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Musings of a Cannes Virgin


Executive Creative Director of Geometry Global Chicago Laura Johnston pops her Cannes cherry

Musings of a Cannes Virgin

I’m a virgin.

A Cannes virgin. The company I work for isn’t. Far from it. 

But personally, this will be my first time. 

I know about Cannes. I watch, salivate over and enviously devour the amazing Cannes winners and case studies each year.

Yet, it’s not someplace I’d ever seen myself going. Just didn’t care. 

Or did I?

Yes, I love bold work. A creative partner and I once defined great work to our agency as “polarising.” We even gave out T-shirts printed with the word FAILURE in bold letters, encouraging our teams to let go of any fear and create big. 

One of my favourite games to play at work is “Get Fired,” by which you try to come up with ideas so breakthrough, so out there, that they could get you fired by the client. (Of course, that’s a means to a very creative end. Not to be taken literally.)

Yet Cannes.



Not on my radar.

Or was it?

This January, I got a great piece of advice from a work friend, Ben. He said, “Laura, go to Cannes. Enter Cannes. And lose. Because once you do, you’ll make sure you enter again. And win.”

It was a challenge. Right there. 

Enter Cannes. Go. Lose.

And I thought about the FAILURE T-shirts. I’d given them out, but was I bold enough to take my own damn advice? 

Time to see.

We had a great idea in progress already for our Hill’s client. We loved it. They loved it. It was bold. Audacious. It was about selling dog food using what comes out the, um, other end, as proof of good health and quality ingredients. Trust me. It’s cool.

And consumers loved it. Every dog owner we encountered was first amused, then grateful for a brand demonstrating that it really “gets” what being a pet owner is all about. 

But we hadn’t thought to enter it in the Cannes Lions. 

So we did. 

Sounds easy. 


Our art director road-tripped 18 hours to the event site to make sure things were executed perfectly. Our creative director personally scouted dog parks and was up before dawn, rolling up her sleeves with the camera crew. And I won’t even go into the rounds and rounds of scripts and copy our writer sweated through to get the case film together. And with the support of our CCOs, both global and local, we pulled together a pretty good case and film. 

Will it win? 

For me, that wasn’t the point.

The point was to try. The point was to push myself to do things I never dared to think I could do. And to do that with a team of people even more hardworking, passionate and creative than I could have imagined. To me, that’s what entering Cannes as a first-timer is really about. Discovering things not just about yourself, but also about the incredible people you work alongside every day. 

So stay tuned. Soon I’ll know if we won. Or, like Ben counselled, lost. 

Until then, I’ll be packing, networking, freaking out a little bit. 

And wishing I’d kept one of those FAILURE T-shirts for myself. 

Would go really well with a Lion, don’t you think?

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VMLY&R COMMERCE US, Mon, 20 Jun 2016 13:47:07 GMT