Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Third Party Credibility and Cannes: Have They Met?

I’m an oddity in the ad world- I’m an advertising guy with genuine PR training (got my B.S. in PR along with my B.S. in advertising). Perhaps it’s because of this, I understand the importance of third-party credibility. It’s one of the foundations of public relations activities. You send a press release to a publication, if the publication thinks its interesting enough, they cover it, in part or in whole. You lose control over if it’s covered, when it’s covered and the exact message. However, you get the coverage for free and people are more likely to believe the message since the information comes from a source (often a trusted source) OTHER THAN the company itself. If LG tells you their new phone is a complete revolution, you will probably chalk it up to fluff. But if an article from a CNET journalist says so, you might think there’s some merit.

And that’s where we get to Cannes. I’m going to try to use the name of the award event as few times as possible because I’m so sick of seeing it on every advertising site and blog I can’t stand it anymore. I shall therefore call it, the Festival. In an column called “Categorical Support for Cannes”, Mark Tutssel, CCO of Leo Burnett hails the Festival as a great beacon, measure, forecaster of the future, gage of the present, trendsetter, cultural experience, etc. etc. etc. Obviously Mr. Tutsell thinks quite highly of the Festival. In another strange turn in the column, Tutsell goes on to describe how one particular award that the Festival has just invented, the Titanium Lion, is “the most precious and prestigious awards to win.” In fact, he spends more than a paragraph going on about how the Titanium Lion “is an idea that's so unique, pure and new it cannot be labeled in a conventional way.” But then we see the byline, and it call becomes clear.

Mark Tutsell is the president of the Titanium & Integrated jury at Cannes. I’ll give you a minute to let that sink in….the president of the Titanium & Integrated jury at Cannes. I challenge anyone to tell me that Mr. Tutsell doesn’t have an vested interest in promoting a Festival he helps run and praising the merits of an award category which leads. Am I really supposed to believe anything in this column now? Don’t get me wrong, the Festival and the new award could indeed be all the things he says they are. But how is any one supposed to believe such high-minded, idealistic Festival-worship from a man who’s part of the very thing he’s praising. And how is anyone supposed to believe the jargon-laden dribble about category shattering, revolutionary blah blah blah from the man who heads the very award he’s showing off? Maybe it’s just a shot at transparency, maybe he was just so excited, he wanted to share his vision, but if anyone is to believe a message like that (which would have to lose some of the embellishment to get credibility from any source), maybe Mr. Tutsell should have looked into using PR to get some real third-party credibility instead of praising his own doings under his own name.

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