PERSPECTIVE: Cannes circus could learn from Wieden's understated advice

Expense claim for creative director, week commencing 18 June:

1 return BA business class to Nice;

27 bottles of rose wine;

15 packs of cigarettes;

80 beers @ Martinez price;

18 bottles of Champagne @ Martinez price;

42 gin and tonics @ Martinez price;

4 lunches at the Majestic Beach;

3 return taxis to St Paul de Vence;

4 nights at the Carlton;

1 helicopter ride.

All in all a grand total of pounds 9,602. Ridiculous, isn't it?

Everyone's beaten to a pulp by redundancies and budget cuts and you

still need almost ten grand to match everyone else's four days on the

Cote d'Azur. As I write this it's too early to know the film winners,

but if John West's "bear" commercial by Leo Burnett doesn't bag a Lion

or even the Grand Prix, there's no justice in the world.

From one ridiculous party to a man who, in his own words, is no party

animal. Dan Wieden, interviewed in this week's issue, is a walking

embodiment of two of the secrets of successful agencies. First, all of

them are, or have been, led by people who make the bearer of bad tidings

feel intimidated - including the journalist who wants to ask the tricky

question, and especially the client who wants to fire them.

The calm certainty with which these people discuss their principles -

and, yes, they are all riddled with them - renders it almost impossible

to contradict them without losing one's composure. It is an effect that

I'm sure is unintentional, but it is nevertheless incredibly potent.

The other thing that unites these people is that they are not afraid of

failure. In Wieden's case, he realises that his desire to avoid being a

coloured pin on somebody's corporate world map makes him likely to

remain niche. But where other agencies leave risk-taking to rinky-dink

advertisers with tiny budgets (and conveniently forget the risk and

waste involved in running advertising that is either not noticed or

actively disliked), he takes risks on big clients and lives with the

consequences. He seems actively to encourage failure with his talk of

tension sparking creativity.

Wieden's mission to help big companies to listen to a new kind of

consumer makes more sense then ever. Everyone in this business ought to

be acquainted with the Cluetrain Manifesto. It consists of 95 theses

embodying the voice of a new kind of consumer, one who is media savvy

and angry as hell. For them, markets consist of human beings, not

demographic sectors. If you want them to talk to you, tell them

something, make it interesting.

In the scheme of things, with everyone bracing themselves for worse

economic times and even those agencies who do not usually make

redundancies being forced to cut staff, Cannes seems to take on a new

insignificance and the words of Wieden and the Cluetrain Manifesto

assume greater importance than ever.