Learnings from Cannes: Anna Wintour

You know you are big time when Christopher Bailey, Chief Creative and CEO of Burberry isn’t the main event, he’s just there to introduce you. Wow…

I was excited and curious to see Anna Wintour in person. A woman who has left such a mark on the industry. A woman who is famous for being talented, ruthless and an icon in the industry.  A creative genius but also extremely uncompromising.  I wasn’t missing that talk for the world. And she didn’t disappoint. I walked away feeling inspired and determined.

Anna Wintour, OBE, is probably most famous for her almost 30-year stint as Editor-in-Chief at Vogue. These days her role is Artistic Director for Condé Nast.

Anna had five pieces of advice for us. Really her advice is one part career advice, one part life advice. But equally, we can apply these learnings to the work we do in our world of media marketing. Here they are:

  1. Aim Higher

Not a surprise coming from someone who is famous for being a perfectionist: someone who never, ever, ever does anything half-hearted.

Take the time to do better work.

You can’t cut your way to creativity.

Her examples:

Beyoncé’s Visual Album

Boyhood Movie which took 12 years to make

Anna thought it funny that many seem to consider these unexpected victories. They took the time and the effort to aim higher.

  1. Dare to be different 

 It’s easy to follow or to copy others. It’s harder to take a new direction.

Be yourself.

Being true to yourself and your vision and values takes confidence.

Be brave.

Be unafraid to take risks or you will never go anywhere new.

  1. Use all your Gold

Wintour talked about an instance that they had thought would be a disaster, which in fact, turned out to be an immense success: they were working on a huge story when some images from the shoot were leaked. It turned out to not only be a huge hit online but drove interest in people buying the magazine as well. So in fact, ‘use all your gold’ meant there was value to be gained from more than just the end story.

To translate “Use all your Gold” back to our agency media marketing world, I often see clients who have not realised the value of some of the ‘gold’ available to them: I remember the airline industry discovering with surprise that consumers were fascinated to see a video of the pilot checking the plane. Companies now often use social media to release ‘teaser’ videos to build excitement like a new product being packed up into boxes, ready to send to suppliers, knowing that builds suspense for super fans. Brands are becoming better storytellers by sharing the product’s story from conception to creation such as sharing videos of the designer’s early sketches or interviews with the designer. This is what I believe ‘Use all your gold’ means for our industry: squeeze every bit of value out of the ‘gold’ that you have.

  1. Make interesting friends 

Make interesting friends. It will serve you well, says Wintour. And what a collection of interesting friends she has. Collaborating with interesting people, says Wintour, forces you to think in new ways.

Many types of brands have seen the benefit of collaboration. From Jay-Z to H&M and Havianas, brands have shown that collaborating with new people or brands not only drives fame and news headlines, but brings in new audiences by pushing them into new creative spaces.

  1. Stop trying to move upward in your career, try to move forward

If your company’s #1 ambition is to make money, you’ve missed the point. You need to have a higher purpose or reason for being.  Making money is what happens when you get that right.

In the same way for individuals, moving up the career ladder to the next job title should never be the end goal.  It is what happens when you are focusing on doing ground breaking work that moves your clients, the category and industry forward.

Don’t play the game. Redefine it.

“When we are young we dream of moving upwards, but as I’ve got older my joy has come from moving forward,” – Anna Wintour


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