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Per Pedersen’s love of advertising birthed Kill Your Darlings, a documentary garnering strong reactions from the industry

CANNES, FRANCE — Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity is the biggest event that celebrates and recognizes the best in advertising and creativity. But that doesn’t mean that there was no space for professionals in the industry to take a step back and assess the bigger picture of advertising — warts and all.

Last week at Cannes Lions 2022, Togethrr premiered Kill Your Darlings, a revealing documentary that leads viewers through the brutal truths of working in the advertising industry, what it may take to face its current state, and the trajectory that advertising is on.

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The idea for the film was conceived by Per Pedersen, executive creative director of By The Network. Pedersen is a globally recognized creative; his works have won over 150 awards in previous years at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity. An industry leader with over 25 years of experience in advertising, Pederson is also the co-founder of Uncle Grey, the highest-ranking creative agency in Denmark. In 2009, he became CCO of Grey Germany, then Global ECD in Grey New York before taking a global creative leadership role as Deputy Worldwide CCO in 2014. In 2017, he grew into the role of Global Creative Chairman of Grey Worldwide.

During the pandemic, Pedersen launched By The Network, a new global network of the world’s most creative independent agencies. Pederson told adobo Magazine, “We were still building the network at the time when we had to run a global client, and it worked really well. Even the doubters among us realized we can do this. We can actually work [with] five agencies across the world on a complicated piece of business. We know exactly what to do. It was such a proof of concept.”

Angel Guerrero, Founder, President and Editor-in-Chief of adobo magazine with Per Pedersen, Executive Creative Director of By The Network

 

While a significant aspect of Kill Your Darlings shows the bleaker sides of the industry, Pedersen said the reason he was so proud of this film was that “I love advertising and will never fall out of love with creativity.”

The film investigates this 150-year-old industry through the eyes of a young, female creative. As Anouk Jans, the youngest creative director in Germany ponders on how her “dream-coming-true” career has turned into something that has left her uninspired and out-of-love with advertising, she travels to gather insights from the creative legends and experts that define the industry like Scott Galloway, MakeLoveNotPorn’s Cindy Gallop, Mischief’s Greg Hahn and Bianca Guimaraes, Activision’s Fernando Machado, WPP’s Rob Reilly, and more.

Jans’ journey slowly peels back the layers of what it means to thrive — or even to survive — in the industry. Is advertising at a breaking point? Is it being driven by fairness? How replaceable is it by AI? How much space is there for growth in diversity? In innovation? For true unbridled creativity?

These are just some of the many questions explored in the documentary. Ultimately, the conversations that are born from them don’t only paint a more realistic view — made up of various and sometimes differing perspectives — of the industry but also reveal what next steps the modern advertising world and the creatives in it should take to unlock a brighter future that may still be in reach.

Providing some insight into why the advertising world is the way it is, Founder and CEO of MakeLoveNotPorn Cindy Gallop told Jans, “The reason that our industry will never change in terms of the old world order and institutional processes that are in place currently is because at the top of our industry, as in every other industry, is a closed loop of white guys talking to white guys about other white guys. Those white guys are sitting very pretty. They’ve got their huge salaries, gigantic bonuses, their big pools of stock options, their lavish expense accounts. Why on earth would they ever want to rock the boat?”

Global Chief Creative Officer of WPP Rob Reilly, asked if he knew anyone who felt burned out by the industry, answered, “Yes, me. Every day, you have someone who’s just been through too much. This isn’t because clients are bad. The whole industry is really at its breaking point to some degree. The ecosystem needs to change, it’s not just the agencies.”

However, Founder and Creative Chairman of GUT Anselmo Ramos sounded more optimistic to Jans. “Just enjoy the ride because one day, you’re going to miss this moment. The moment that you are starting to think that everything’s possible because you’re not cynical about advertising. And don’t ever be. Surround yourself with optimistic people, the people who believe in the future of advertising.”

Meanwhile, Chief Marketing Officer of Activision Blizzard Fernando Mechado shared, “As a client, I try my best to protect the ideas, defend the ideas, fight for the ideas, and I will die on a sword.”

Towards the end of the film, Jans arrives at the realization that most agencies work the same way which, at present, “won’t satisfy the depth and beauty that we need. That can only happen when creativity on all levels is set free”

“Structures that were built over decades will not change overnight but they will in the future if we keep questioning, raising the topic, and taking action,” Jans said, referring to the issues being explored in the documentary. “It’s time to build a sustainable future for advertising too.”

The film was a hit at Cannes, which isn’t a surprise. With some of the most important names in the advertising and creativity present, it’s expected that most — if not all — of the audience at the premiere could see their own experiences, fears, and hopes reflected on such a nuanced and intricate level. Both creatives who were physically there for the premiere and watched it online deeply resonated with the film.

 

“For those of you who work in the advertising industry Kill Your Darlings documentary is a must-see,” Petra Krulc of Celtra expressed. “You might not agree with all of the perspectives shared, but that’s why it’s even more important that you share yours as the challenge is real and we need to have a real talk.”

CREDITS:

Funded by togetherr
Produced by Drive Studios
Executive Producer Emil Walter
Original Idea Per Pedersen by The Network
Directed by Adam Bonke Christian Holten Bonke
Featuring Anouk Jans

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