Cannes Lions Review

Reviews, Winnipeg

Cannes1 Cannes2 Cannes3The following is a review I wrote on the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity – or the annual ad show at the WAG. The show runs from December 6-20 and tickets are $10 each. I submitted this as an assignment for my journalism class and I quite enjoyed the experience, let me know what you think!

The Art of Branding

The lights dim and the small screen in the Winnipeg Art Gallery opens to a dystopian landscape full of half naked men and slick patent leather. Steven Klein’s dark robotic images and amorphous sounds fill the theatre. The scene ends five minutes later with a close up on a bottle of Fame, Lady Gaga’s newest fragrance.

For 60 years, the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity has used their annual advertising showcase to blur the line between television commercials and high art. Cannes is a public entertainment anomaly that celebrates the advertising that many people eagerly skip over during their favourite TV shows.

Every year Cannes enlists a panel of industry brains and tastemakers to choose the best ads from around the world. Commercials are ranked in gold, silver and bronze categories, and are judged on a whole slew of considerations including craft, creativity and effectiveness. The resulting montage is an exciting mix of North American and international ads, most of which are too racy to be aired during the nightly news.

This year’s selection of 68 commercials was a mixed bag of humour, inspiration, drama and emotion.

The rapid-fire succession of commercials carries the viewer into a new world every minute or so, creating an invigorating rhythm that takes the crowd from manic to sombre within seconds. The quirky antics of the Old Spice muscle man are swiftly followed by a PETA commercial featuring a chimpanzee fingering a revolver in a drab holding cell.

The audience’s emotional response confirms the effectiveness of the world’s top ads. Advertising’s powerful use of psychology is exemplified as the crowd moves through the highs and lows together. After all, a successful ad needs to strike a chord with its viewers immediately; otherwise their fragile attention span is broken.

Every so often a spontaneous buffer, describing an upcoming ad, interrupts the cadence of the show. The ugliness of the pop-up is like a glitch in the matrix – a momentary reminder that the prestige of the Cannes’ award ceremony was left behind in Paris.

Still, the seams of the production are quickly forgotten when a clever DIRECTV campaign takes to the screen. Involuntarily, the crowd is heaving with laughter again.

Thanks to keen craftsmanship and plenty of surprises, a two-hour barrage of commercials can appeal to the gamut of human emotions. It’s undeniable that the show is a celebration of creativity, not consumerism.

Unfortunately, not every advertisement entertains. The evening comes to a close with Intel and Toshiba’s Grand Prix winning campaign, The Beauty Inside. The six part series has a cryptic plot and lasts for 38 painful minutes. The structure of the campaign is so different from the rest of the show that it becomes hard to digest.

While advertising is an everyday nuisance for most, the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity offers up a surreal dose of commercial entertainment.

So fresh and so, so clean

Reviews, Winnipeg

I think like I’ve tried every brand of cleanser, toner, pore minimizer, zit zapper and moisturizer that’s on the market. It’s wasn’t commitment issues so much as lack lustre experiences that kept me flip-flopping. That is, until I found Tiber River Naturals thanks to the recommendation of a lovely friend!

My love affair  started with baking soda deodorant (I’m a hippy I know), and quickly moved to lip balm and face wash. All of their products are handmade from natural ingredients and Tiber River is a locally owned and operated business. The storefronts, on Academy and Kenaston, are part spa and part beauty product boutique.

What caught my attention was the prime ingredients such as pomegranate, lavender and olive oil that are infused into a wide variety of products. The scents in all of the products are pleasantly muted which isn’t often the case with natural products (the headache inducing aroma of Lush comes to mind). And this is a plus: every product I’ve used from Tiber River has lasted longer than anything I’ve bought at a drugstore, making the pricier products a better bang for your buck.

Oh and gents it’s not all perfume and pretty things, Tiber River has a substantial men’s section too! Your beards and mo’staches will smell like roses (ladies, you’re welcome)!

Winnipeg Thin Air Festival

Reviews, Uncategorized


Image from here.

This year is the 17th annual Thin Air Writers Festival. It’s eight days of readings and discussions led by renowned writers, as well as author-led writers workshops for anyone who’s interested. During classes this week, I got the pleasure of listening to three readings by four very different authors.

The first was a discussion led by Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan who are primarily performance artists, who also work in film, installations and evidently the written word. The two work have worked together for over 25 years and co-create everything that they make. It was interesting to hear how collaboration works, especially since writing is often seen as a solo-mission. They read several short stories from their book Bedtime Stories for the Edge of the World which is an imagining of common stories, such as Tonto and the Lone Ranger, from a female and a lesbian point of view. Their spin is an interesting look into gender and sexuality hierarchies throughout history.

The second discussion was led by Michel Cormier, who is a world-travelled journalis. His new book The Legacy of Tiananmen Square is a look into the lives of those involved in the Tiananmen Square protests in China, 20 years later. Cormier had an interesting take on journalism and described feeling embarrassed about the way news stories attempt to capture their subjects whole story in a 2 minute window. Yet as a journalist himself he has had many profound interviews with people in war torn and politically stratified counties.

Lastly we got to listen to a reading by Jim Nason from his book I Though I’d Be Happy, which is a fictional story about several characters who climb Mount Olympus and confront the various ideas of happiness throughout their journey. Nason’s talked about how he creates characters and what he puts them through in order to seem authentic, he also described how interesting and rewarding research can be. His take on inspiration and its unexpected nature  was very interesting. My take away was that characters and stories can take start with real life inspiration and that dedicating time to writing everyday can be fruitful.

These readings couldn’t have come at a better time for me personally. Since starting school I’ve had a hard time feeling creative, especially since I’m in such a creativity based program. I’m getting used to the demands but I find myself questioning my ideas and even my abilities as a writer. I feel slightly more confident listening to other writers and their personal struggles with writing and techniques for being creative!

Here is a video about the 2011 Thin Air Festival: