What’s the value of a massive event like Cannes Lions? For agencies and brands, at the macro level, there is awards glory and market positioning at stake. But for the people who make up those agencies and brands—especially those who are attending for the first time—the experience can be a challenging and satisfying personal one.
“I wish we could afford to send everyone from our global network [to Cannes], especially the young employees,” John Seifert, Worldwide Chairman and CEO of Ogilvy said today at a panel discussion in Cannes moderated by Jenni Avins of Quartz. “It’s an amazing place for kind of soaking in everything that’s going on in our business.”
By virtue of winning their local Young Lions competition, Art Directors Kenie Kwok and Elaine Li of Ogilvy Hong Kong are competing in the global competition here at Cannes. The high-pressure, quick-turnaround format of the creative competition has provided Kwok and Li a memorable and valuable experience.
“Being here [you see] it’s a much bigger picture,” Li said. “You realize you’re a really small part of this whole advertising world.” Kwok recalled thinking that competing in the local Young Lions competition was a big deal, but described Cannes as, “Next level, definitely a big eye opener. There’s so much I want to bring back to my team.”
(Pictured L to R: John Seifert, Kenie Kwok, Elaine Li, Jenni Avins, Jennifer Risi, Michael DiSalvo)
Because while the Young Lions competition is indeed a competition, merely being a part of it can really change your career, not only from a recognition standpoint but from a process standpoint. Also taking part in the panel was Michael DiSalvo, VP of Healthcare at Ogilvy New York, who won the global Young Lions competition in the PR category last year. A year on from competing, DiSalvo is still experiencing the positive effects of taking place in the competition.
“You go through this mini creative process in 24 hours,” DiSalvo said, describing the competition’s format. “When you get back to the real world, you still follow that same process but you have a lot more time to do it. So it really teaches you the steps from brief to brainstorm to execution.” DiSalvo likened the experience to “taking the weights off”, when an athlete trains with heavier weights so that when the real game starts, you’re able to perform with a little less pressure.
While Cannes is often about the end product—the work—a big theme throughout the entire festival this week has been partnerships. For Jennifer Risi, Worldwide Chief Communications Officer at Ogilvy, relationships are a crucial part of developing your career and the careers of those you nurture.
“It’s not just about the work you do, it’s about the relationships you make and the people you work with,” Risi said. “When people see you do good work, they create opportunities for you.”
Cannes is a place where ideas flow. It’s a massive convergence with real openness to it. Sometimes that can be tricky in an uber-competitive industry—as Seifert noted, seeing a client talking with a competitor, “Can make the hair on the back of your neck stand up,—but the panelists all agreed that it acts as a net-positive. “But for a few days you can all put aside your differences and bask in the totality of what we do.” It’s in that crossover of industries and ideas that big, great ideas are often born. Whether or not one is in attendance at a large international festival, staying in our day-to-day bubbles can cause the best of us to miss out on the next game-changing advancement. “It takes a lot of effort to keep yourself educated,” Seifert said. “Are we encouraging our people to look outside enough? The everyday can easily get compartmentalized”
For Kwok and Li, the Young Lions competition has represented that type of educational experience. It has resulted in them meeting those “with a common ground,” Kwok said. “Everyone is sharing thought and ideas. If you have something creative, you bounce it off others.”
David Ogilvy wanted his agency to be the Teaching Hospital of the advertising world. Perhaps the best use case for Cannes Lions is to be a teaching festival. Nobody has ever evolved past the need for learning.
“There’s a reason doctors have to get continued credits,” Di Salvo said. This week, those continued credits can come in the form of new insights, relationships, or inspiration. Li said prior to coming to Cannes, she didn’t think too much about awards. But now?
“Coming here, seeing people with their gold Lions walking along, I’m like, ‘I really want one.’ Just seeing here and being here has just made me want to push myself even further.”
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