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Day 4: Cannes Night School

created on Thursday 22 Jun 2017

Cannes Night School is creativity in its rawest form. At happy hour. It was three nights of intimate talks, experimental workshops and ideas rolling as quickly as the hands that reach for the Corona bottles. 

Each themed evening is designed to excite, inspire and leave attendees with just as many questions as answers. 

The Night School was hosted by Jon Burkhart, founder of marketing consultancy TBC Global. He's an award-winning keynote speaker, content strategist and copywriter. On the first night, he introduced the concept of Night School as “the fidget spinner” of Cannes Lions.

night school

“It’s a new thing we’re doing,” he said, kicking off the night. “The idea popped up a few months ago, like the spinners, and the momentum's been growing. Yes, we're all about fun, and yes, sometimes we may seem like the annoying kid sister of Cannes Lions. You are our guinea pigs. With only weeks to plan it, we thought we’d trick attendees into coming as no one knew why they were here apart from for the free beer...”

Jesting aside, Jon was there to keep the energy up, sharing his ‘ready, fire, aim’ approach in his BALLSY guide to getting and keeping attention, and treat the attendees to some stress-busting, ball-throwing fun in a bid to “emotionally connect with him”. 

The first 15 minutes or so of the Night School also included Jon's satirical  review of what had happened over the week so far on Twitter and Instagram looking for the best of social media reactions to everything Cannes Lions. Jon encouraged folks to "vote with their balls" indicating what they liked and didn't like in an active way rather than simply raising their hands which is something you do at proper school, but not here in Cannes. Yes, most balls were thrown at him which provided a fun opportunity for him to attempt to dodge the inevitable ball barrage. 

With some great reactions from the room, he moved on to a LEGO Serious Play (LSP) exercise, a methodology designed to enhance innovation and business performance. This segment was based on research which shows that this kind of hands-on, minds-on learning produces a deeper, more meaningful understanding of the world and its possibilities.  The activity involved giving the audience three minutes to create a future version of themselves out of LEGO. As Jon puts it: “This will help you see what your future life is going to look like through LEGO.”

night school

“LEGO can help focus and build your story visually on your goals and figure out your journey,” he explained, and it seemed to work. Two members of the audience took to the stage to talk through their thought processes behind their LEGO creations, with one girl from Tampa, Florida describing how the process of physically building up the LEGO blocks of her character helped her to better visualise her future, giving her a clearer vision for her creative goals. 

For the second half of the two-hour Night School, Jon passed the stage to Sam Saunders, Chief Creative Officer of We Are Social New York. Sam had another – somewhat more challenging - exercise in store for attendees.

“It’s an exercise that isn't just for creatives; it’s useful for people that feel they've hit a bit of a dead end.”

"The activity is useful when you’ve been given a brief for instance," he explained, "and you try so hard to think of an idea -- so hard that you eventually give yourself tunnel vision."

"...the number one enemy in our business is if you are fearful of expressing an idea."
Sam Sanders, Creative Director, We Are Social
“When looking at a brief in the past, I’ve used random weird shit to ‘hit the refresh button’ on your brain, so you're back to the ‘anything is possible’ point,” he said.  “I want to prove to you all you can be creative on the spot and this means you'll come up with something good in seconds with this exercise – I can't say enough about how useful this is.”

With that, he put a brief to the audience, asking them to imagine he’s their client doing a social video ad representing the beer brand Corona. He asks them to create a piece of content on the spot that centres around two random images that he has selected from a variety of laminated cards that are plastered around the room. 

“Because the number one enemy in our business is fear of expressing an idea,” he said. “If so, you and your agency are dead – this is about coming up with stuff and being unafraid. Then you'll be king or queen in this business.”

The first images chosen for this challenge were a giant dildo, some testicles and a drone. As you can imagine, the audience’s answers were quite frankly, something else. We’ll leave the rest to your imagination…