Matty Burton’s Cannes Diary #6: It’s Over

Matty Burton’s Cannes Diary #6: It’s Over

Matty Burton, group chief creative officer at DDB Group Aotearoa represented New Zealand on the Cannes Brand Experience & Activation jury. Burton, along with most of the other New Zealand and Australian jurors, writes exclusively for CB.


Something hasn’t been sitting right with me all week.

I mean I get it, we need all of these companies here. We need them here because there is no way on this used to be green earth that they would ever send a bunch of creative people to hang out and learn together. They wouldn’t do it, because they still don’t understand what we do or how we do it and they don’t know how to make money from it. No one understands the blank canvas like we do.

This will all change pretty quickly though, the head hours thing, as technology wipes the floor of a remuneration model that was never built to scale.

But for now, we are surrounded by everything else designed to deliver what we do at speed, with accuracy, with privacy, or repetition, what it is that we actually make for a living but we don’t sell.

I think Cannes is the literal personification of our industry. We have large tech companies with bullshit attribution models pedaling ad fraud on a scale that is mind blowing. And they, like the proliferation of shit advertising, have tents and marques popped up in every conceivable place in Cannes. And just like 99% of all of the ads that we push in front of people’s faces – no one gives a shit.

It’s a bit like every kid gets a prize. There is panel after panel on beach after beach and most of it is self serving dribble that when you walk away from it you feel like you need a shower. I say most of it because in between a lot of this there are some smart, genuine things that people have to say and share. But oh my, good luck finding it.

We’re on the ropes as the creatives of this industry and it’s hoody wearing tech bros’ called Josh who are claiming to know the answers. Man, I made the mistake of opening LinkedIn and every prick who ever blinked is suddenly an expert of conversion and branding and magic funnels and what the actual fuck has happened? I’m sorry I haven’t got back to the people in my messages but I had to close my computer and shout at the wall for a while to calm down.

I think we need to find our story again. Find our swagger. We know that when we are at our best we can literally out think, outshine, out craft and outgrow every best practice that has ever existed.

The picture I have chosen is the artist studio from where Renoir used to live. I see in it an analogy of a blank canvas as well as a cucking cook space I was lucky enough to visit on my way home. There are also thousands of experts around the world on the work of Renoir. Experts who have never painted. Some, like me, who studied Renoir but never saw one in real life but happily sat exams on his work to pass high school.

Our story has been taken over by people who don’t know what they are fucking doing and they are trained on a playbook written by the last person in their job who also didn’t know what they were doing. Our story is not a mar tech solution that helps maintain privacy while delivering your messages with personalisation at speed. That is not the fucking answer.

The answer is creativity. This is our story.

Don’t be dicks about it though. We have to be humble. And we have to be smart. We have to start changing our language from using words like creativity and substituting them for words like optimisation. Sounds sad doesn’t it. But people don’t pay for creativity. They do pay for optimisation. It’s the same thing so suck it up.

We also have to make sure we are listening and learning from our work, to make sure that we know what is actually working. You know the whole knowing the rules before you break them kinda thing. Because the rules have changed if you haven’t got that memo from ten years ago. The days of old are over and have been for some time. And so is another year at Cannes. As Anselmo my jury president said to me: Happy New Year.

Right now we are all equal. We all have no Lions. We all have a lot of work to do. Like the picture above, we are looking at the same blank page (or screen, or Figma file, wherever you choose to start these days) and I for one can’t wait to get back to work. At its best that’s what Cannes gives you. A big, fiery, fuck off, ball of drive mixed in with some anxiety of how the fuck are we going to show up and do this all again and I am so here for it.