Many large agencies come to Cannes expecting to win, but three-year-old Montreal agency Tuxedo couldn't afford that luxury.
"We now have 23 employees," said Nancy Gendron, brand director at Tuxedo and the fifth employee at the very small agency. "I'm one of two who has previously worked at an ad agency. It is collegial. No hierarchy, completely decloisonne (opened up)."
Tuxedo won a silver Cyber Lion for a viral campaign developed for L'Oreal. The campaign began in February, 16 million YouTube views ago. The video is very clever. A man's tattoos are completely hidden by L'Oreal's Dermablend product, then he removes the cream to reveal his tattoos. The effect is great.
"We started working with L'Oreal shortly after the agency was created," said Gendron. "Our CD Ludwig Ciupka led this initiative, focusing on the importance our society gives to how we look and how deceptive that can be."
The Cyber category was hotly contested this year, with 2,458 submissions, including 140 from Canada. Jam3, another small agency, won a gold, while Blast Radius and Grey won bronze.
"When the president of the jury announced that the key in the category was that it should have touched consumers and that it had to be universal, I thought, 'Wow we are going to win,'" said Gendron.
Thus, the agency demonstrated that it can compete against global giants and showed that anything is possible, regardless of size. Tuxedo is now looking to the future, with plans to staff up and possible new clients on the horizon. "We have received a number of inquiries about creating viral campaigns this week," said Gendron.
Everywhere in town, restaurants have been taken over by global agencies hosting dinners and client meetings, or by pockets of employees bonding and discussing the work on display. Some of the walls from back home come down while they're here. If some attendees leave their home countries a little disillusioned about client skittishness, the procurement grind or the difficulty in being a partner rather than a supplier, seeing what is possible here helps reconnect ad executives to their craft. What is possible becomes tangible; something that's been done before in Ecuador, Columbia, or Portugal.
It helps drive employee engagement to be sure, yet there are fewer Canadian delegates than from some countries many times smaller. One possible reason for this is that there are fewer independents in Canada and therefore fewer with the ability to be at Cannes. Nancy Gendron, for instance, is here alone.
"The client couldn't make it, the founder of the agency was away on travel and so was the CD," she said. "At the award ceremony, I sat alone between a South African and a German. When the moment came, I instinctively put my hand down on one of them. We had just accomplished something I thought was impossible, the highest form of acknowledgement from global peers. It was the pinnacle moment of my career and an extraordinary inflection point for Tuxedo. I shared that moment with a stranger. Later, I joined the Quebec contingent and we celebrated as if in one big community."
Stefan Danis, reporting for Adnews.com, is CEO of Mandrake and NEXCareer and has published Gobi Runner, a book about overcoming adversity, available at Amazon.