“Cannes is what you make of it”, a senior creative leader once advised me in 2014, during my first visit to Cannes. With this forewarning, I set sail with my guard rails, ready to take on the festival. Not having the slightest clue of what was coming my way.
As I set foot onto the croisette, I was instantly spellbound. The Palais drew me into its flamboyance, the winning work left me wonderstruck, the famous faces nearly gave me a congestive heart failure, and the sheer amount of rosé made for the most glamorous yet highly mortifying pictures.
Three years later,
Cannes was all that.
Yet so much more.
I was fortunate to be chosen for the Cannes Lions 'See It Be It' initiative that selects 15 women from across the world who show potential to be future creative leaders and takes them through an acceleration programme at Cannes.
Again, not knowing what to expect, I dived into it, with my list of Cannes must- dos and must-not-dos. The programme was very well structured, and meticulously detailed, with an aim to transform the lives of these 15 women. And so, it did.
Being mentored by global chief creative officers, listening to the journeys and struggles of women creative leaders from across the world, attending prestigious underground events like the Google Island lunch, getting VIP access to most parties and landing a conversation with Rihanna’s producer (for those who place that on top) are just some of the highlights of this fantastic programme.
But my biggest takeaway was from those 14 remarkable women, and our inspirational ambassador - Madonna Badger. These wonderful women bestowed the best moment at Cannes when they shared their extremely personal struggles without fearing about how vulnerable they’d look. Madonna Badger further reiterated this, by sharing her soul-stirring journey, and leading the programme with utter honesty, empathy, sense of purpose and a loving demeanour.
Together, they all proved that a display of strength may give us a momentary surge in confidence and help conquer that all elusive pitch meeting, but it’s the strength of our character, vulnerabilities and real authentic selves that will take us closer to our life goals, and make us hum ‘Who run the world?’
As if the programme wasn’t enough to awaken my insides, I had the opportunity to spend some quality time with the legendary Piyush Pandey. Who gave me my most treasured moment, from Cannes, for life. By sharing joy and tears on winning my first Lion. And introducing me to the world as someone who’d almost won a Nobel prize by getting through the 'See It Be It' programme. Ladies and gentlemen, that’s Piyush. With a heart of gold and a soul so very pure.
While being in awe of him, I realised that exceptional work shouldn’t be the only currency in our industry to take one ahead. It’s modesty, humility and simplicity. And, it’s perfectly ok to wear your emotions on your sleeve and be a bawler even when you become the executive chairman. Sorry Piyush Sir.
Cannes Lions ended with the Lion of St. Mark that was awarded to the lord commander-in-chief, David Droga. That’s perhaps the image that comes to one’s mind when you think of him. A warlord, a warrior, a wildcat. However, during his speech, he shed his chief hat, and with a blow of compassion, thanked each and everyone who’d been a part of his journey including his beautiful family, while shedding a tear or two.
He reminded me that no matter where and how fast victory takes you in this industry, it’s the folks on the way who are lifelong keepers.
So, in 2017, beyond the glitz and glamour of Cannes, I found a common thread that one wouldn’t ordinarily expect at the Lions – empathy. Infinitely essential in an industry that puts people at its core, yet often loses its sheen amidst the awards, instant client deliverables, cutting-edge technology and data trends.
Cannes Lions 2017 was a journey of feelings. A journey that would remind me again and again, to hold my head high but keep my heart in just the right place.