Do you feel like AI is overshadowing any topics this year?
It's overshadowing the fact that I think the work [across the industry] is still pretty bloody average. There's a lot of work that has a purpose, and then it's about trying to find a client. It's better that we've seen more real clients doing real work, getting rewarded. That to me is massively important. But I do think we have to talk about where creativity is at. Creativity is probably not in its boldest place right now. And it's been three years and we're out of COVID so at what point are we really going to acknowledge that?
I'm hearing about certain companies educating their employees to do jury training to sort of make sure that they can steer [awards] toward their work. It takes away from the purity of this thing. I know that's a naive statement, but [that’s] just going too far for me. That's not Cannes’s fault per se. They could probably try to find a different way again to change the criteria, but I think it's also in the heads of juries and I think they've got to be more aggressive against the people that are in that room and stop the games that are getting played. And if you're a jury head, take responsibility.
I believe in this industry so much and I can't tell you how many people I've worked with that have saved clients' jobs and saved brands from going out of business and whatever else. We just have to yearn for more respect and this is not the way to go about doing it.
[Related: Cannes Lions adds new criteria for 2023]
Is that a new trend? And do you think the economic pressures on companies right now are leading to more pressure to win awards?
No, it's been there for a long time. Is there pressure out there right now? Yeah, I think there's pressure right now. Everyone has gone through the recovery of COVID and then into a sort of more normalized economy, but a lot of these agencies are lost. Some of the agencies are not what they once were. And so anything to get their attention, they're willing to do that. We get [new business inquiries] when we do work that people actually see themselves and that the consultants really know about. But for some fringe purpose-driven thing for a medical unit in some small part of the world, we don't get any calls for inquiries about new business around that.
Are media agencies and data becoming the barrier to entry for creative agencies to be involved in big holding company pitches?
Not necessarily. I think there’s some, but I don't think it's the overall trend. I can't think of a new business [pitch] where that has been the case for us. Do I think that some of our competitors want to drive the holding company agenda because it actually suits their structure and suits their lineup of not-so-strong agencies? Yeah, I think that's true, but that's their strategy. Our strategy has always been about having a house of brands. We know that the talent is attracted to agency brands.
What Omnicom is really trying to help us to do is give us access to the tools and platforms that can underpin us and then enable us to go do the things that we really do well. And they're doing a really great job with that, but they're not trying to become the heroes. For the other [holding companies], I think their business strategy requires them to become that. I think that they're forcing that agenda. Clients have got to ask for reasons, like “Why do I really need a holding company model?” I think that they may think they need it because other people are doing it. But in some ways it just adds more complexity.