Cannes Lions: Why bother?

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Saatchi & Saatchi's worldwide CEO says the annual festival is about much more than lunches and celebrities

Ahhh, June. And inevitably, thoughts turn to the annual weird, wonderful and inspiring week of unashamed basking in creativity that is the Cannes Lions Festival.

On stage this year is the usual mixture of celebrities (these always seem to be a draw, though often for no obviously relevant reason). The lineup for 2015 includes Samantha Morton with Jefferson Hack, Kim Kardashian and Sir Kenneth Branagh. Meanwhile, there are plenty of sessions guaranteed to get the creative juices flowing, not least the 25th anniversary of the Saatchi & Saatchi New Directors’ Showcase, which I promise, will be something very special.

For some, Cannes has always been an excuse to down tools for a week and party in the sun. And partying is fine — especially if you are celebrating some fantastic work well done — and as long as that’s not all you do. But learning and development is a key opportunity at Cannes and in truth, I sometimes feel that the purpose of the Festival is becoming increasingly obscured.

Cannes today seems to be more and more about clients. This should of course, be cause for celebration. Could it be that an increasing number of our client partners have realized what we’ve all known for so long — that your best advantage in business is the unreasonable power of creativity?

I’m sure some of these senior marketers at Cannes are genuinely there to soak up the wisdom, to be inspired and to go back revived and refocused on motivating their agency partners to produce the best work they can.

But far too many are using Cannes to organize global get-togethers, choosing to spend days locked in darkened meeting rooms, discussing what I’m sure are important issues, but which could equally be addressed back at head office in November.

This can have a knock-on effect on their agencies — who, rather than being able to learn from the best people in the business, are invited to spend all day with their clients, in darkened meeting rooms. … You get the picture.

Standing at the school gates of Cannes rather than going into the classroom will not help anyone’s learning. It might offer up better school lunches (usually at someone else’s expense), but it will not help deliver better work for your brand. There is nothing to be ashamed of in taking some time out of the daily grind to be inspired, enthused and to learn.

After all, isn’t that the point?

Robert Senior is worldwide CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi.

Cannes Lions 2015 Coverage


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