—By Carrie Tate
Recently I found myself amidst 20 other young creatives— from 13 countries and a wide variety of agency backgrounds—for a weeklong course at the 61st Cannes Lions festival. The tight schedule of festival seminars and award ceremonies (and private classroom sessions with industry legends) meant I was in store for one of the most thought-provoking, inspirational and tiring weeks of my life—set against the backdrop of sun-drenched beaches and late night parties that could only be Cannes.
The first day, we met our Academy Dean—the incredible Bob Isherwood, Worldwide Creative Director of Saatchi & Saatchi. Joining him was Matias Palm-Jenson, founder of FarFar and previously Chief Innovation Officer (or Chief Surprise Officer as he preferred) of McCann Europe. They began by handing over our schedules for the week—six days packed with seminars, workshops and Q&A sessions from the likes of Bob Greenberg, Yves Béhar, Graham Fink, Mark Tutssel, Paul Lavoie, Spike Jonze and Joe Pytka… to name just a few! This had the makings of being an incredible and intimidating week. Luckily for me, Bob and Matias turned out to be two of the most humble and welcoming people you could ever have the pleasure of meeting.
After a brief introduction, I met the fellow creatives with whom I would share my academy experience. What a great group! Although slightly daunting at first, after a few days it was like we had known each other for years. What a privilege to get to know such a talented and diverse bunch of people, many of whom I hope to remain friends with for life.
After this, it was time kick off the Academy in style. First up was the Twitter #LIVE Storytelling seminar, joined by guest star Sir Patrick Stewart, in the Grand Auditorium. Sir Patrick talked about how he had used the power and reach of Twitter—and his own sense of fun and entertainment—to challenge how the public perceived him. This change in his public persona ultimately led to a whole host of new opportunities, such as starring in a new comedy series by Family Guy creator, Seth MacFarlane.
Next up, Matias gave us some insight into his time at FarFar and his role at McCann, leaving us with a ton of things to think about and a quote that perfectly summed up everything he’d said:
"If you think you're too small to make an impact, try going to sleep with a mosquito in the room."
Bob then gave a workshop on creative writing, teaching us to free our minds and think beyond clichés. He made us realise that everything we write is cliché (Dear Sir / Madam, outside the box, Kind Regards, etc.) His point: How can we be original and make an impact if we're all working to the same formula? He told us to spend ten minutes each day just writing. Writing without thinking, writing without stopping, writing without expectation. This is something Bob does each day and has been amazed at some of the thoughts and ideas that come out of it.
To finish the day, we toured the Cannes jury rooms, giving us behind-the-scenes access to the judging process and voting structure. It was great to see the breadth of work on display and then see the winners receiving their Lions later, during the awards ceremonies.
Highlights from the Week:
With so many amazing speakers and showcases, it's impossible to write about them all. Here are some of my personal highlights from the week, including lessons and experiences that will always stay with me.
Academy Session with Mark Tutssell
One of my favourite moments was when Mark Tutssell, Worldwide Creative Director of Leo Burnett, spoke. His passion, humility and honesty had all twenty of us hanging off his every word. He told stories of how he started in the industry, how we can better prepare ourselves to create—and more importantly, sell great work. One of his main points, and a recurring theme throughout all of the sessions, was the importance of THE IDEA. He reminded us that we are in the ideas industry, and that ideas are our currency. He told us to "never let a dead hand sell your idea" and that it's ideas that capture imagination—moving people and causing them to act. He summed it up perfectly:
"Unless the client likes the idea, everything else is just decoration. It's window dressing. And window dressing is for Christmas."
Mark also made a really interesting point about selling and positioning the idea. He told us to create springboards, not platforms. Platforms have logic—a beginning, middle and end; very good, but boring. Springboards take you places—they are exciting and bring charisma. Originality is everything and everyone is capable of creating an original idea, but the process needs to be original, too.
His final nugget of wisdom was to ask us to never give up. To persevere and stand up for the ideas we believe in:
"If you're the only one in the room who truly believes in an idea… good for you. Consensus doesn't make an idea genius. It makes it average."
Saatchi & Saatchi New Directors' Showcase
One of the most eagerly anticipated sessions at Cannes, I was super excited to experience the showcase for myself. It didn't disappoint. Upon entering, each member of the audience was given a sensory wristband to wear. It monitored the individual’s emotional responses, changing colour dependent on the reaction.
You can find out more about the showcase and watch a selection of the incredible films here.
Nancy Vonk and Janet Kestin: How to Prevent Death by Yes
Co-creators of the Dove “Real Beauty Sketches” campaign and co-founders of Swim, Nancy and Janet gave a thought-provoking talk on agreeability and the power of saying “no.” They told us that by agreeing to every change along the process, we're “committing yessicide” and that we should stand up for our ideas with an unflinching “NO.” Having said that, they taught us how to say no in a diplomatic way and how to decide if no is the right choice. They told us that in the majority of cases, people respect you more if you stand behind great work and they always remember the outcome, not necessarily the process. This session really made me think about some of the decisions I've made and how to consider my choices in the future.
They made their point clear by sharing this video by the Perlorian Brothers.
Cannes 2014 Closing Gala
The last event of the festival was a chance for the 12,000+ delegates to come together, celebrating the end of an amazing week of creativity, seminars, networking and parties. The Gala took place on Carlton Beach, after the final awards ceremony had concluded. It was an opportunity to spend one last night with all the amazing people I had met and reflect on the many things we'd learned during what proved to be one of the most intensely brilliant weeks of our careers so far.
To finish, some ultimate words of wisdom from Bob on our last day:
His philosophy: Always be in contention.
You don't have to always come in first. But make sure you're a contender. Always in the running, always entering, always fighting and above all, always trying.
"Look at the briefs in your agency. In each bag is an opportunity to become famous. To somehow change the world."
It's this mentality that's made Bob the best in the business and I’m bringing it back to the Manchester office. Try it out in yours.
Carrie Tate is an art director in our Manchester (UK) office