Scene and be seen: Une soiree Majestik Hotel

So, I was heading to the Palais des Festivals for the awards ceremony honoring radio, media and outdoor Lions, when I noticed a cocktail party taking place on the swank, poolside terrace beside my hotel. Not being a drinker, I could care less about the open bar; it’s the people that make these things work.

And man, did I see people. Kraft Foods was hosting a gathering to honor one of their guests, who was featured at one of the better-attended events at the Palais, none other than the famed auteur, Spike Jonze.

For those unawares, Jonze directed Being John Malkovich, Adaptation and more recently, Where the Wild Things Are. Two of these films are in my top twenty of all time and all three are universally regarded as brilliant. In addition to revolutionizing music videos, he’s also made numerous groundbreaking films for our industry, including one of the best commercials ever created, Ikea Lamp, which garnered every award possible the year it came out, not the least of which a Grand Prix at Cannes. This year he has a 30-minute film in the show about robot love. The piece can be viewed here: Spike Jonze Film \"I\'mheremovie\"

Confession: Hours ago I played courier in a futile attempt to deliver my novel, The Happy Soul Industry and screenplay to his hotel. Yeah, I know, a total mook move. But a guy can dream…

Along with Mr. Jonze, attending the party were Bob Jeffries, Howard Draft, Dana Anderson, Ron Bess, Jonathan Harries, David Jones, Mark Figliulo, Abbey Klaassen, Diane Jackson, Lisa Wells, Tony Weisman, Edie Weiss and leadership personnel from USA Today, Hyper Island, MJZ films and countless other Ad Land movers and shakers. To appropriate a phrase from high school: it was like the C-Suite “on acid.”

Needless to say, I missed the awards ceremony. But that’s the thing with Cannes. Everywhere you turn is an existing/potential boss, partner, competitor, or client and, most importantly, mentor. To meet some of these people, however briefly, is a privilege. And besides, even if Spike Jonze has little interest in my book, I can now say I had a meeting with him!

To view a wide selection of Jonze’s work: Spike\'s ouevre.

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Paul Tilley vacated his post in unimaginably tragic fashion. But the fact remains DDB has no Chief Creative Officer. And now our creative community in Chicago finds itself beset by two more high profile defections: Mark Figliulo is leaving Y&R for a glitzy post at TBWA/CD in New York and Marty Orzio has resigned from Energy BBDO for an unknown job presumably in New York. Rounding out our foursome would be the long-time vacant spot at JWT.

Is this pattern indicative of something foul or is it merely coincidence?
Let’s review. One man committed suicide. The ECD from JWT was fired. Figliulo is taking an once-in-a-lifetime gig. And Marty Orzio is going home. Taken in the aggregate these circumstances hardly seem related or symptomatic of sea change.

Still, it does beg certain questions. Namely, is something wrong with our city’s advertising community? Last year Chicago’s creative awards show became almost as infamous as the great Clios fiasco in the late nineties. Look it up. Both shows were undone. The Clios are coming back. I am on a committee with other local creative directors to try and resurrect ours. Marty, Mark and Paul were on that committee. Clearly, we have our work cut out for us.

I do think we are our own worst enemies. Creatives are a cynical lot. Shadenfreud is real in our ranks, and not just in Chicago but everywhere. A byproduct of competition and creative insecurity, it always will be.

Yet, I don’t think Chicago is beset by worse circumstances than any other city. Orzio’s beloved New York has not been a Mecca of creativity for decades. And Figliulo is taking the reigns at a shop in more disarray than the one he’s leaving.

Other than a handful of shops around the country, who’s really tearing it up? Crispin. WK. BBDO. Not many.

In short, things are tough all over. But I like our chances –both my shop and Chicago’s. At Euro RSCG, the bleeding from previous years has stopped. And while I can’t rightfully speak for any other agency in town, A number of them are very capable of opening up their creative engines.

Some prominent ECDs are leaving, yes. But look at it this way. Now we have choice jobs in play. Who out there will fill them?

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