The Walled Garden Awards

Dear Cannes Cyber Lions,

I’m writing just to say hi. I’ve looked at, and occasionally up to you for the seven years I’ve been working in an agency, but I’m leaving the agency microcosm soon and wanted to give you some advice before I go. It’s, um, kind of difficult to say, but, well, we’ve known each other for a while, and good friends tell each other the truth, right? So. Here goes.

I believe you’ve misunderstood the internet.

There, I said it. I know this has got to be embarrassing for you, being an internet awards thingie and all. I guess you didn’t get the memo. Although the truth hurts, I’m sure you’ll come out the other side a happier, shinier Cyber Lion.

Why do you force me to register to see the winners? It can’t be purely so that “the IAF, our official awards partners and relevant Emap Communications brands” can throw a few more nuggets on top of my already overflowing spam folder, can it? That’s not what that extremely creatively worded bit on the rego form meant, is it? And, um, describe my job role? Give you my address? My phone number? Twenty-one mandatory fields? You’ve built a walled garden with high, thick walls, and want a DNA sample before you let me inside? For what exactly? You’re throwing press releases over the wall anyway, so what’s in it for me?

I’m afraid your site’s also doing your clients a disservice, and if they aren’t pissed yet, they sure as hell should be. What? You don’t have clients? Well, who are the agencies who send you submissions (and money) every year? And what if they realised that you’re using the medium for which they win awards (that’s the internet) in such a way that it reduces the chance of people hearing about their good work? If I was them, I’d be pretty pissed.

But, considering the way so many of your clients still use the internet–beautifully designed and animated, closed, unmashable ads that equal little more than click-a-minute-television–I’m honestly not surprised that you’re doing little better. My recommendation, and hope, is that you’ll one day see your role as a leading internet marketing awards thingie as a possibility to espouse and spread the spirit of the web and the methods that actually work. Openness. Transparency. Sharing. Participation.

You see, and it embarrasses me to have to explain this to you, but the internet is all about linking. Copy & paste is today’s marketing. Letting your fans mash your stuff up leads to success. Connecting little bits all over the place is what we do here outside the wall, and how people hear about new stuff. If your stuff’s good, some guy will carry it over the wall anyway, even if he does have to fill your form with bullshit to do it (yes, I’m sorry, but we do lie to marketers). And there’s a nasty chance that guy will own your Google juice, too. Making it easier by not building a wall in the first place just improves your chances of being loved. Have you heard that there’s a 14 year old on YouTube with 45 million views? He certainly didn’t do that with a registration form. How many registered users have you got? And how many registered as “Dr. Mickey Mouse” like I did?

That’s it for now. I hope you take some time to think about this, and it makes you a bigger, better lion.

Yours sincerely,

Matt Balara

P.S.: I didn’t want to say it, but what the hell’s up with your logo? Dude, are you sure you want to wear that in public?

So congratulations to all the well-hidden winners of the Cannes Cyber Lions 2008! For those you you outside the wall who couldn’t be bothered registering, Dr. Mickey Mouse has sacrificed his 100% fake DNA for you. Here are all the winners in a PDF (unfortunately completely devoid of URLs), and here are the links:

Grand Prix

Gold

Silver

There are a hell of a lot of bronze winners, and my copy & paste finger’s getting tired, so if you’re interested in the Cannes Cyber Lions bronze winners, check out the PDF and you know what to do.