Creators & Makers:

Agencies as Product Producers

“If I were a client…”

Agency peeps, let’s be honest. We’ve all uttered this phrase before. Sometimes in the spirit of collaboration, sometimes out of sheer frustration. It’s a phrase that is often succeeded by one or more versions of the following questions:

“Why can’t they see what I see?”

“Has their bureaucracy made them batty?”

“Can it really be that hard?”

Well, judging from the conversations at Cannes, more & more agencies are looking to answer these questions for themselves. They’re starting to become clients. Not full-time clients, but rather everyday ad people producing products within the walls of their agencies on behalf of their agencies.

Crispin, Porter & Bogusky has an entire division dedicated to such efforts.  In fact, they were happy to announce to a forum that they were hosting that one of their joint ventures, a rum called Papa’s Pilar, just sold for a nice chunk of change. Over a hundred million dollars!

Meanwhile, another agency called TMW Unlimited created a monitoring device to prevent Alzheimer’s patients from wandering off on their own. A rather noble cause.

So whether it’s for humanitarian or capitalistic reasons, agencies are stretching their creativity into the realms of production.

Perhaps these kinds of commitments will help agencies make more money.

Or make the world a better place.

Or at least give agencies a better idea of how to empathize with their clients.

Regardless, the line between creating & making is becoming more & more blurred as ad agencies seek to reinvent themselves.


“Here’s to the Future”

— Arnold Penney, 1923-2015

After my last seminar yesterday, I received a phone call here in Cannes from Michigan informing me that Arnold Penney had just died. At 92, he was literally my oldest friend.

Arnie served in World War II. And until his last breath, every day he wore 3 sets of dog tags. One was his. The other two belonged to Japanese soldiers that Arnie had killed in hand-to-hand combat.

But Arnie didn’t wear those tags as trophies. He wore them out of respect. And every morning he would say a prayer for their souls.

And Arnie was definitely not one to live in the past. In fact, at the close of all our visits, we would raise our glasses and Arnie would propose this toast: “Here’s to the future!”

Even in his ’90s, Arnie loved keeping up with technology and a world that had seen quite a bit of change over the course of his lifetime. He even invested in Apple and other tech stocks. “You can’t live in the past, Wegs,” Arnie told me, even though he was over 40 years older than me.

And it’s that spirit that sums up the spirit of the festival here at Cannes. Always be curious. Always be passionate. Always move forward. Arnie would have loved it — just like so many loved him and his relentless spirit to keep living, to keep making things better.

So to all of those here at the festival, or here in spirit, keep creating. Keep pushing. And keep drawing from the spirit of those like Arnold Penney who, if he were here, would undoubtedly be leading all of us to raise our glasses together and toast…

Here’s to the future!