McCann boss on what Cannes success means, John Mescall and why Dumb Ways didn’t win the Cyber category

Charles CadellMumbrella was in Cannes today to talk to the regional president of McCann, Charles Cadell, about what the success of hit viral Dumb Ways to Die means for the agency.

Cadell joined McCann a year and a half ago. He told Mumbrella in November 2012 that in a year’s time McCann would be a top three network in the region. Well, with the week they’ve had, this does not now sound too far fetched. He tells Mumbrella’s Asia editor Robin Hicks about the best week of his career.

What does success this year mean for the McCann network?

I think that in terms of our reputation, it does a wonderful thing. It shows the power of what McCann can do – and will do more of.

Creative has been the big focus in this region this year, and the plan is starting to pay off. Not just with Dumb Ways To Die, but our total haul in awards shows. We’d outperformed last year at Cannes even before Dumb Ways To Die started winning.

We are seeing the resurgence of McCann that we’ve been focusing on regionally. But I can’t take anything away for what has happened in Australia. For the Australians, there’s been nothing like it. And I hope to see a lot of client interest as a result in Australia, and regionally.

Is John Mescall the future Asia Pacific executive creative director of McCann?

John Mescall (left) at the Mumbrella Awards earlier this month

Mescall (left) at the Mumbrella Awards

John is already core part of our team. And actually, we don’t have a regional ECD. We have a collaborative regional team. I don’t want to have one man calling the shots. Yes, certainly, John can be a mentor and help others. He’s a bright light in the group. And he will continue to be a bright light in the future. But John is a humble man. I don’t think he’s looking for immediate global fame. Yes, he will now play a bigger part in our global creative community. But he will continue to do what he loves, which is simply to produce more great work.

Is this week the best of your career?

From a creative standpoint, absolutely.

What comes close?

Yasmin Ahmad

Yasmin Ahmad

Working with Yasmin Ahmad [the late, great ECD of Leo Burnett Malaysia and film-maker], who produced some of the best work I’ve been associated with. I miss her greatly.

Why do you think Dumb Ways did not win the grand prix in the Cyber category? It’s a digitally led idea which amassed millions of views on YouTube before it went on TV or radio. Rumours are circulating that the jury did not it the grand prix because it has won in others categories [Cannes Lions had not answered Mumbrella’s questions about this at the time of writing].

I don’t know. I’ve heard the rumours. Whatever went on in the jury room was their decision. From our standpoint, it would have been nice [to win the grand prix, which went to ‘The Beauty Inside’ for Intel and Toshiba by agency Pereira & O’Dell].

However, frankly, we’re happy with what we’ve got – for what it is and what it’s done. It’s a wonderful thing to hear all the creative community singing along to the song here in Cannes. It’s almost worth as much as winning a grand prix, cyber or otherwise.

In my view Dumb Ways was not the best campaign John Mescall has produced this year. ‘Impossible Orchestra’ [for CareAware], a 24-hour tribute to Australia’s carers, was better. Why do you feel Impossible Orchestra hasn’t been as well awarded as Dumb Ways?

My guess is that Impossible Orchestra doesn’t’ have the same universal appeal. It’s darker. It’s more sober. With Dumb Ways To Die, it doesn’t matter if you’re five or 55, you’ll still sing it. Impossible Orchestra is immensely powerful. But a lot of that power lies in the proximity to the idea through the experience of the event itself. The translation of that to juries versus Dumb Ways To Die is the difference.

The emerging theme this year seems to be around cause-related work for lesser known brands. Why isn’t more mass advertising for the likes of Coke and McDonald’s winning?

I wish I could answer that better, but I haven’t been able to see all the work. Yes, we’re not seeing as much Coke work do well, which owned the festival last year. Mass populism driven by social viral ideas seems to be current now. Dumb Ways To Die has just hit 50m views on YouTube. When you see something like that go global, you realise the influence it will have on other work.

After this year’s success, how does McCann stay consistent?

We’ve been taking the piss out of John about this all week. So, John, what have you got for us next year? But I think we can replicate this. For us, Dumb Ways To Die sets a benchmark for the whole company to be step up to.

When something like this happens, you know you can do it. You know it can be done. Now John is a god, and everyone wants to achieve what he has.


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