Article by Paul Fisher. First published in AdNews, 16th July 2010

OK so we didn't too very well at Cannes – at least in digital. Of the 238 shortlisted in the cyber lions categories, only three were Australian (I thought it was more, then realised the others were in fact Austrian!). And of the 107 winners, the best we managed was Droga 5 winning Bronze for their A320 LA/SYD V AUSTRALIA AIRLINE campaign.

All of this actually surprises me. A lot.

The quality of the entries in the annual IAB Australia Awards and the quarterly (soon to be bi-monthly) Creative Showcase is exceptional. Not only exceptional, but world- beating exceptional. But that's not just me talking the industry up – it's the reality.

Each year the IAB Australia Awards Best of Show winner is flown to the US courtesy of IAB Australia and entered into the annual US MIXX Awards – the premier online advertising awards. In recent years, the swag of awards won at MIXX by Australian interactive advertising campaigns has been impressive. So while the Aussies acting community was invading Hollywood and 'stealing' the limelight from their US counterparts at the Academy Awards, the Aussie interactive advertising industry was also assaulting the bastion that was once the mantle of the American digital media creative industry.

Our haul last year alone included four Golds, two Silvers and one bronze and was capped off by 'The Best Job In The World' campaign taking out the Best in Show Award. The Aussie agencies who took the stage and the Awards included Tourism Queensland and Sapient Nitro Brisbane for 'The Best Job in the World' campaign, as well as Gold in direct response and lead generation; social marketing; international; and cross-media integration. JWT Australia and ZenithOptimedia took out Silver in the brand awareness and positioning category and bronze for branded content for the 'Kit Kat Chunky Cookies & Cream' campaign for Nestlé; while Soap Creative was awarded Silver for its work on 'Lynx Instinct' in the Games category.

So I'm truly bemused about this year's Cannes results – particularly as I received numerous calls this year from IAB Australia Awards judges who wanted to let me know how impressed they were by the quality of the entries and the campaigns. They truly lauded the industry and felt really proud both to be judging the awards and to be a part of an industry that turns out such quality work. Interestingly many of these same judges were at Cannes and several were even judges – so I look forward to reading and hearing more of their thoughts on why Australia didn't far better this year in Cannes.

What I can say though is, that in my view, the creative pillar of the interactive advertising industry is critical to the continued growth of the $500m online general display category and in fact to the growth of $1billion plus search category.

Whilst the annual IAB Awards may be the glamour event in Australia's interactive advertising industry events calendar (and here's a quick plug - 22 July, Hordern Pavilion, tickets selling fast but still available at!) the Creative Showcase is the engine room and is inspiring to see the quality of creative.

It is a very humble event championed by the IAB and a number of dedicated creatives in Sydney. Each quarter a small gathering of 30 or so industry folk meet to review the previous quarters finalists and hear who has won as judged by a panel of their peers. When you see and hear the designers and developers talk first-hand about how their idea came about, why they took it, just how they turned their idea into a full digital media application and campaign and then how it performed against their own or the client's metrics you realize the depth of talent and expertise in this country. And it becomes very obvious that the Creative Showcase events really are a must-see/hear for anyone and everyone in our industry.

So just how important is online creative?

At a time when there is so much focus on the measurement of online advertising (which is indisputably vital to the growth of our $2 billion industry) it's very rare that you can be part of a conversation about online advertising effectiveness or the next big thing in digital without reference to the brand impact of online advertising.

Yes we can measure a campaign – just run any brand impact or advertising effectiveness study - but just how important is the creative?

According to Ken Mallon, SVP – Custom Solutions & Ad Effectiveness Consulting, Dynamic Logic - "By far the biggest driver of brand impact success is the creative. The best ads that we see in terms of performance online tend to be ones that almost have a magazine feel. They look nice; people think about things like having the right human form in there, the right product shot."

So maybe we should not always judge the strength of our industry by how many cyber lions we bring home. Perhaps as much of the so-called brand advertising dollars migrate out of TV and print to online, we should be looking at the impact online creative has on the consumers it seeks to influence.

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