Unexpected idols: Looking beyond your network for inspiration

It was just another morning at the Cannes Lions Festival. A dozen media executives met on a yacht for breakfast to chat about their respective business activities, from mergers to acquisitions to talent, networking at its Côte d’Azur finest.

The difference at this meeting was that half the attendees were up-and-coming future leaders from Maxus, our ‘Young Guns’, and the others were American Idol presenter and KUWTK executive producer Ryan Seacrest, founder of MTV and entertainment media expert John Sykes, and discoverer of Taylor Swift and Big Machine records aficionado Scott Borchetta. Not intimidating at all.

As we all came from different backgrounds, working different roles across a global network of markets, it could be assumed that the meeting would be more relevant for some than others, what could a TV host have to teach a bunch of media planners? It turns out, quite a lot.

What emerged from the breakfast was a lesson in how to be interest and interesting, from three very unlikely mentors. It turns out that some good advice is just universal, and here’s a few points we picked up:

  • You can learn from anyone, no matter what your level: Each of the ‘established’ hosts took turns to introduce themselves but also to find out what we did at Maxus, what we had learned at the festival and to listen to our thoughts about various topics (including espionage and ancient languages). Sometimes the most valuable conversations can be with people from outside your usual circle, and you’ll never learn anything if everyone is saying the same things. Make an effort to engage with those you wouldn’t usually work with, and you could just be inspired.
  • Say yes, then figure out how to do it later: Ryan Seacrest is a man that wears many hats, and what we learned is that he’s not always confident he can pull them off, but if he’s excited about something, he’ll try it anyway. Each of them had been offered opportunities throughout their career that they didn’t necessary have the experience for, but they dived into and figured out how to do it along the way. You never know what you are capable of until you try.
  • Find people who you love working with: Throughout our meeting and in their follow up panel at the MEC Cabana, Ryan, John and Scott were absorbed the kind of comfortable conversation that only comes from genuinely liking the person you are working with. They clearly respect eachother’s ideas, work ethic and enjoy each other on a personal level, which makes for a much more interesting conversation and work environment.
  • The next big thing is already on the peripheries of culture – you’ve just got to learn how to spot it: This one came from Scott Borchatta, who discovered Taylor Swift. It really stuck with me as an idea because he believes that if you learn how to tune in to what is already building on the outskirts of the mainstream you’ll be able to anticipate what is coming next before anyone else. It’s always great to be ahead of the competition but no one is going to tell you what to look out for, you just have to trust your instincts.

Overall, what we expected to be a cool meet-and-greet with some kings of modern entertainment turned out to be one of the most significant sessions of the whole festival, and one that I won’t forget.


Special thanks to iHeartMedia for hosting and for the magnificent breakfast!