After a long two years away, today the LBB & Friends beach returned to give the advertising community gathered in Cannes what they’d been sorely missing: a place to make the most of Provence’s blazing sun and azure sea while mingling with old industry friends, making new ones and finding inspiration.
With those goals in mind, the week’s events on the beach kicked off on Tuesday morning with a presentation from Chrome Productions creative director Stephen Parker in conversation with Aisling Conlon, International Trade Director, Advertising Association. Fresh out the sea from their daily ‘Chrome Crawl’ morning swim, Stephen explained the journey the company has been on. Building on their work with some of the world’s leading brands in the commercial and content space, the London and LA-based company has launched ‘Chrome Studios’, a development arm focused on delivering projects in the long-form entertainment sector.
He detailed how the company had become more of an “idea generator” than a traditional production company, not just telling clients’ stories but telling their own stories as content creators in their own right. Responding to the convergence between the commercial and entertainment worlds, Chrome has managed to generate fans for its branded entertainment work, rather than just customers for its clients.
Next up on the beach was a live podcast recording of ‘Behind the Billboard’ – a discussion of the best out-of-home creativity with its panel of guests: Daniel Fischer, global ECD Ogilvy on Dove & Unilever, Keka Morelle, CCO at Wunderman Thompson Sao Paulo and Sanjiv Mistry, ECD at McCann London.
Sanjiv discussed the outdoor jury for Cannes Lions that he was a part of as well as the work that’s got everyone talking in the world of billboards right now.
The afternoon included a triple bill from independent agency champions thenetworkone, featuring two sessions focusing around how leading independent creative agencies use their creative cultures to great effect – and one session in between that focused on the altogether weightier subject of the war in Ukraine.
Featuring Anna Panczyk from Brand New Galaxy, Lindsey Evans of The Special Group, Jason Foo of BBD Perfect Storm, the first session focused on newer agencies who’ve got themselves on a promising trajectory. Moderated by Julian Boulding, president of thenetworkone, the focus was on how each agency was building a unique culture to guide its decisions.
Beginning with origin stories including simple human connection, a classic ‘first pitch’ tale involving hiring fake employees to make the agency look bigger and a recounting of a wild bet that ended well, each agency leader revealed the personality of the leaders driving these businesses. Building on this, each described some of the tenets and ‘isms’ of their creative cultures, before navigating the decisions indie agencies need to make around growing the right way.
Thenetworkone’s middle session featured an emotional interview with Olga Lanovyk, business consultant at Kyiv-based creative agency Tabasco and Nataliya Popovych, founder and president of One Philosophy, moderated by Paul Squirrell, director of thenetworkone.
When Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, the major message coming from independent agencies’ peers in Ukraine was "help us find work", said Paul. And it was heartening to see thenetworkone colleagues helping to keep talented Ukrainians employed remotely and some even helping to relocate people.
Nataliya responded to the global call of “how can we help?” by founding WeAreUkraine.Info
. Having fled the war to Denmark now, she runs the English-language resource where people can show solidarity with Ukraine in its efforts to beat Russia.
She mentioned a large part of the comms challenge being convincing people to “call war war” – not a conflict, a crisis or a situation. The horrors of the war are not communicated starkly enough often, she said. And this is important to make sure the rest of the world continues to remember the sadness of Russia’s continuing invasion.
Nataliya noted that the ultimate goal is for the world to continue to lobby so Ukraine is armed better, but for those who can’t exert that pressure directly, she highlighted the importance of communicators to advise their clients to leave Russia and divest from its economy.
Another interesting comms challenge Nataliya raised was potential for Russian manipulation in the global south. To combat Russian propaganda and misinformation in those countries, people like those in the ad industry are required.
Both Olga and Nataliya shared unthinkable personal experiences of waking up to their city being shelled and detailed the heartbreak of having to flee to protect themselves and their families. Olga has ended up with a welcoming family in France while Nataliya has found her way to Denmark.
Tabasco and One Philosophy are also now both dispersed around the world, with some staying in Ukraine to fight and sadly Olga said some of her agency have been lost in the war. She’s busy with new family, which she admitted was a good, positive distraction from the war, but expressed deep hopes for a swift end to Russian aggression, so that Ukraine can build itself back to be even greater than before.
To get there though, truth and awareness must continue to be driven through communications. Organisations like the Ukraine Communications Support Network (UCSN), which is co-chaired by Nataliya Popovych, relies on people who are equipped to spread truth that can support Ukraine and keep it high on the global agenda.
Ending the day, LBB’s own EMEA editor Alex Reeves chaired a panel with some of the allstars of the independent agency community, discussing culture again. Adam Ferrier of Thinkerbell, Josh Rosenberg of Day One Agency and Eva Santos of Delirio & Twain were there, representing examples of agencies whose culture has delivered success. They were joined by Lindsey Slaby of Sunday Dinner, who has been called ‘the CMO whisperer’ by some, to offer a perspective of what brands look for in an agency like one of these.
The discussion took in the core values of these agencies, as well as how these values guide their work and how indies can compete in an awards-led landscape. Meanwhile Lindsey offered insight into how clients often view the same subjects.
Some key lessons were that it’s crucial to be inspired and informed about the best work that’s being done elsewhere, that knowing a client’s priorities and preferences is crucial for understanding whether an agency’s culture will fit and remembering that growth is about saying no at the right times, rather than being swept along with the flow of corporate interest.