Despite his financial background, Fernando Rodes Vila, the chief executive of Havas' Media Planning Group and jury president of the Cannes Media Lions, is something of a soulful banker, eschewing formulas and favoring unregimented decision-making.
"He's doesn't fit the stereotype of a chief executive," said Jim Rose, CEO of Media Planning Group USA. "A lot of executives are just 'Business! Business! Business!' whereas Fernando cares about the relationships to his people."
Credited by many as having a laid-back personality, Rodes, 41, pursued a career as an economist while attending university in Barcelona. He began his career in banking, joining Manufacturers Hanover Trust in 1985 as director of capital markets.
In 1994 Havas was looking for someone to head Media Planning S.A. According to Rodes, he was chosen because of his background in finance. Comfort with a green-eye shade was perceived as being crucial to improving the company's balance sheet at the time.
In 1999, Rodes was appointed CEO of Media Planning Group, the company resulting from the merger between Mediapolis and Media Planning S.A. But his warm, easygoing manner served to balance the view that Havas had brought in someone more in touch with numbers than with people.
Rose pointed to the Catalan origins of the Barcelona-born Rodes. "The Catalan region is very different from the area around Madrid," Rose said. "The attitude of the people there are more down to earth. I think that's what makes Fernando so well liked, as well as respected."
Rodes reputation as someone who effortlessly achieves consensus is seen as the reason Roger Hatchuel, chairman of the Cannes Lions, chose him to head up the media jury.
"I have no idea how he made that mistake," Rodes said with a laugh. "I believe he had spoken to a number of people and chatted with people at Havas. But one day, he just called me and said we'd like you to be the jury president."
His training as an economist should help him with the massive amount of division required from the task of sorting through the roughly 800 entries for the Media Lions. The judging began June 13 and the jury was split up into four different task forces. From those groups, Rodes said, the entries will be filtered down to the best 50 or 60 pieces. "After that, we go back as a whole group and create a short list from that."
Rodes would prefer that the jury take a freewheeling approach instead of "finding the deepest meaning" in the works being presented.
Rodes has also been thinking about the "deep meanings" behind choosing the Titanium Lion, the president's award, a new entry this year which recognizes any work, media or creative, that appears to move the industry as a whole forward though particular demonstration of innovation.
"It's important to recognize the most interesting uses of interactive or unconventional media and conventional media," he said. "Essentially, it's about work that signals where we're headed. Or should be headed."