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How should agencies decide which staff get sent to Cannes?

Each week, The Drum asks agency experts from across the world and the ad business for their take on a tough question facing the industry, from topical concerns to perennial pain points.
21 June, 2022
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Big industry events and the associated travel used to be – and still are – seen as a major perk of working in advertising. It’s also seen as a sign of prestige: being sent to Cannes Lions – the industry’s mecca – to represent your agency, either as a creative champion or a sales person looking to set up a few deals on a yacht, is itself a symbol of status. For those early on in their career it can be an endorsement of progress, while more senior staff might see it merely as their due.

But since not everybody at the agency gets a plane ticket (somebody needs to mind shop back home) there is a chance of disappointing staff. So, how do you decide who gets to go?

How do you solve a problem like… deciding who gets to go to Cannes?

Josh Golden, chief marketing officer, Quad

It’s about who’s going to get the most value from being there – value from the learning experience that’s unique to Cannes due to exposure to so many brands and strategic partners, and value that can come from the intersection and collaboration with those companies.

It’s not about seniority. It’s about who can do the hard work of having lots and lots of conversations that will optimally yield something later – and doing that for several days (and doing it while you’re hot). Because it’s hot in Cannes. You should be comfortable being uncomfortable and still getting the work done with aplomb.

John Brash, founder and chief executive officer, Brash

When considering events or award nights, having a small team can often leave you in a sticky situation, to say the least. Leaving people out no matter the reason can lead to resentment and internal politics. My role in leading the business means I’ve often turned down events myself to make space for someone who really deserves the accolade, will enjoy the experience and demonstrates they are a key part of the team.

At Brash, we’re often invited to charity and industry events across Europe and the Middle East, and it’s important to show our commitment and of course respect. Depending on the location, we send people from that city, or the ones closest to the project/client. Such charity events are a must for our team, but my advice is ‘sit on your hands’ – or else you end up spending lots of cash on the auction and the following few weeks begging the FD to settle your expenses.

Hannah Wiersma, operations manager, UXUS

We have a budget in place for each person at Uxus, giving staff members the opportunity to attend various events. This leaves the initiative with the team, meaning if they spot an event that would be beneficial they can make the decision to attend themselves, paid for by us. There are also special events in which we pick people depending on their amazing work as we want them to have special recognition.

This year we have decided to take the entire team to Dutch Design Week, which is part of our creative juices initiative we recently launched. This is a great opportunity for team-building and boosting overall morale.

Tanya Brookfield, chief executive officer, Elvis

Attending industry events can be massively inspiring – to anyone, at any level. Elvis prides itself on being very democratic, which is why, for the past 10 years, we’ve run a variety of competitions enabling anyone in the agency to pitch to attend different events, including SXSW, Creative Week in New York and ISE Amsterdam. The whole business votes to decide who goes, and this year our lucky winners (a social media manager and a senior account director) are going to Cannes (by train, in line with our pending B Corp certification and sustainability objectives).

It’s all about making these things available to all, because everyone brings something different back – and it’s this variety of experiences that keeps our thinking fresh and relevant.

Kate Richling, chief marketing officer, Media.Monks

Deciding who attends events is never easy, with so many talented people working globally – more so than ever as we return to Cannes as our integrated Media.Monks brand. From industry greats to rising talent, like our Young.Monks, the decision-making was led by the goals we’ve set on the stories we’d like to tell and brands attending that we’d like to see face-to-face.

Launching our Virtualization Report has been our key driver as we believe it’s setting the new era in digital. This fueled our global and regional leadership to strategize for activation. We have a great mix of people coming with regional creative leadership gathering, but also Monks from data, digital media and tech services, as the role of creative and advertising continues to evolve.

Anna Lungley, chief sustainability officer, Dentsu

Three years since the last Cannes Lions and the industry is set to meet again – this time the call for action on climate and inequality has become urgent. Sustainability is on everyone’s lips and we are under pressure to change. Our role is to help clients and their customers plan for what’s next. If this is going to be our turning point, we need to ensure we send those with the vision, talent and creativity to challenge the conversation and inspire the industry to deliver people-focused solutions that prepare us for what’s next. Creatives with ideas create human behavior change, and shape culture and society.

We cannot underestimate the opportunity we have to drive meaningful change. Cannes has historically been the platform for collaboration and ideas that change the future – let’s make sure this time it’s our future.

This article was written by Sam Bradley, and first appeared on The Drum:

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