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A Cannes Lions to remember?

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The region walked away from Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity with 26 Lions, but can the haul be classified as a success?

It was an eventful week in Cannes for agencies across the Middle East and North Africa, but sometimes it’s hard to live up to the success of previous years. No titanium awards, no regional firsts, no shortlists whatsoever in a number of categories, and a hugely disappointing showing in film do not add up to a classic Cannes.

With 26 Lions in total, the haul was identical in number to last year but less than the high point of 31 attained in 2013. Whether it can be classed as a good year for the region, however, is debatable, with less golds than last year and a number of promising campaigns by other agencies failing to achieve their perceived potential.

Of those awards won, four were gold and one glass, with the top accolades spread across Memac Ogilvy, Leo Burnett Beirut and The Classic Partnership. The most satisfied, of course, will be Memac Ogilvy, which picked up a total of three golds in print and outdoor for Ikea Saudi Arabia’s ‘It’s that affordable’.

And then there’s The Classic Partnership, which has not been anywhere near a winner’s podium for years, let alone at Cannes. It won gold and silver in the Lions Health pharma category for ‘The Nazar Initiative’, a campaign for Aster Healthcare & Medical Centres that used a uniquely designed eye chart to overcome barriers of communication.

“We believe we have not only responded to a CSR brief but we have created an all-new solution for people in similar circumstances, for geographies around the world,” said Rahul Nagpal, chief executive at The Classic Partnership. “Winning at Cannes is always special and a lot sweeter if it is your first. You compete with the best from around the world and to come out on tops, speaks volume for the agency culture and the creative capabilities of the team.”

Other the other agencies, J.Walter Thompson failed to re-enact its titanium glory of last year, having to settle instead for a clutch of silvers, most notably for Bou Khalil’s ‘The Good Note’, which had walked away with three grands prix at the Dubai Lynx in March. Other winners included DDB, Y&R Dubai, TBWA\Raad and Impact BBDO.

Was it a good year for the region? Hubert Boulos, chief executive for the Middle East at DDB, is not so sure.

“First and foremost the number of Lions is usually influenced by the economic situation,” says Boulos. “Since mid-2015 it has not been that good in the region, hence an impact on the Lions due to more risk averse agencies and clients and, of course, less money to perfect work in terms of execution in order to be award worthy. Still, despite a bad economic situation we are now systematically represented as a region every year, including in tough years.

“[That said] this region only plays in the first half of Cannes (more tactical work) and rarely in the second half. Last year seemed like an exception with a Lion in the film category and a titanium. This year is more of a back to normal situation. We have a very long way to go to be a serious contender in the second half, which requires more depth and less ‘tactical’ work.

“Despite a record number of jurors from the region, regional solidarity did not seem to have played at all when it comes to explaining and supporting work from the region.”

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