"If there were only good, there would be no good."

Cannes Lions - the creative festival par excellence, is live again. Advertising icon Frank Bodin talks in an interview about personal encounters in Cannes, the courage to change and the quality of communication.

Portrait of Frank Bodin

The pandemic showed that virtual meetings work well. But people quickly realised that face-to-face meetings and events offer a different quality. How do you see this and what are you looking forward to at this year's Cannes Lions Festival?

The pandemic also showed us how important face-to-face meetings are, proximity, small talk, sensuality, culture. Cannes Lions is much more than an award. The seminars, industry meetings, etc. are at least as important. And Cannes is also a meeting place. No Zoom meeting can replace that.

Corona has posed new challenges for the creative industries. Budget cuts and a lot of uncertainty. How do agencies deal with this new situation?

Economic crises usually hit agencies quickly. However, I see Corona and the uncertain economic situation as the lesser evils for the industry. The biggest challenges remain media fragmentation and new technologies.

Cannes Lions is much more than an award

To what extent do these challenges affect the agency landscape?

The "Californicate" Google and Meta have grown to become the largest "agencies" in the world. In 2021, Google had a turnover of around 209.5 billion US dollars with advertising and Meta (Instagram, Facebook, etc.) around 115 billion US dollars. It is clear that this is at the expense of the agencies' turnover and profitability. In addition, many larger clients are pushing ahead with their insourcing and setting up their own departments, for example for content. In addition, management consultancies and media companies are competing with the agency business. Along with all these developments, the most important thing unfortunately often falls by the wayside: the quality of communication. This is still the best way to reach people's hearts and then also their wallets.

The "Californicate" Google and Meta have grown to become the largest "agencies" in the world

Frank Bodin with Halle Berry

Halle Berry and Frank Bodin at the Cannes Lions.

Immediately after the introduction of the SDGs by the UN, Cannes Lions also anchored the sustainability theme centrally. In times of crisis, however, it is precisely this aspect that is unfortunately often neglected, how can creatives counteract this?

Cannes is a mirror of the advertising industry. Sustainability has long been a hot topic there; just look at the winners of the last five years. 

Crises are the best moments to push for change and to implement it in the company.

In your opinion, which campaigns have reached people's hearts well?

I can think of the campaigns for Digitec Galaxus, for example, or the last two spots for Switzerland Tourism with Roger Federer and Robert De Niro as well as Anne Hathaway. Both examples show that all the great technological innovations are only enablers, means to an end - without the right idea coupled to this tool, every campaign falls flat. This is another reason why Cannes Lions is needed more urgently than ever.

A brutal war is raging in Europe. Many companies are dealing with it in an exemplary manner and providing support. Where do you see the critical border here so that brands can support ethically without indirectly capitalising on this tragedy?

ADC has launched a donation initiative in which many agencies and poster companies have participated free of charge. Creativity is a capital, especially of Switzerland. It's good to use this capital as well as money. As long as companies act out of inner conviction and authentically, there's nothing to complain about. On the contrary, it's only good if slowly but surely the last but one company realises that it also has a social responsibility. By the way, I am strongly committed to such transformations with my brand work.

Can you give us one or two examples?

Even though the first example comes from my kitchen or my former agency: Coop "Taten statt Worte" (deeds instead of words) shows with its deed bank to this day what the company is concretely doing good for the environment and society. A world-class example is Nike's 2018 Kaepernick campaign, with which the company took a firm stand against racism. As a reminder, football player Colin Kaepernick caused a scandal when, before an NFL game, he did not stand up to the sounds of "Star Spangled Banner" as everyone in attendance was actually expected to do, but instead knelt on the ground to make a statement of "Black Power". Other players from his team did the same shortly afterwards. The wave of hatred that poured over him afterwards knew hardly any bounds.

What’s inside Frank Bodin’s USM drawer:

Inside Frank Bodin’s USM drawer

1. always with me: fountain pen and notepaper.  2. a gift from Russia from a good friend (not Putin). 3. 7Q - a self-developed tool with seven questions for better quality in communication. 4. inspiration for everyday life - the book "Do it, with love" is a bestseller in its 8th edition. 5. different door hangers for different moods. 6. the dream car of his youngest daughter Ayleen. 7. the "bible" of the former digital agency. 8. yes, he's in it too.  9. a postcard by Joseph Beuys on the relationship between art and advertising. 10. an analogue Hasselblad with a digital back.  11. a biro given to him by Nobel Prize winner Richard Ernst. 12. always ready for a trip. 13. the last album by Emel. 14. in progress: his new composition for piano and orchestra.

Do we need crises so that we can question our patterns and reinvent ourselves?

If there were only good things, there would be nothing good. Unfortunately, yes. The only difference between "change" and "challenge" is the letter "lle". Humans are dozers and like to avoid change for energy efficiency reasons.

Do you have a ritual or procedure when you start working with a new client?

Listening. And for ideas, a full bath.

If you had to sum up Cannes Lions in a slogan, what would it be?

"Advertising World Championships" still sums it up well.

What was your best encounter in Cannes that you still remember fondly today?

I would have to list many colleagues from all over the world. But Halle Berry is probably my most charming encounter to date, even though she went on to marry someone else.

About Frank Bodin

Frank Bodin is the founder of bodin.consulting, an international agency for strategy, branding and communication with digital intelligence. He is also Chairman of the Board of Furrerhugi Holding AG, President of ADC Switzerland and on numerous advisory boards. He has won countless awards from all the major competitions worldwide and was Advertising Man of the Year. He is currently Chairman of the Art Directors Club Switzerland.

Until 2018, he was Chairman & CEO of Havas in Switzerland and Austria for many years and was also responsible for 73 countries as Chairman of the Global Creative Council of Havas. He studied piano at the Conservatory and law at the University of Zurich.

His book "Do it, with love - 100 Creative Essentials" (2015 by Hermann Schmidt, Mainz) is a bestseller in its eighth edition and received a successful sequel in 2021 with "Is it Love? - 100 Essential Questions ".

Portrait of Frank Bodin

Written by:

Stefan Jermann

Taught to drive by my grandfather at the age of eight. Hurtling down every set of steps on my BMX by the age of ten; racing down every black diamond slope on my snowboard when I was fourteen. I am fascinated by people who have a story, and I want to tell it. My prime focus is on the relationship between human and machine, artificial intelligence, and finding inner peace in a world full of noise.

Photos: Courtesy of Frank Bodin

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