There’s been a lot of talk about how Cannes has changed and how tech companies have taken over the Croisette: as if they are trespassing on someone else’s territory. But what I noticed this year wasn’t just that digital power brands dominated the bars and cabanas, but that my friends are now working for them too.
Ex creative and media agency types, ex blue chip marketers, many of them have made the move – to Facebook, Google, Airbnb, ad tech companies – and most since Cannes 2016. One, a senior marketer at one of the bluest of chips had his epiphany at Cannes itself last year. After a big night on the town he was tottering back to his basic Airbnb when he turned to bid au revoir to his companions, some ad tech folk, and realised they were swanning off elegantly in the direction of a large yacht. The penny quite literally dropped. The guard had changed.
Red Bee is a creative agency with entertainment at our heart, and being part of that world we recognise how important the fight for talent is in securing the fortunes of our creative output. Yes, the face of ‘our’ festival has changed and talent is switching allegiances, for the time being at least. But none of it was ever ours in the first place, in the way that the Pyramid Stage doesn’t belong to Radiohead: they’ve had to earn their place time and time again. What is ours, is the ability to learn what we can from these hugely successful companies and apply the best bits to how we run our own businesses.
So what can we nick?
Being in permanent beta. In a good way
Nothing is fixed, anything can change. And when change is demanded these global behemoths can implement it mind blowingly quickly. Of course the founders and leadership are the types to make things happen, but this ability at company level has a lot to do with culture. I like this quote from a Facebook programmer: ‘nothing is somebody else’s problem’. Airbnb must agree judging from their quick response to Trump signing the travel ban earlier in the year: the very next day CEO Brian Chesky offered free housing to refugees and anyone not allowed in the US as a result of this action.
Offering more than a job; a lifestyle
Whether it’s glossy offices with a staff canteen masquerading as a Michelin restaurant, an actual running track in the offices or a location somewhere sexy in America, many of these companies can claim the high ground on workspace. They are also generally progressive when it comes to benefits and flexible working – desirable qualities for desirable would be staffers.
Making every day, every thing count
Not just the customer facing product, or the slick mega parties at Cannes. The small things too. Do you remember your first day at almost any agency you’ve ever worked for (present company excluded), turning up at 10.30am full of excitement and optimism only to discover your computer was yet to be commissioned and your password didn’t work? Well at Facebook you get to pre-select your tech to your personal requirements via some Minority Report interface and then as soon as your freshly pressed pair of new job trousers touch down on your ergonomically adjustable office chair, the shiny tech trolley swooshes into sight with all your gear charged and ready for action. I know this because a new staffer was merrily gloating about it at 3am at some street party. This stuff matters.
Making the boss a celebrity
There is a fascinating cult of personality at play in the tech sector. The big tech brands have more than their fair share of charismatic, invested leaders; often the actual founders who many admire as iconoclasts and inspired business people. Despite their wealth and success though they don’t put themselves on a pedestal, they are very much on the office floor with their colleagues and you get a real sense that they bring their whole selves to work. We all know what Mark Zuckerberg wears to the office every day. Larry Page and Sergey Brin are apparently hilarious. It is not enough to be visionary and efficient: these leaders are inspiring and surprising people and you want to be near them. Ex Tesla/ Space X employees have been quoted as saying of Elon Musk “we were in the presence of brilliance” and “it scared me”.
So let’s not be a Blockbuster, a Kodak or a London cab driver; watching the future march towards us in plain sight and yet be too busy moaning about how it is all so unfair to adapt to the change we see.
Let’s do everything well, let’s be ambitious and agile and attract the very best people. Let’s aim for the moon, and back.
Kath Hipwell, Head of Content Strategy, Red Bee