looked at (Metamorphosis and The Ant Rally), with the exception of Channel 4’s lead-in for the 2012 Paralympics — ‘Meet the Superhumans’. I am pleased that won the Grand Prix in its category, Film Craft.

Which reminds me of the article I read in the Cannes Lions journal about the Paralympics. Dan Brooke, Channel 4’s marketing director, said he was proud of the event and the station’s coverage of it. I was  reading along thinking, ‘Hear, hear!’ The next sentence said he was happy that Britain was finally becoming a less prejudiced country because of the Paralympics. What a sad — and false — indictment of his nation and his people.

To those who watched it, the Paralympics represented a new facet of unexpected — and yes, superhuman — ability. Nearly everyone SpouseMouse and I know embraced it — warmly. No prejudice involved, Mr Brooke.

Advertising — stay away from it. Probably for the rest of your life.

It’s moving leftward, no matter where you live.

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