Medieval Monks Go to Cannes, Too

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Luc Wise (left) and Andrea Stillacci (right), founders of the new Paris ad agency Herezie, with the monks.
Luc Wise (left) and Andrea Stillacci (right), founders of the new Paris ad agency Herezie, with the monks. Credit: Simon Wakelin

CANNES, France ( -- Flip-flops and shorts are the usual daytime attire at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival, except for the 13 medieval monks who roamed the festival today. Dressed in cowled robes, they entered the Palais des Festivals and silently prowled around the seminars and checked out the exhibitions of shortlisted work.

It was all a stunt to launch Paris agency Herezie, opened this month by Andrea Stillacci, former CEO and creative director at Grey, Paris, and planner Luc Wise, with backing from South Korean ad agency network Cheil.

Mr. Stillacci said it's the first time the Cannes festival has let someone do a stunt inside the Palais, issuing to the monks Cannes delegates' badges with photos of their hooded heads, and using the names of heretics persecuted centuries ago instead of their own names. (He said he called in a favor, having done a campaign for the festival a few years ago, and bought a page in Friday's Lions Daily News to explain the stunt and promote Herezie although Mr. Stillacci said the ad will be written, like Herezie's website, in ancient Latin.)

Watching the monks file silently through the ground level of the Palais, one puzzled but amused U.S. agency CEO asked, "Is that a Catholic ad agency?"

Mr. Stillacci said the agency is named after "heresy," implying ideas that go against existing dogmas or orthodoxy, and because heretics, who were often former Catholics, have been persecuted and frequently executed for their beliefs since the first century.

"I wanted a client to know what he gets [from us], and Herezie is a strong name," he said. "There are dogmas, and you go against the dogmas. Guys in the 13th century risked their lives. We risk nothing, but our attitude is the same."

So far, prospective clients don't seem to be offended by the name.

"We get very good feedback from clients, and we didn't expect that because we didn't test the name," he said.

Clients who know Mr. Stillaci are already aware of what they're likely to get from an agency he runs. In one of his last campaigns before leaving Grey, he promoted a new Findus frozen pizza that could be microwaved in three minutes -- a novelty in France -- by arranging for videos viewed on the popular site Daily Motion in France to be interrupted after three minutes by a microwave door swinging open to reveal a ready-to-eat pizza. (YouTube refused to carry the campaign because it was too disruptive, he said.) The client declined his original idea, a sex chatline in which the provocative woman on the phone would say after three minutes that a Findus pizza would be ready now.

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