Rocking when others roll. A first time visitor’s perspective

Mike Nicholson, Freelance ECD

Issue 36 | September 2015

For the first time ever, I had a Gold Delegate Pass this year at Cannes.
Determined to make the most of it, I avoided the usual hedonism, and became a student again.

Here's what I learnt:

Everyone goes now.

Clients, agency folk, media brands and Sting. So focus and network to get the most out of it. (The Cannes Lions App is great for this and it syncs you up with who's near.)

Arrange in advance to meet people you admire.

My first point of contact was my mentor from Google days, Patrick Collister. He filled me in on the best spots to eat (in the old town) and introduced me to some of his Zoo team. This lead to other introductions and inspiration.

See the work every morning.

It is great to see it in the flesh and try and share your learnings with the team back at the agency via a blog.

Give yourself an extra 30 minutes when walking anywhere.

You'll bump into so many folks and again it's a great way to network.

Accept any invites.

Digital Doughnut invited me to a roundtable. I'd never met them before. But wished I had done sooner. We debated why ad campaigns don't last these days. The fact that the average UK Marketing director moves every two years came up thanks the wise knowledge of Tim Bonnet. The new one comes in, wants their own baby and kills off the last one. Then Wendi Sturgis and John Horsley spoke about finding another way to sustain a brand. What if brands created a community? That had a purpose. A goal. That was true to their brand values. That their customers could join, love and share. This would last. Much longer than the average Marketing Director.

Learn from the greats.

The highlight for me in Cannes was hearing Mr. Goodby and Mr Silverstein talk. They too have it in spades. By sticking to their principles, they turned down working Apple and Nike, recommending to the clients they should stick with one agency as the best work would be done for their business that way. So Nike went back to Wieden's. And Apple to TBWA. The agency's integrity came first. Bold? Brilliant? Crazy? They were fired a lot by doing great work. Never rolling over to do what they felt was wrong creatively. I know the type of agencies I'd rather work for.

At the end of the week I realised what I had always known. The best work is done by creative companies, ideally with the creative founders still at the helm.
So do all you can to work for them. I've been lucky to have worked for creative founders for most of my career.

All nurtured amazing cultures. They, like Mr. Goodby and Mr. Silverstein, understood that teams produce their best work when empowered to write from their hearts.

No fear.

Just fun.

I hope you too get to work with agencies like these some day. And manage to get a Delegate Pass for Cannes next year. It was a truly educating and inspiring experience. And I left feeling more determined than ever, to keep doing work that rocks.

Onwards and upwards.

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