Why my first time at Cannes Festival made me want to quit Advertising
It’s been over three months since my first ever visit to Cannes. And while working on a new brief yesterday, suddenly I found myself thinking about it. About how much that trip made me want to quit Advertising.
Having heard glorious tales of this mecca of advertising for the last 3.5 years, at first I was over the moon about Cannes. I got to see David Droga, Stefan Sagmeister, Sir John Hegarty and the greats of the greats speak, and even chatted with them one on one. And then there were the infinite beach parties, rosé and, of course, Gutter Bar. My Snapchat views were off the charts! But, for everyone who has ever asked me about the experience, I have only one piece of advice — don’t go to Cannes.
Don’t go to Cannes. Unless you’re ready to get slapped in the face,
black and blue,
by a world that you couldn’t imagine,
where you are nothing but a mediocre outsider.
Unless you’re willing to let your bubble burst
that leave a searing hole smack in the centre of whatever pathetic little ego you thought you had.
Unless you can handle the ferocity, competition and hunger of people who are so much better than you. And still want more.
Internet age? Global citizens? Gen X, Y, Z, my a**
No case study or news article that you read from your cynicism-filled cubicle is going to hit you as hard as that moment when you see a team walk up to the stage
for work so simple, you could have shot it on your iPhone. But could you have thought it?
Don’t go to Cannes. Cause after you see that potential you will never be the same again. You will never stop asking questions. All your super savvy I’m-too-cool-for-advertising thinking will go right out the window. Suddenly buzz phrases like “this is my passion,” “not just a job,” “mad men” that you believed were just boardroom sales pitches will start to make sense. And you will realize, that advertising is in fact the great profession everyone said it was. The only reason you felt otherwise? Cause you were never really in advertising.
Cannes shows you how being in advertising means thinking sharply and emotionally at the same time. It means pouring your heart out on a piece of paper in front of you, yet having a level head when it is rejected over and over and over again. It asks you to be mindful of business and people and art and technology all at the same time. On a budget. With a deadline. Which also means that when you can’t do it you have lots of things to blame. But when you see a video of a guy’s hairy boobs or something made up of CCTV footage get awarded on the largest stage in the world, you know it’s not those things, it’s you.
And soon enough, you face the biggest question of them all — are you in or are you out? That’s the final hand that Cannes Festival of Creativity deals you. The choice to stay or go. Because you now know that in advertising, you need to be all in. You need to let in that all-consuming drive that will keep you awake for the rest of your life. Or leave. Go do whatever else you can really do. Stop wasting everybody’s time and go find something 9 to 5 that will give you easy satisfaction and work-life balance and all that other romantic comedy bullsh*t. Cause advertising most definitely won’t.
This realisation hurt so much, it made me want to quit. Three months later, it still does. But what’s going to be my best revenge? Good advertising.