June 18th, 2013

The first ever Cannes Lions took place in 1954 in Venice (making it Venice Lions maybe?) Fast forward to 2013 and I've arrived here at Cannes Lions, with talks from Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter and TED topping the bill, I'm sure those founding Cannes Lions delegates would barely recognise what the festival has grown into for it's 60th year.

I'll be blogging a daily highlight from the festival, and today's was certainly having the privilege to be in an audience with Dame Vivienne Westwood. The Sapient Nitro session was curiously entitled "A new breed of storyteller: Stories are more than a narrative. And fashion is more than a design" a concept which became clearer in Gaston Legorburu, Worldwide Chief Creative Officer of Sapient Nitro's, introduction.

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Gaston began by exclaiming that in today's modern era; advertising is like water, it's everywhere and it's inescapable. Therefore for brands and advertisers, the key to be heard amongst the noise is in their story. As seen on previous blog round-ups, storytelling has been a theme Mill attendees have seen time and time again at festivals, conferences and events worldwide this year, but Gaston did offer a fresh slant. His perspective is that we need less "story yelling", and more "story telling".  Gaston's work at Sapient Nitro has taught him that people want to participate, they want a shared experience and therefore it's important that brands create provocative relationships with their customers using a coherent story about who they are, where they came from and what they intend to do. Nowadays the choice is there; create an ad… or create a story.

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Dame Vivienne Westwood took her seat to rapturous applause, and proceeded to talk candidly about her own story. Her story is known to all of us, from inventing the anarchy sign and starting the anti-establishment movement, through to her current championing cultural and climate change. Whatever cause she is fighting for, she always has a consistent theme and compass to her actions which is justice. Vivienne was an enchanting, inspirational and provocative speaker, and certainly not afraid to speak honestly about her beliefs and values. She embraced anarchy and punk because in her words she "hated the older generation". However now she says she has changed her view 180 degrees raising a laugh when she explained it wasn't, "just because I've got old myself"! Vivienne talked about how with hindsight she now realises you need ideas, and that the previous generation she felt at the time she so despised, actually were the ones who provided her with the ideals and cultures to be subversive against.

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Gaston put it to Vivienne that you have to be real and genuine to connect with people and to encourage others to change they behavior and act. Vivienne's ideals and values have always been, and still are, transparent and passionate. She talked through the fact that when starting out in fashion she felt the world was being mismanaged. To deal with this she transferred all her frustration at the suffering in the world into her fashion, using fashion to be an activist. Another interesting topic was Gaston asking how Vivienne could justify having her own business whilst staying true to her anti-establishment ideals. Vivienne again raised a room of smiles with her response that she initially started her own business just to "help my boyfriend at the time out." But she went on to explain that as a young woman she had come from a cultural backwater and felt stupid and like a nobody. She wanted to see if someone purely armed with ideas could make it in the corporate world; which I think everyone would agree she did… and then some. Vivienne ended by encouraging her Grand Auditorium audience to take inspiration from the past. As someone who spent her youth fighting the past and older generations, it was interesting to hear her now champion the opinion that we shouldn't just consume the latest novels or current media offerings. Instead it's crucial to refer to prior generations and take lessons and inspiration from them. Challenging the audience Vivienne asked, "who are YOU? You have to identify your place in the whole of the human race." The endlessly polite Vivienne left to a standing ovation and with a clear message, that we should "always be fighting for something".

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To follow other highlights of the Cannes Lions festival line-up, follow The Mill twitter here where I am live-tweeting the seminars and sessions. You can also find a photo blog on our Instagram here.

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