Why I’m Not Going to Cannes

Any creative or advertising professional worth their salt aspires to go to Cannes. No, strike that. Aspires to win at Cannes. But going is a very close second.

I have had the good fortune of winning Gold at Cannes, and last year, I was granted a career-long wish of attending the Festival. I was selected to sit on the Direct Jury, and it turned out to be the single most invigorating experience of my career. Truly. It was like a Taser to the chest. A thousand volts of electricity delivered in seminars, award ceremonies, chats with peers and luminaires on the Croisette, and party after party after party. I met so many wonderful people and saw such inspiring thinking. It reminded me why I got into this business in the first place. It was electric.

When I returned home, I made a promise to myself that I would return the following year. But this time, I wouldn’t be alone. I swore that I would bring others from my agency. And in full disclosure, I wasn’t thinking about creative people, because they always want to do great work. I wanted to find others with the same drive. I wanted to create creative evangelists in other parts of the agency.

And so I created a contest to identify the most creative thinkers in our company — those who take the ordinary and make it extraordinary in whatever they do. The winners would receive an all-expense-paid trip to the festival and a chance to be smacked upside the head by greatness.

The contest received broad praise and lots of interest from every department — account, project management, search, technology — even A&O. The entries were wildly imaginative and inspiring. I had no idea so much creativity was going on behind the scenes every day. My faith in humanity (or at least advertising) was still alive.

When the results were tallied and the winners ranked, an interesting thing occurred. The top three winners came from three different departments — account, creative and technology. How perfect! After all, you need all three groups to create and sell greatness. It was kismet. And then it hit me: My budget was only big enough to send two of them. But how could I pass up this golden opportunity to inspire people from such diverse but interconnected groups? How could I not send all three and show them the power and influence creativity can have in every part of our business — from strategy to execution, from media to technology?

So I did the only thing a self-respecting CCO could do. I gave up my ticket. Most people thought I was crazy. I, for one, knew I was. But I also knew that by giving up my ticket, I would be planting the seeds of a creative revolution within the agency. And it would start with these three young, energetic minds who were ready and willing to soak up some inspiration, if not a few glasses of rose.

Do I regret my decision? Every waking moment of every day. Every time I open my inbox and see another email from Cannes. Every time I read about another speaker, hear about another seminar or receive another rooftop party invitation at the Radisson Blu. But then I put my jealousy aside and think about what they will see and hear and experience. And then I smile. Because when they return, I will have my soldiers. Viva la Revolution!

Gary Scheiner is managing partner and chief creative officer of Rosetta, an independent interactive agency within the Publicis Groupe.

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