‘A momentous year for Egyptian television’

Ali Ali, creative director of Elephant Cairo, talks about this year’s Cannes festival and winning two Lions

Well, it was an unforgettable week. The 57th Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival was good for the region and groundbreaking for Egypt. We haven’t won a single Lion (nor a TV shortlist) in 56 long years. My silver lion in 2008 was won for the UAE, which, as an Egyptian, felt quite incomplete. And suddenly, just like that, we get four Lions – two for Elephant and two for Leo Burnett Cairo.

We wanted to win big with Lika Gum this year, but the print work was outstanding and the print jury incredibly tough. I can’t say the same about the outdoor jury, though. They were very disappointing. Everyone at the festival was talking about great work that was shortlisted and never won, as well as average work that won silver and gold – like the ad for CNN or the Bangalore traffic police ad. I was expecting to see Saatchi & Saatchi Dubai’s ‘Abandoned cars’ campaign for the Metro pick up at least a silver in outdoor, but it wasn’t even shortlisted. There was a big discrepancy between the outdoor and print winners, but we were still extremely happy with our bronze for Lika.

In TV we wanted at least a shortlist for our Coca-Cola ‘Youth World Cup’ campaign but, again, it was a remarkable year for TV. I sat through the entire shortlist screening and there was some awesome work on display. I particularly loved the Canal+ spot from Euro RSCG Paris and the ‘Drama Queen’ ad by TBWA Finland, but my two favourites of the year have to be ‘Crying’ by Saatchi & Saatchi Torrance and the ‘Clean your Balls’ spot by BBH New York. And then our silver Lion for Panda came out of leftfield. It was completely unexpected, we weren’t told and no one called us, so we assumed it was just a shortlist. There was a great round of applause when the ads were shown and then the night got even better for Egypt, with Leo Burnett picking up bronze for its Melody Aflam campaign, as well as a silver in the film craft category for copywriting. Four Cannes Lions for Egypt! Quite impressive considering we beat countries such as Canada, Italy and Argentina and even tied with the UK. A momentous year for Egyptian TV and a well deserved one when you consider that we have to work 10 times as much in Egypt to produce a half-decent ad.

The only upset for Elephant this year was our ‘89 fans from ‘89’ campaign. We love this campaign dearly. But because we only entered it into the integrated category, it was never shortlisted. Instead we should have probably sent it to five other categories – media, internet media, internet films, activation and promos – which is quite unfair considering that a small shop like Elephant can’t afford to pay for eight submissions for one idea. It’s also quite sad that the Cannes festival is becoming slightly too commercial, constantly trying to raise the number of entries versus trying to genuinely award good work and fresh ideas. Our ‘89 fans from ‘89’ is no less (in concept) than the Gatorade ‘Replay’ campaign that picked up two grands prix this year. But the amount of categories (growing every year) is becoming too confusing and you no longer know where to submit a piece like that. The festival should reconsider all these new categories and go back to good old print and outdoor as one category – since people submit the same work to both anyway – film and internet film, radio, media and activation.

Still, we are a very happy Elephant today. An elephant that has finally left the herd.

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  1. alwaysozmatt says:

    Ali, congrats. It was indeed a great result for you and the team – and a well deserved one with some outstanding work. And I couldn’t agree more about the commercialisation of the entry process. They seem to be adding more and more categories which definitely overlap. Great for the organisers, confusing for entrants.

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