Matt Williams at the Cannes Seminars

Leibovitz.jpgMatt Williams, content editor at The Engine Group, London offers his take on the Cannes Seminars running throughout the week, exclusive to CB.

I always tend to be quite scepitcal when a Cannes Lions seminar features a big name from outside of the industry, especially when the celebrity has just been part of a recent ad campaign, and is being brought on stage (paid for) by the agency of said campaign.
So I attended the McGarryBowen 'Art of Storytelling' seminar this morning with few expectations. The talk featured those master storytellers Disney, and iconic photographer Annie Leibovitz. The trio have recently worked together to create a campaign for Walt Disney Theme Parks, which sees some of the world's best-known actors photographed as famous Disney characters.

You have Scarlett Johansson as Cinderella, Russell Brand as Captain Hook and Julianne Moore as the Little Mermaid. Some of the shots really are brilliant, and expertly capture the magic behind some of the much-loved Disney stories.

This campaign was clearly a labour of love by all those involved, and what struck me more than anything was that, whilst the idea was a wonderful one, it really came alive when it was handed over to such a remarkable photographer like Leibovitz in order for her to work her magic.

Leibovitz was clearly given free reign to work with the actors and come up with her own interpretations and shots.

This might sound a little obvious, but it's striking how many times you see brands partner up with a celebrity - particularly one that has been chosen for their creative talents rather than just as an ambassador to put their name to - who is then given so many restrictions that they actually end up having very little influence on the end product.

It's something Leibovitz clearly appreciated. "I don't think I'd have lasted this long if I had to spend all my time listening to everybody else," she said. "And I've seen plenty of campaigns fail because they get watered down...they start off successful, but everyone wants to get involved and they peter out into nothing."

Funnily enough, it was a view echoing the words of yesterday's celebrity speaker too, comedian Jack Black talking about his work with Yahoo, he enthused about the lack of notes that were given to him by the media conglomerate. That their complete trust in him was what really resulted in him coming up with something that was on brand and that people wanted to watch.

So as your next campaign is being created and you have people in a room specifically chosen because they have certain creative talents, remember the words used by Leslie Ferrarro, the Disney client, to end this morning's session: "Choose your partners wisely, then trust them. There's a reason you've brought them in." Disney did, and they've ended up with a pretty powerful campaign to boot.

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