End of a golden era: Terry Savage
Interview by Siobhan Fitzgerald
Congratulations on over three decades years at Cannes Lions. The festival has evolved enormously in that time. How much was this moving with the zeitgeist and how much how much was it a very conscious evolution?
Cannes is a reflection of the industry, so changes and developments are linked to what we see happening in the market. Some developments, like the introduction of marketers into Cannes, were planned—others, like the impact of Media and Media owners coming to Cannes because brands were there, were not.
What are the key differences between Cannes Lions when you first started in the 1980s, and today?
Today it is exciting, vibrant, multi-platform, and challenging. But when I first went it was in fact quite boring: no seminars and no content other than Film. And of course, it is much bigger now. I think our vision was to bring all sectors of the industry together in one place—that, to us, seemed like a challenging environment, and in fact as it happens, it now seems like a perfect reflection of what is happening in the world.
The fact is, creativity is coming from everywhere (as it should). It’s no longer just the domain of creative agencies, and that trend will accelerate. If I was asked what would the shape of a new festival be in 5 years, I would say all sectors of the industry should participate, from Media to PR, from Data to Tech, from Entertainment to sport—all focusing on creativity and how to reach people in the most creative way. Cannes Lions has achieved that already, not just legacy, but in so many sectors of the business.
Do you see the ways in which agencies have approached Cannes Lions as having changed much over the years?
It’s now much more about learning, understanding change and networking. It’s more global and diverse than in the past, and of course agencies change to reflect that.
It seems like it’s just in the past few years that we all woke up to the fact that advertising can have a conscience. This is in large part due to the Lions’ emphasis on doing good—including this year a new category around sustainability. At its best and loftiest, what sort of impact would you like to think advertising can have on the world?
Creativity and our industry has the opportunity to change the world—through business and through making work that engages with people. We can do amazing things to change the world and reflect the values that most of us live by day by day.
Cannes Lions are so powerful. Creatives want them, and creatives have a direct line to brands who in many ways control the world’s purse strings. Has this responsibility weighed heavily on you, and are you confident that the Lions will continue to use this power for good when you leave?
I am totally confident that the power of good will continue when I leave. The responsibility has not weighed heavily on me—in fact the exact opposite. It has inspired me, enthralled me, and motivated me.
This year your awards jury is 46% female and includes Sri Lanka for the first time as well as Georgia, Kenya and Nigeria. What do you think diversity brings to jury panels?
Diversity, be it gender or other, brings a real world view to the festival. It reflects the norms that we live by at home and day to day, and makes what we do more authentic.
Do you think the significance agencies place on awards (arguably the Lions above all others) when hiring and promoting is an appropriate amount?
Creativity is the great differentiator and will continue to be so. Accordingly, anyone demonstrating that they have the capability to win Lions (or other awards) are demonstrating they have something that everyone wants.
What are your thoughts on Publicis Groupe’s decision not enter awards in 2018?
It was a commercial decision—they made it for their reasons and who is to argue with that. My only regret was that it became the headline story in Cannes at a time of creativity being challenged by the many new player, which took away from the many brilliant winners in Cannes in 2017.
Do you think there are too many advertising awards around the world?
Yes there are too many awards—my advice is enter those that count, those that are known and important to brands.
What are you most proud of in your time at Cannes Lions?
I am most proud of 2 things. The first is that Cannes has been defining for many people in developing their careers and their thinking. It can change lives, not only for the winners, but also for those attending because the experience is so rich and rewarding. The other thing I am proud of is the many amazing team members who over many years have made this such a great event.