The Cannes Questionnaire

Digiday is making its first foray to the Cannes International Festival of Creativity, aka the Cannes Lions. We’ll interview agency and brand executives, and report on the substance and flavor of the ad world’s largest international gathering. Our coverage is made possible through the sponsorship of Turn, the cloud marketing platform. All posts in the series can be found here


To start off the week, Digiday polled some top agency executives, all Cannes veterans, on key aspects of the conference. Here’s what AKQA’s Rei Inamoto, Co:Collective’s Ty Montague, The Barbarian Group’s Benjamin Palmer and Deutsch LA’s Winston Binch have to say on the industry’s awards fetish, making new friends and maybe climbing the top of a hotel sign.

Why is advertising so obsessed with awards?
We work in an industry that is obsessed with fame. Fame brings success of various degrees for our clients, agencies and individuals involved. Generally, that is a good thing. But the real reason why the advertising industry — particularly agencies — is so obsessed with awards is that we were able to get away without keeping score. For so long, there was a lack of accountability. Awards were the only somewhat objective metrics of success. Those shiny pieces of metal were proof of success as validated by our peers within our small circle, even without the validation of consumers. (There are shows and categories dedicated to that very aspect.) I do enjoy meeting people and feeling inspired by the energy and inspiration it provides. And generally, that is also a good thing. — Rei Inamoto, chief creative officer, AKQA @reiinamoto

Can the focus on awards be a bad thing?
There is nothing wrong with awards that awards shows can’t cure. Competition is good for the industry. But WHAT gets awarded matters. If we award the trivial, the “made for an awards show” stuff, we do a disservice to our clients and our industry. If we award big ideas and major leaps made by companies of scale, we help shine a light on the way forward for our whole business. — Ty Montague, Co-CEO, Co:Collective @tmontague


Is Cannes a complete boondoggle?
Of course it is. That’s why it is in Cannes, not in Cleveland. Cannes is inconveniently located for most. The registration and entry fees are exorbitant. And I am not sure you actually learn anything new while you are there. That said, there is still no other single event in advertising that is as inspiring as Cannes. Yes, it is over-the-top and self-congratulatory and ostentatious, but the glitz and glamour of Cannes has consistently drawn the most prominent clients, agencies, students and media figures. Simply being present and taking it all in gives you a renewed sense of context, creative energy and purpose. — Daniel Stein, CEO, EVB @danielstein

What’s your one piece of advice for a Cannes newbie?
Talk to people you don’t know! Cannes sure is great for catching up with old friends, but the best experiences can be with a totally new group of people. Everyone’s mindset in Cannes is pretty inclusive, so the odds are good that striking up a conversation will mean a new friend or contact. You’re all on the French Riviera together, so you’re basically catching the entire industry in a good mood; take advantage of it. — Benjamin Palmer, CEO, The Barbarian Group @bnjmn

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve seen at Cannes?
I’ve been to Cannes four times now, and as inspiring as the experience is, there’s always craziness late at night. It’s what happens when you combine rose, sleeplessness, the South of France, no deadlines, and old friends and colleagues. At closing time, you can see strange behavior like people climbing the Hotel Martinez roof sign. The weirdest thing I’ve seen is a guy in a wheelchair randomly punch one of my partners in the stomach on a walk to old town Cannes. Fortunately, no one was injured. Outside of this, most of the weirdness I’ve come across has been related to late-night party fun. — Winston Binch, chief digital officer, Deutsch LA @winstonbinch

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