Meeting Bob Jeffrey at the festival de Cannes

Insights from Leaders
4 min readOct 10, 2021

-Cannes Lions Festival 2012

We’re sitting on a terrace across the street from Le Palais des Festival in Cannes. “This is the best place to meet people,” I think to myself. “The perfect pastime. Sit, drink coffee, meet interesting people.” I can see Anouk coming across the road, apparently in quite in a hurry. “The Worldmakers are in Cannes!” she says.

“Worldmakers?” I say. “Worldmakers? Do you mean The Elders? Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Kofi Annan…?”

“No, the Worldmakers. The interviews we watch on YouTube on the JWT channel,” Anouk answers. “The ones where Bob Jeffrey talks to thought leaders.”

“Oh, you mean the Worldmakers!” I say.

Bob Jeffrey is JWT’s global CEO and we watch his interviews on a regular basis. He is based in New York, but apparently he’s in Cannes during the Lions.

“Let’s try and meet Bob,” Anouk says.
“Great idea,” I reply. “Let’s sit here, drink some coffee and wait ’til he passes by!” “Only joking,” I add.

I leave some money on the table for the coffee, get up and follow Anouk across the street. Instead of heading to the conference building, she turns left towards the beach.
“Where are we going?” I ask.

Without slowing down Anouk answers: “We have to make a plan. I have to think.” She goes down the stairs to the beach, kicks off her shoes and walks down to the sea. “This is the perfect environment to think about how to get hold of Bob Jeffrey,” she says.

“We don’t have to get hold of him, we just wanna talk to him,” I think to myself without actually saying it so as not to disturb Anouk while she’s brewing up her ‘plan’.

There are not actually that many people on the beach. On the boulevard there are quite a few with badges on a key cord though who are clearly attending the Lions festival. Out to sea, about 300 metres from the beach, a big yacht is preparing to enter the marina. “Maybe he is on that yacht, drinking champagne,” I joke. But Anouk’s not reacting — she’s obviously still trying to come up with a way to ‘get hold’ of Bob, while overlooking the Mediterranean.

“I’ve got a plan,” she says all of a sudden. “In 45 minutes there is this conference with writer and philosopher, Alain de Botton. I can imagine it’s the kind of conference Bob would attend. The conference is taking place in Theatre Debussy. We have to spot him as he enters Le Palais, which will give us four minutes to walk with him to the conference room. In those four minutes we tell him we’d love to interview him and publish his story in our book Around the World in 80 Brands.”

“Great idea!” I say, “let’s synchronise our watches and take up our positions at the entrance!”

Thirty minutes later we’re on our way to Theatre Debussy, talking to Bob Jeffrey. “Bob, thanks for talking to us,” I say. “How did the idea for Worldmakers come about?”

“Well, there are two main ideas,” Bob says. “It’s related to who we are at JWT. We are ‘Worldmade’. We seek inspiration from around the world and we find the spark of creativity in international interaction. We can learn a lot from the people I interview. People that make things happen.”

We walk through the central hall of the Palais des Festivals, up a flight of stairs, and turn left towards the theatre.

“And the second?” I ask.
“The second idea is…” Bob thinks out loud, “…that in addition to gathering inspiration, JWT also wants to inspire the world by interviewing the world’s most respected thinkers. ‘Worldmakers’ is an interesting source of valuable knowledge.”

“Does it have anything to do with talking the talk and walking the walk?” Anouk asks. “When JWT is pitching multi-platform business, this is a nice little hook that could impress potential clients.”

“Of course,” Bob replies. “It shows the agency is doing the same sort of thing — online video — that we want our clients to do as well. It shows our expertise in the matter.”

We enter the theatre, which is slowly filling up with creatives from all around the world. We stand in the passageway talking. On stage two men are testing the cameras and lighting. Another is turning some buttons; probably testing the sound. “Testing 1, 2, 3,” suddenly radiates from the speakers.

“Alain de Botton is coming on stage any minute now,” I think to myself. “Now is the time to ask Bob if we can interview him later today.”

Behind us, the announcer takes to the stage, some people start clapping, and we still haven’t set a meeting with Bob. He takes a step towards his empty seat… then turns back to us.

“Guys, how about we interview you two after you’ve finished your trip Around the World in 80 Brands. Let’s discuss it over lunch after Alain de Botton’s speech.”

Bob walks over to his place and the announcer opens the session, “Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to welcome to the Lions stage in Cannes, writer and philosopher, Alain de Botton.”

We’re still standing in the passageway applauding like everybody else in the audience. “Wow,” I whisper to Anouk. “If we get interviewed on Worldmakers, we’ll be the Alain de Botton of storytelling.”

Anouk Pappers - Brand Anthropologist
Maarten Schafer- Author / Storyteller

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