“What? Why? I was just getting comfortable!” he responds as he turns to look at the people strolling along the Boulevard de la Croisette.
“Don’t you remember? We’re meeting Phil Thomas at 10!”
Now I have his attention. “Hang on, you never told me this,” he says as he turns to me. “As in the Phil Thomas, the CEO of the Lions Festival?”
I nod with a quiet smile.
“How did you manage that?”
“Simple,” I say, “I rang him up. I figured that it would be interesting to get his perspective on the role of the Lions and the importance of the festival in general, particularly as this year marks the festival’s 60-year anniversary.”
“And what did he say?” Maarten asks eagerly.
“We had a great chat! He told me a bit about his background. Did you know he’d started off as a journalist? After that he was the editor of Empire and then he went to being managing director of FHM, of which he launched editions around the world.”
“Wow,” says Maarten, now serious, “this guy is unstoppable – it explains why the Lions has reached new heights over the past few years.”
“Indeed, when he took over in 2006 there was only the Lions in Cannes. Today there are six festivals around the world and the Lions attracts more visitors than ever!”
“Right, so what are we waiting for,” says Maarten impatiently. “Let’s go and meet Phil!”
Phil is waiting for us at a small terrace on the beach next to Le Palais, leafing through the paper over a cup of espresso. After we introduce ourselves and explain our trip Around the World in 80 Brands, Maarten asks Phil how he has seen the festival change since 2006.
Phil considers the question for a moment. “Well there’s lots of things of course, the festival is constantly growing, every year we attract more delegates, and every year we see that among the delegates there are more CMOs and CEOs. That’s a fairly new development.
“CEOs?” asks Maarten, puzzled. “What are they doing here?”
“They come here to connect to world’s greatest creative talents – they want to work with them. There is a growing realization that creativity can advance a brand, and CEOs obviously want to maximize their brand’s value.”
“But why do CEOs attach importance to winning a Lion?”
“Winning a Lion makes a brand attractive to agencies,” Phil explains. “It shows that the brand attaches importance to creativity and it offers agencies a chance to win a Lion too. And from the brand’s point of view, working with these top-level agencies brings better results for the brand, the company and the market value. And of course, if a company wins a Lion, it will attract more high-level employable talent.”
“Makes sense,” says Maarten. “So you definitely see a trend towards creativity, or rather, companies recognizing the importance of creativity for their brand?”
“Yes,” says Phil. “But it’s not just companies, also governments: last year the Puerto Rican Banco Popular won a grand prix for a campaign to get the Puerto Ricans back to work. This year, the country’s government is sending delegates to explore what else they could achieve through this type of creative branding.”
“Wow, Puerto Rico!” I say. “That’s unexpected!”
“Well that’s actually what’s interesting,” says Phil. “We’re seeing a definite shift towards the Next World – that’s also reflected in the fact that we now have six festivals around the world, not just Cannes.”
“So you’re saying that the Cannes Lion is recognized around the world as a prestigious prize?”
“Definitely, a Cannes Lion really adds value to a brand – research has shown that.”
As we wrap up our conversation, I still have time to ask Phil a last question. “In your view, what’s the key brand value of the Cannes Lions Festival?”
“That’s a good question,” he says with a smile. “I would say creativity. Because that’s what makes the difference. In the end most brands and products are alike, but it’s their creativity that makes them stand out. And that’s my mission: to help companies and individuals to be more creative.”
“So you’re not retiring yet then?” says Maarten with a cheeky smile.
Phil laughs. “No way, after seven years I am still passionate about my job. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world!”
© 2013 CoolBrands – Around the World in 80 Brands
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Tags: CoolBrands Influencers, Influencers around the world, Around the World in 80 Brands, CoolBrands, Meeting Phil Thomas, Meeting Philip Thomas, Phil Thomas, Philip Thomas, CEO Cannes Lions, CEO of the Lions Festival, Cannes Lions Festival, CEO of Cannes Lions, Cannes Lions International Festival, Cannes Lions Creativity