It’s all about people

By Tobias Köhler

Cannes Lions – the big creative festival this blog is talking about – is immediately unappealing to me. It’s all about awards, partying, showing off. Everything is a notch too big (Meta’s representation resembles an overambitious Swabian car dealership), too loud (I hate events where you have to yell at each other), too self-referential (nope, not another afterthought in a parenthesis).

The whole thing is about as subtle as a marching band playing Debussy.

So it takes some time for me to get into the groove. Why did I still return to Stuttgart excited and inspired? Because of the people I met – in one way or another. Some I only experienced from a distance, from the audience. With others, I spent half the night sitting in front of the hotel.

So here is my very personal shortlist of Cannes Lions:

Yaroslava Gres.

Yaroslava Gres starts her talk with a joke. “Last time I was here, I wished to be up here on stage one day,” says the 39-year-old advertiser. “Now I’m here, and I’ve learned: formulate your wishes for destiny as concretely as possible.” There she sits now, in front of about 2500 people in the packed hall “Lumière”, the largest in the so-called Palais of Cannes. Unlike what she had imagined, Yaroslava Gres is not accepting an award, not a Golden Lion. Instead, she tells us how her life has been in the past few months. For many years she worked in a creative agency in Ukraine. Today, the CEO of the company – her brother – is fighting as a soldier, and she herself is taking care of the “United24” initiative (, which raises money to support her country. More than 58 million dollars the organization has collected in recent months. Yaroslava Gres tells her story – as do most of her Ukrainian co-presenters – very matter-of-factly and unemotionally. She does not want pity. She demands support from the world.

Keith & Agatha.

Keith and Agatha have a last name, of course. I simply don’t know it. Although we must have talked for six or seven hours. Mostly late at night in front of the hotel, when we came back from some events. The two are married, he’s British, she’s German. They met in London. He sells content concepts for British Airways, she does “product integration,” as she calls it. We’d call it product placement – and if you’ve seen Jennifer Aniston styling her hair with an xxx hair dryer (company name known) on the “Apple TV+” series “The Morningshow”: Agatha set that up. Meanwhile, the two live in Bremen with the mother-in-law, the Brexit is to blame. It’s not easy, neither the thing with the Brexit, nor the thing with the mother-in-law (who doesn’t speak a word of English). I have experienced a lot during these nights and learned even more. About industry stuff. About what it’s like to have a relationship when the politician:s lose their minds. And about British humor.


I went to Cannes to make national and international connections. That’s how my mission was explained to me. I actually managed a few. Most manifested through social networks. A few also in the handing over of business cards (“exchange” is not accurate, because I simply do not own any). One was from a very smart lady who works for a social network (which now considers itself an “entertainment platform”), another from an equally likeable and interesting Brazilian filmmaker. Both made it into my digital address book. I threw away the one from the unpleasantly chummy German filmmaker today (sorry!). What no one had told me before: The most exciting people I would meet would be those from my travel group. Representative of them is my colleague S.. S. has both a first name and a last name, both of which I know. But they do not matter. What does matter is this: After some teething problems, we had a damn good time together in Cannes. During the less fluffy phases, to outsiders we may have seemed like a couple married for too long (see/listen to episode two of our podcast), but in the best moments our dynamic had something of Statler and Waldorf from The Muppet Show. I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to miss a moment with S. and our tour group.

Danahe, Pablo & Carolina.

I’m afraid I’m a very bad South American. First of all, I speak only rudimentary Spanish (but I’m taking a VHS course!), secondly, I have the agility of a zombie, and thirdly, it’s a real effort for me to address and warmly greet guests who are complete strangers at the “120-minute party” of the BW Lions. That’s why I immediately fall in love with the legendary “Tantor Party” – hosted by the film production company of the same name, one of the largest in South America – in a villa in the so-called hills of Cannes (any Stuttgart resident would smile mildly in view of the pitiful hill). Not five minutes pass without one of the hosts – Danahe, Pablo & Carolina – coming to greet us, inquire about our well-being and patiently listen to all our stories. In addition, we are served the world’s best asado – grilled meat perfectly prepared by Cristobal and Fernando. I have seldom felt so much cordiality, joie de vivre and lightness.

The most important thing at the end.

Since this is the last entry in our travel diary (aka blog) for now, it behooves me to say thank you. Of course to all sponsors, known and unknown to me by name, as well as to all – of course present to me – institutional facilitators of our trip – MFG, BW-I and Filmcomission Region Stuttgart. But especially the fantastic organizers of the group trip to the Côte d’Azur: Vanessa, Nina, Jens, Laura and Kathrin. Without (such) people all this would not have been possible. And that would be a real pity.