Cannes is a sad place for Italians

par Gianluca Gualtieri , GG Marketing Communication Consultancy

As you know, this year's edition of the Cannes Lions Festival is now well underway. The event is recognised as one of the best thermometers of creativity levels in each country. Last year, the Italian advertising community was very happy with the 19 Lions it won (out of 1,059 awarded).

In reality it was a pretty mediocre result – its only merit was to be in line with the previous year (18 Lions), as well as confirming an improvement over the shameful results of 2011 (only 4 awards). A better way of gauging how a country “weighs” creatively is to compare the number of Lions it wins with those of other countries. But that data is not easy to access, either at agency or advertiser associations. To our knowledge, it is not even collected by trade magazines. However, at Istituto Protagora, we have been monitoring this situation over a number of years.

To get a meaningful result, one needs to go back at least five years. We have analyzed the last 10. Here are some of the highlights:

Over the past 10 years, Cannes has awarded 6,790 Lions. The USA has received the highest number of awards (1,088), followed by the UK (691), then Germany (546). After that we have Brazil (529), Australia (370), France (296), Japan (258), Sweden (247). Argentina (222), Spain (220), South Africa (207), New Zealand (179), India (166), Belgium (159), Canada (158), Netherlands (151), Singapore (134), Thailand (109) and China (90).

Italy appears in 20th place (78).

Despite the crisis, the Italian economy still lies at around the 8th place in the world ranking. Therefore, it would seem more appropriate for Italy to rank at around that level of awards won. Especially given that in Italy we continue to flaunt “creativity” as the country’s main resource.

To get a ranking which is really significant in relation to the economy, we have parameterised the number of Lions won with the GDP and media spending of each country. Unfortunately, this gives Italy an even worse result.

If we compare the percentage of awards won with the percentage of media spending, Italy comes in at 36th place. And if we compare the percentage of awards won with the percentage of GDP, Italy comes in at 49th place. In other words, with 78 Lions won in 10 years, Italy has taken only 1% of the prizes awarded at Cannes. In fact the countries that have done best using these parameters were New Zealand, Singapore and Argentina. In Europe, Sweden, Belgium, the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, Portugal, Spain, Norway, Denmark, France and Romania all scored better or equal to their economic parameters.

The explanation of Italy’s creative paucity merits some discussion. Surely the responsibility must be shared between agencies and advertisers. Interestingly, a look at Germany offers a potential way out of our creative rut. Fifteen years ago, their level of creativity was probably even lower than our own. But then German advertisers began choosing their agencies based primarily on their creative reputation, and demanding credentials in this regard. The Cannes Lions were considered one of the best markers of creativity.

Some people might say: “Who cares about awards? What matters is ROI and effectiveness.” But Italy fails here too – it has not won a single Effie since the creation of the awards, which is not surprising because it has only entered them once, in 2005. Meanwhile, Germany has won at the Effies every year over the past decade, the only country to do so apart from the UK. We can only conclude that Italy not only lacks great advertising ideas, but also a real and proven “result oriented” culture.

The 19 Lions we won last year got close to decency; but we can only speak of a positive trend if  we manage to win much more than 20 awards this week.

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