B&T has been lucky to call Willie Pang a very dear friend since he started at Mediacom, and as a true friend he’s generously taken some time out from his hectic schedule in the Cote d’Azur to share his thoughts with us . . .
Through the course of my career, I’ve had the incredible privilege of working in jobs that have taken me to (almost) every corner of the world. As such, I particularly savour new experiences. When the team at B&T asked me to share some reflections from my time in Cannes for the Festival of Creativity, I couldn’t resist.
So where do I start?
Firstly, let me dispel a myth. Sometimes we have a Hollywood inspired view on what long haul corporate travel looks like. In our minds, everyone flies first class, drinking cocktails with little umbrellas in them and stay in the world’s most glamorous hotels. Some don’t. For those of you who fly alot, you’ll know what I’m talking about. I fly coach and we’re staying 15 minutes away from the town centre in a super attractive industrial area. #goodstart
But travel five minutes up the road, along the beach, and the majesty hits you. Idyllic sounds like hyperbole but this place is idyllic. White sand, turquoise sea and the sweet smell of Rose. The Cannes Lions. Here I am. I remind myself not to take it for granted. It really is a unique experience. This place is magical. I’m not telling you this to make you feel jealous, there is a point, I promise.
There are three headline thoughts that I draw from the past 72 hours.
Number One. To create amazing work, we must first create space
I’ve heard from and met some of the world’s leading thinkers this week. Not isolated to advertising and marketing. From a crazy scientist at Google to a leading African female football superstar, the diversity of thought, experience and ideas, congregated here in Cannes is rare.
The one thing that strikes me the most is that in your work life and mine, it’s tough to find time to elevate to see the forest. I distinctly recall the first time I saw Nike’s “Dream Crazy” campaign with Colin Kaepernick. I knew at that moment that it would sweep the awards here.
It was a fleeting thought but being here has allowed me to reflect on the underlying reasons why it’s been so impactful. Most days, we’re obsessing about selling more chicken, chocolate bars, insurance policies or holidays but Nike’s work reminds me that it’s important to take some time to dissect amazing stuff at a deeper existential level to extract and (maybe) bottle it for use in our day-to-day
Number Two. Recognise and embrace change
Perched high at the penthouse terrace of the Martinez Hotel at the MediaCom suite, with its world class breezy view, it’s easy to think that advertising today is exactly as it was in the days of the mad men. In so many ways, it must be exactly the same.
The Mad Men have become the Mad People, swapped crisp suits and ties for designer kicks and overpriced t-shirts. But the truth is that the Math Men are here in force and command attention. As I stare down La Croisette, the main strip, along the beach are the most exclusive corporate clubs I have ever seen.
It’s a space I imagine was once dominated by the world’s greatest television and magazine companies, today the names are Verizon Media, Google, Spotify, Facebook and Twitter. And then there is the old become new global force that is WPP. But I digress. The world has changed and we need to embrace it. The future of creativity will be a mix of ideas, technology and new human experiences.
Number Three. Celebrate who we are and what we do
This is not meant to be a grandiose statement. It’s grounded in our reality. As you read this, you may be commuting home in cold and the wet (sorry, Sydney) or you may be sitting at your desk sorting out PO numbers from that last campaign.
You know what? I’ve learnt here that it’s important to celebrate what we do. In our own way, we are moving the world. We are shaping culture, creating conversation and inspiring a generation. My eldest son is 10. He plays Fortnite and dreams of being a professional football player. His window to the world is YouTube. That non-skippable 15 second ad before he watches some other kid play a game? It matters to him. And whether you are the one creating the idea, the one project managing the shoot, the one doing the post processing, the one finding the right channel to show it, the one measuring it’s effectiveness or the one making sure that it’s getting paid for, be proud.
If I’ve learned anything here, it’s that even in our tiny corner of the world, we can change the world. The work that Uber Eats did at the Australian Open? World class. You can’t imagine how many people have spoken to me about it this week.
That’s just a small snippet. In the context of the industry debate about the role and impact of Cannes Lions, my experience can be summarised as this: it’s our opportunity to recognise and celebrate the best, to acknowledge the people who pour their hearts and souls into the work and the need to create a little bit of space to reflect on how we can make it better for the generations to come.
Now, where is my rose?
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