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Paul Frampton on Why Cannes Categories Don’t Reflect Agency World Disruption


Rigid categories, stuffy silos, stale recruitment schemes – the Havas Media Group UK CEO is out to break down walls

Paul Frampton on Why Cannes Categories Don’t Reflect Agency World Disruption
If you follow Paul Frampton on social media, you’ll know he’s not a man short of opinions. And last week at Cannes was no different. The UK CEO kicked off the festival with a column that suggested that the proliferation of Cannes categories is running counter to the drive towards greater fluidity and integration across the whole advertising industry.

“If you’ve got an award ceremony which, by default, has to have a lot of different awards categories to encourage lots of people to enter, then the more you have the better it is, right? But if it’s meant to be celebrating the best that happens in this industry then there should be more of a focus on one Grand Prix,” he tells LBB at the airy Havas Café space. “Every year they add more categories and when you have an Innovation category and a Creative Data category and a PR category and a Direct category and a Media category… and everything gets a little bit lost. You have these conversations in a U-bend or a back alley that never really connect together.”

But while Paul concedes that the award ceremony model is predicated on increasing the number of entries by growing categories, he did suggest some cheeky alternatives that might move the award show from fragmentation to a more holistic view of the industry.

“They’re not going to quickly change that because their business model is based on having as many entries as possible. Unless you charge a higher entry fee for fewer entries? Or maybe you do it by category? What’s the best work in finance? The best work in automotive? The best work in retail? I’m not saying it’s the best thing but it’s a different way of looking at it,” he suggests, noting that pharmaceuticals already have their own Cannes Lions awards.

“Why not follow that through because then at least you’re celebrating different categories coming together to do good work. Particularly at a point in the industry when people are saying we need to work closer together and then there’s the mobile world where medium and message are almost impossible to disentangle…”

At a time when media agencies are bulking up their content capabilities, reacquainting themselves with the production world and using real-time data signals and automation to personalise content and adapt it on the fly, the old silos and hierarchies are becoming increasingly irrelevant – both at award shows like Cannes and in the everyday running of the business. Whether it’s a case of embracing ‘on-the-fly production’ or connecting planners with tech engineers so that they can truly understand the possibilities out there, Paul’s approach is very much about bringing the right people together.

As the new Havas Village in London prepares to open its doors to staff in the first quarter of 2017, it’s clear that the puzzle of how to break down silos and barriers within the group have been very much front-of-mind. In the new 11-storey building, each floor will see a creative agency and media agency share space.

“We’re zig-zagging it throughout the building so that even from day one something feels different. We’ve done a lot of work on culture to try and work out how to break down those barriers,” says Paul.

And that wholesale shake up is important because the industry is on the verge of massive disruption – whether in the shape of tech giants like Google flexing their muscles or business consultancies like Accenture buying up creative and media talent. Paul suspects there’s a bit of naivety among agencies clinging to old ways of working rather than facing up to the challenges that lie just around the corner.

Looking to the future too, talent (and the ability to find and actively engage new and different pools of talent) is going to be key to surviving and thriving amidst the disruption. It’s a subject that Paul takes seriously, saying that agencies need to look beyond the same old graduate schemes and tick box approach if they are to lure the entrepreneurial souls with the digital skills to flourish in the decade ahead.

“My chief talent office sits in the office next door to me and, other than my CFO I think I talk to him most. I’m such a big fan of social as a way to transmit a cultural story because it defines the talent that comes to your business,” he says. “We have incoming traffic all the time of people who go, ‘I like what you talk about, do you have any jobs’. Probably only a 5th of them go anywhere, but that’s a 5th that you wouldn’t have had access otherwise. I see a lot of CEOs of agencies that are so far away from defining their culture and talent because they’re too focused on new business and on panels that they don’t have time to dig into whether their talent director is trying to change the scheme.” 

To that end Havas Media in London have involved in an apprenticeship scheme with the Mayor’s office, an experience that Paul describes as ‘almost reverse mentoring’. By engaging in young talented people with skills that could cross tech or STEM or, yes, advertising they’re opening their doors to a whole new pool. Similarly, across in the Havas Chicago office, an offshoot called Annex, run by Jason Peterson, has a creative team that has been recruited exclusively through social media channels like Instagram and Snapchat.

And to Paul’s mind, this fluid and ambitious generation of millennial talent is a world away from the boxed-in rigidity of award show categories.

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