B&T has a Cannes beachside chat with Brian Vella, Managing Partner for AKQA in Australia who talks Future Lions, company culture and the things that matter to him in leading the Aussie arm of a global creative agency.
AKQA has been the Cannes partner for the Future Lions now in its 14th year, a student ideas competition. This year’s contest attracted over 1,000 entries from a record 444 schools, across 71 nations. Despite the socially neutral brief entries from all over the world have consistently revealed a growing emphasis on ideas themed around social contribution.
After yesterday’s seminar by another Aussie, Nick Law, on the need for interconnection between media, tech and creative, Vella reveals he has already structured the Australian operation this way with his ECD, Tech Director and Design Director all on the senior leadership team.
“I hold all of my directors equally in contribution creatively and to the business. Its frustrating this conversation is still occurring in 2019 but it goes to show more work needs to be done here” he said
Why are you in Cannes?
“Primarily for Future Lions, something that really matters to me. What was most revealing was how this year’s entries were overwhelmingly on a quest for social good. It shows us how this generation are more concerned about brands and marketers taking responsibility and striving to do things to improve people’s lives”
What is keeping you up at night?
“Talent. Finding people. Keeping people. The management consulting firms are luring talent away with big bucks that make it difficult and I get that people need to make those choices financially. We try to create an innovative and positive culture, but we aren’t well known. We probably haven’t focussed enough on our employee brand, we have been too focussed on growing the business, and our clients. People don’t really know us at all and that needs to change”
“What do you want Australians to know?”
“We are really trying to create a business that is diverse, that doesn’t exploit our people and that we have practices in place to ensure people get the time they need to innovate, Much of our competition measure on a fully utilised pipeline and it’s all about billable hours. The downside of that is that it burns people out and doesn’t give the space needed for thinking and innovating. We have set up an R and D team that focuses on innovations and we have reduced their billable hours to give them the time that is needed to think and create. Exploration rather than exploitation.”
“What has been your highlight in Cannes?”
“Hearing the Future Lions pitch. These high school students are so inspiring and have such simple ideas that can make such a huge difference to society on so many levels. Their energy and enthusiasm is very inspiring. And of course I am always on the look out for talent.
The Future Lions winners for 2019
Light-based disinfection technology is integrated into McDonald’s touch-screen service points, and customers are prompted to high-five the screen after ordering, which sterilises their hands before eating, in a simple and fun way.
Team: Da Hye Lee, Dong Hwi Jung, Lin Heo, Se Hun Oh, Seung Yeon Lee
School: Hongik University, Seoul
A necklace device uses AI to recreate the voice of a patient that has lost their natural voice, and syncs this with the patient’s mouth movements and gestures, to recreate the patient’s full range of vocal expression and emotion.
Team: Amanda Sanromã, Gabriel Gonçalves, Lucas Y Justino, Matheus Valery
School: University Centre of Fine Arts, São Paulo
Apple Watch is used to detect a seizure, and Siri then provides step-by-step instructions to guide bystanders – who may otherwise feel powerless or afraid – to assist the patient, thus showing the potential for wearable technology to help both the wearer and those around them.
Team: Arendse Rohland, Sarah Peen Andersen
School: Miami Ad School, Hamburg
Miami Ad School is named Future Lions 2019 School of the Year, having provided the most shortlisted finalists, including Epilepsy Watch Out.