Awards and Events in association withCreative Circle

Ryan Reynolds at Cannes Lions: “Ads Should Be Fun”

The film star and chief creative officer of MNTN/Maximum Effort shared insights on speed, humour and honesty in the role of advertising, writes LBB’s Alex Reeves

This morning at the Palais des Festivals, I saw people literally running to join a queue to get into an advertising industry conference. An hour before the event began. Such is the star power of Ryan Reynolds.

The Hollywood actor turned adman took to the stage with Dentsu International’s Global CEO Wendy Clark to talk “next generation storytelling”, bringing his recent experience as chief creative officer of MNTN/Maximum Effort to bear, as well as his A-list celebrity status and natural wit.

“Ryan got a little held up in logistics,” apologised Wendy in her introduction, a little joke that Ryan described as “pure evil” when he walked on stage to join her.

Speaking to a packed theatre, Ryan shared the insights he’s gained in creativity since the film production company and digital marketing agency was born in 2018. He highlighted the importance of speed, noting that the key to what MNTN/Maximum Effort does is add a production element to the responsive fun people have all over the world on social platforms.

“Ads should be fun,” he insisted, noting the gloom of the 2020s in “these unprecedented times” style campaigns.

“Humour and emotion are the things that travel the most virally,” he said. One source of humour being the tactic he loves of stripping the artifice away, admitting that an ad is an ad and playing with that assumption. “We are very clear that this is marketing,” he added.

Ryan attributed much of his learning to the process of getting Deadpool made, which took way longer to get made and released than he’d have wanted, and for way less money than you’d think.

He took his “sweet Deadpool money” to set up Aviator gin. And then they had to market it. So he got into advertising. And years on, he’s a serious player on the ad landscape and the clients continue to roll in.

The speed, humour and honesty of social platforms is a huge inspiration for Ryan. “I will look down at TikTok and I will look up at it, and it’s suddenly the next Olympics,” he joked. But he also appreciates the beautiful craft of content like Pixar’s films.

Speaking of the human behind the creative act, Ryan addressed the anxiety that so many of us have to different degrees. “I sometimes let mine completely swallow my life whole,” he said, adding that he has some kind of performative persona – “that guy”, who writes for MNTN/Maximum Effort, goes on talk shows and turns up on set. He admitted that he wishes he could be that guy all the time. 

On the subject of fear throttling creativity, he spoke about the creative process of slowly working up a bad idea into a great one, revealing that half the ads he’s written with his collaborators at the agency are written over a series of text messages.

Then there’s the different process of repeatedly emailing “hail Satan” to a client until they cave and decide to make the devil their brand mascot, he joked.

Talking about being discerning over what he’s pitched, Ryan did note that he’s recently softened on that front, because sometimes, ideas he’s rejected have gone on to be massive hits: “Turns out Avengers: Endgame was a good idea!?” Presumably, that was also a joke.

He ended by imploring the industry to engage with the initiative he’s founded to boost inclusivity in the industry, The Group Effort. “It’s gonna make it better for everyone,” he said.