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Cilla Snowball: collaboration makes our work and our companies stronger


By Cilla Snowball | chairman and group CEO

July 9, 2018 | 5 min read

We came back from Cannes with a record three Grand Prix this time – our most successful week in our 40-year agency history.


Collaboration fist bumps - from Pexels

When we won a Grand Prix in 2006 with the Guinness Noitulove film, I wasn’t in Cannes to pick it up on the night, and neither was my client. We were each home with our kids on that incredible Friday evening, celebrating and squealing by phone. This year it was the same scene for me, grounded in the UK by even bigger parental duties - my son's wedding. There's a pattern here: the more I stay away from Cannes, the more we win.

But there was obviously much more to the recipe for our Cannes success this year than just my absence at the ceremony. Three Grand Prix in one festival was a personal best for AMVBBDO. And while it was, of course, about fearless and breakthrough creativity, and tenacity, this year it was also most definitely about collaboration.

We have been talking about collaboration in advertising for as long as I can remember. We've given it fancy names over the years like integration and orchestration. We've described a process and a philosophy that together we are stronger, that none of us is as strong as all of us, and that teamwork pays.

We've built groups and holding companies and one-stop shops on the back of it.

We have made money from it.

But collaboration is an even bigger deal in 2018, especially when it comes to creative collaboration, which is the hardest and most important of all in this business, as well as many others.

The fact is, collaboration can be encouraged but it can't be forced. Collaboration is easy to talk about but very hard to implement. Order or mandate people to collaborate and the chances are they won't. Years of running a Group of communications agencies has taught me that many, many times. And we are one of the most collaborative.

Collaboration is a voluntary thing. It's a mindset, an attitude, a personal choice. It's cultural.

Only when the benefits of collaboration are clearly visible, in great work and fantastic results, does it really take off.

Then it’s really powerful and infectious; collaboration begets collaboration.

Most importantly, it makes a huge difference.

Our Grand Prix wins this year are the best examples of creative collaboration you can find. Trash Isles was a simple and brilliant creative idea - to make a country from a problem - but it only came to life because of a brilliant partnership with LADbible and Plastic Oceans Foundation. First there was a UN application to register an area of plastic rubbish the size of France as a nation state. Then a citizen recruitment campaign; a flag; currency and passports; petitions; politicians; celebrity endorsement. A campaign built on a very small budget but very big partnership.

Essity Blood Normal was awarded the Glass Lion Grand Prix and Titanium. It broke category norms and it defied stereotypes, killing off blue liquid and busting taboos, presenting period blood as positive and normal. The Blood Normal film was just the springboard. Each scene contained real world activations designed to spread our message further into culture itself. We made and sold designer underwear with French fashion house Dessu; we gave away fun pad-shaped lilos to influencers: we produced a graphic novel showing period blood; we ran period positive school workshops; we launched a film bursary; spread playful period gifs; and got Saffron Herndon ,a fantastic teenage comedienne to write period jokes into her routine. Through collaboration we created the reality we believed in.

So we won at Cannes by small teams taking big creative leaps and galvanising big collaborations to make a difference.

You can't do anything truly great alone. Campaigns like this only happen when everyone makes them happen.

Together we are stronger.

Cilla Snowball DBE, is group chairman and group chief executive of AMV BBDO and a regular contributor to The Drum.

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