The Golden Drum Grand Prix is Won by the Attitude.

Lublana is a beautiful, small town in the very heart of Slovenia. It is famous of its green lands, reach counterculture and countless number of pubs. And Golden Drum Festival. Probably.
The Golden Drum Grand Prix is won by the attitude.

Because for 22 years the Festival was hosted in Portorož — Cannes of Adriatic Sea. They say about an amazing atmosphere and amazing people in the city at that time. And now, with the Festival moved to Portorož, it is not the same city. I was lucky enough to visit Portorož one time and for shooting only, so the Golden Drum was a clean slate for me (well, maybe apart from the Silver Drum won long ago).

It is true that a festival is less noticeable in a big city than, not to look too far, Cannes Lions, where crowds of participants can be visible on the beaches and in the restaurants. Nevertheless, you are positively surprised when you find yourself behind the threshold of the Grant Hotel. But let’s take it one step at a time.

As a jury we began with a “get-together” evening. I did not have the time to check who was who before my departure, so I could know every one of them a bit “from the scratch”. And so, I had high-five with the creator of “Dumb ways to die”, the creative director behind the success of “ROM” sneakers or a Macedonian man, who has won 20 lions, including for his latest project “Signed by Bees”. And here starts the real adventure and the lesson of modesty, humility and positive approach- as these three values (as the whole festival proved) can be found in each of the best creatives from Europe. And we, being one green-eyed, ironic and arrogant monster — industry, could learn a lot from them...

For the next few days I was confined to a dark room evaluating hundreds of works. I cannot reveal what was behind the scenes (there were some spectacular ups and downs — for Poland as well) but I was really surprised by completely different approach to assessment. Competitions held in Poland are mostly about killing the project. Jurors are really proud when they can shout: „Old!”. And the most super-duper is when we kill the project of our immediate competition, leaving it even outside the shortlist in the end. While here, at the Golden Drum, the thing was to find something good in a project and elevate it. We considered the culture-related context of a country, complexity of a given industry, we assessed charity projects based on completely different criteria, knowing that even the best Coca Cola project could be on the lost position in the direct battle with homeless. And so, we created the shortlist of works well reflecting the spirit of so called New Europe. The top of it was taken by Russia, Romania, Slovenia and…Poland! Which brings me to the next observation.


I know that Golden Drum is not so popular in the industry. But the truth is, we leave Cannes with no more than 4 lions (if the year is good), and we are the country with 40 million citizens. Meanwhile, the Macedonian I have mentioned above receives as many lions as we (a few each year). Conclusions? Two. First: no excuses — but clients..., budgets..., lack of sun... We simply have to get a grip and create as many good projects as possible. And I say it to myself as well. Second. The Golden Drum is the festival where we can stand as equals against the moguls from the region. And even snatch 2 Grand Prixes! And not because it is „easy” to win (enough to see awarded projects to know it is not) but because it is our level, as a country. So, what are differences between us, the Polish advertising industry and, let’s say, Romania, which wins trice as many lions and considers “goldless” year as lost?

When I was on my way back from Cannes, 2 years ago, I had some major thoughts (which I put to paper hereła-złotego-lwa-w-cannes-ale-czy-jest-się-z-kuba-sagan/) about things that could be changed in the industry to jump to the next level, (or rather: about how to catch up with developed markets). I was thinking about more diversified employment in agencies, about cooperation with external creatives and observing various work organization models. Now, after the Golden Drum I have but one thought. But this one is probably the most difficult to enforce because the problem is hard to define and impossible to change for some people. I mean the attitude.

I would like to bring the example of the creative director of an independent agency from Slovakia, the boss of Art Director’s Club Europe. How surprised I was when suddenly, during the event, he appeared on stage to accept the Golden Drum for “Digital Iron Curtain” — first of all, he had never bragged about that project at all and second, he did not mention that he would go out there for gold. So, the first lesson is: be modest. If someone is to notice you, you will be noticed not under the stage but on it.

I have one more example — 4129 GREY agency. There is something called EDGE, TRIBE and SWAG in their organizational culture. Generally speaking — they are a really solid team. You get your first business card after 3 months of work. It does not however include your position, but you will find feedback from other employees on the back side of it. So, if you were an asshole for someone, your business card will say it. But the point is that the organizational culture of the agency allowed to eliminate the unhealthy irony, envy and sick rivalry that is constantly present in our own field. So, the second lesson is: be a person with no “asshole” written on the business card. Because for a long run, this kind of person will not succeed in any bigger organization.


And the last thing: humility. Tyrmand said: „there is always some bigger daredevil”. So, remember it when you boast about your great campaigns on the beach of Cannes when a few hundred meters away, in the Palace, awards go to David Droga, AlmapBBDO or Grey London... The thing is, we are neither as good nor as bad as we claim to be. The best in the industry do not speak about themselves at all...

I am sorry for disappointing you if you expected creative cases, best bars reviews or complaining on festival events. But if the Golden Drum adventure has changed anything in me, it is the attitude. It would be good for us all to be less arrogant, more positive in thinking about our industry and maybe even more kindhearted towards each other. Let’s promote projects from Poland regardless of the agency that made it because after all “we’re all in it together, ya know”. Let’s support the young creatives so they would not burn out before they turn 26.

Because if we neglect it and leave it as it is, we will still be closer to Ecuador than Macedonia in the Cannes ranking.

Author: Kuba Sagan.

Building brands. 08.11.2017.
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