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Don't forget your PJs at advertising's annual soirée

Which agencies or advertising campaigns will flourish and which will fail at Cannes this year for now remains the stuff of dreams or nightmares, but the "learning programme" at this year's festival seems disappointingly somnolent in parts.

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In fact, those seeking inspiration or fresh ideas in the Palais des Festivals might find some of the pickings decidedly slim. This is not necessarily the fault of the organisers, of course – rather, it reflects the buzzword du jour that now pervades the industry. If it was already in danger of becoming a platitude, this term’s demise in the pinkish glow of the post-Cannes hangover must now be assured.

If there was a theme for this year, it is – indeed, you’ve probably already guessed it by now – "storytelling". There are no fewer than four sessions that have already been announced for excited delegates to attend and become hitched to this bandwagon that many had hoped was already headed, out of town.

For storytelling junkies, here’s the line-up as it stands: Rob Reilly, the global creative chairman at McCann, is discussing "the truth about universal storytelling"; Twitter’s session, with Sir Patrick Stewart, is on "live storytelling"; The New York Times, meanwhile, is running an event based on "storytelling with story creators". And if none of those tickle your fancy, you can always head over to Time Warner’s series of talks titled "The Power of Story".

Surely there are other more important and more interesting things that the industry needs to be talking about

Yawn. For those who struggle to tame their personal devils and sleep at night, there’s no need to self-medicate – bring your duvets, a mug of hot cocoa and settle down for what looks like bedtime tales.

But there is a serious point to this. Surely there are other more interesting and important things that the industry needs to be talking about – for example, making brands socially responsible or ensuring they remain culturally relevant? Storytelling – an ancient art, and one that has always been at the crux of advertising – has become a neat enough, if lazy and cutesy, bit of spiel that the industry seems to have grabbed hold of as a USP (when it is anything but).

Perhaps the intention was to move its narrative on from the equally hackneyed "big data". And while few will mourn the loss of the latter, the replacement isn’t much better.

Agency positionings as a whole are a tricky enough thing to be differentiated, but the industry as a whole can surely do better than this at its annual global jamboree. If anything, this should be about fresh thinking and new approaches rather than conjuring up a disingenuous image of advertising’s shamanic class holding court over audiences that are rapt on their every word.

Please let it stop.

jeremy.lee@haymarket.com
@jezzalee

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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