Ad execs take lessons from celebrities at Cannes

Stars are shining in Cannes, but they are not walking the red carpet.

Instead, director Spike Lee, Who front man Roger Daltrey, actor and musician Steven van Zandt and the Barack Obama political campaign manager, David Plouffe took the stage at the 56th Annual International Advertising Festival to lend marketing lessons to the industry.

Plouffe addressed hundreds of ad executives in a standing-room-only audience Thursday. He shared the campaign strategy — built on social media, authentic messages and targeted, streamlined communication — so that ad professionals could apply it to the industry.

"Nothing is more powerful than authenticity," Plouffe said.

Plouffe said the combination of a grassroots marketing, which had Obama supporters on the streets and in cities speaking from their hearts, and social media, which helped those supporters reach out to voters on the fence, helped the campaign raise $580 million through online donations. Donations from 4 million averaged $85.

"There is nothing more valuable than a human being talking to a human being," he said. An Obama victory "would not have happened without people talking to people."

Some of that communication included popular videos and direct marketing from celebrities such as Sarah Silverman and singer Silverman appears in a video that was part of The Great Schlep, a campaign targeted to Jewish seniors in Florida to vote for Obama. Plouffe said that campaign was one of the many that originated with concerned voters.

"There was some very creative stuff and they did it on their own."

The campaign, by Droga5, has won numerous awards this week at the advertising festival including a Gold Lion in the cyber category. But he was clear that the campaign was not a directive from Obama. Voters created them "on their own, on their own time and using their own tactics," he said.

Among the big winners this week have been campaigns in which user participation, rather than passive viewing on TV, helped fuel the campaign and make it bigger.

But even as social networking, social media and user participation re-shape the ad industry just it reshaped the election, Plouffe said traditional marketing remains an essential part of the mix. "The quickest way to speed up and get known is mass broadcast."

More starry suggestions:

•Commercial and film director Spike Lee led the judging on a user-generated ad contest by amateurs in conjunction with social networking company MoFilm and big names brands such as AT&T, Best Buy, HP, Kodak and Nokia. Brands selected the top ad for their own brands and a jury, including Lee, whittled the top 12 to three.

The winning entry went to 23-year-old Hiroki Ono, a 23-year-old from Japan. His ad featured a young couple enduring a long distance relationship and a boyfriend who used a Nokia phone to send an-upside down image of his sunset in Japan to be his girlfriend's sunrise in New York. See the ads at

Lee, 52, said the quality of work from more than 340 entries was "amazing. It demonstrates that you can't dictate where talent is. You don't have to be an employee of an ad agency to make advertising."

In he current climate of budget cuts, "you have to be very creative to make the numbers work," he said.