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New Cannes Lions CEO 'Bursting With Ideas'

Penny Reid Succeeds Terry Savage as Festival Chief

By Published on .

LONDON (AdAge.com) -- Penny Reid is a slight woman with a substantial job. As chief executive of the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival, she's ultimately responsible for the success of the prodigious annual event.
Penny Reid succeeded Terry Savage, who was promoted to the role of executive chairman of the Cannes Lions Ad Festibal last summer and now lives in Australia.
Penny Reid succeeded Terry Savage, who was promoted to the role of executive chairman of the Cannes Lions Ad Festibal last summer and now lives in Australia.

That means keeping all 171 judges in line, and-if last year's figures are a guide-administering at least 22,102 entries, handing out 423 Lions and making sure that all 8,000 registered delegates have a good experience.

She also manages a permanent staff of 26 located in a slightly shabby London office, plus about 50 temporary staff in the run-up to the festival.

"At the moment I'm sitting awestruck by the organizational power of the whole thing," Ms. Reid said. "I'm in the learning seat. ... you can feel the rhythm building as we approach the event."

Ms. Reid succeeded Terry Savage, who was promoted to the role of executive chairman last summer and now lives in Australia. Those familiar with Ms. Reid's track record appreciate her organizational talent.

Diplomatic touch
Martin Boase, founder of BMP and until recently on the board of Emap, which now owns the ad festival, was instrumental in putting Ms. Reid in the chief executive's post and said of her: "She is tough, resilient and seriously well-organized, and good on the diplomacy front."

These qualities will inevitably come in useful during the traditional mayhem of the weeklong ad festival in June.

"Emap has worked hard on improving the logistics, the galas and the technology," she said. "Anecdotal feedback indicates people have noticed a positive change and a smoother festival. What was tolerated in a family-run event would seem a lot less charming coming from a corporation."

"I'll be there to solve crises or smooth the problem if someone is being too French," Ms. Reid added.

Looking further into the future, "I'm bursting with ideas for the festival," she enthused, "but I don't want to make suggestions until I've had a chance to see how they might or might not work."

The festival's drive to add categories looks set to continue under Ms. Reid: "We need to build the momentum and add categories. It's amazing that it was only a film festival until the late '80s. It would seem peculiar not to continue to introduce channels. I'm keeping an eye on mobile, but it's hard to figure out what shape the category might end up in." She also wants to look at public relations.

Ms. Reid, who's 47 but looks a decade younger, certainly has the right background to lead an international advertising festival. She's worked across the communications disciplines and, as the daughter of a Foreign Office official and wife of an executive at Christie's auctioneers, she's traveled widely. In what spare time she has, Mr. Reid paints. So does her 6-year-old daughter, and "the embarrassing thing is that she's already better than me," Ms. Reid said.

Born in Canada, Ms. Reid was educated in the U.K. and has a degree in zoology. After graduation, she worked in cardiovascular research on rabbits for a year before switching careers and becoming a graduate trainee at Saatchi & Saatchi in London.

"Fortune favors the brave and the misinformed," Ms. Reid quipped, referring to her ignorance of just how difficult it was to win a job at Saatchi in 1981.

Actually, it was Lord Tim Bell, now chairman of Chime Communications, who recruited Ms. Reid to her first Saatchi job. "She is persuasive -- never aggressive -- and a 100% good egg," he said.
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