This video is a preview of Adweek's interview with Arianna Huffington at Cannes Lions. More footage will be available soon.
Shortly after their presentation on Monday afternoon at the Cannes Lions, Arianna Huffington and AOL CEO Tim Armstrong retired to a small four-room suite on the second floor of the Majestic Barrière—AOL’s semi-official press reception area, immediately across from the Palais.
Things were casual. It was past 4 p.m. and room service had yet to attend to all of the empty espresso cups littered across the table. Desserts were neatly arrayed, and encouraged upon me by multiple assistants and event planners. Armstrong was hidden away in a room, on camera; Huffington was on the couch, on her phone. There was some discussion about changing the schedule: swapping the second meeting for the first, and vice versa.
A young gentleman emerged and Huffington, seeming only mildly upset, began asking questions. There had been a problem with the slides during her portion of the presentation. “Why did it keep going to Tahrir Square?” she wanted to know.
Armstrong emerged, introduced himself, poured water. “Do you feel like you’re always drinking water here?” He greeted Huffington, and they discussed swapping the second meeting for the first, and vice versa. An agreement was made, just before yet another assistant or event planner emerged and, noticing the presence of a reporter, quickly ushered their conversation into another side room, out of earshot.
“Are you sure you don’t want some coffee? Something to eat? Take a book.”
Huffington is the author of about a dozen books, some of which were neatly arrayed on a narrow bookshelf in the corner: The Fourth Instinct, On Becoming Fearless, Third World America, The Huffington Post Guide to Blogging…The Gods of Greece.
Armstrong’s wife arrived with the kids. She and Huffington and a gentleman struck up a conversation about Huffington’s presentation. She had announced the forthcoming launch of Huffington Post sites for both France and Brazil, and eager audience members had been quick to demand the website’s arrival in Italy and Eastern Europe.
“That’s low-hanging fruit,” Armstong’s wife said. “You should go where they want you.”
“Yes,” the man said. “You can worry about China later.”
USA Today stole Huffington away for an interview, Armstrong relocated. Every 30 seconds or so a different assistant emerged from a different door and disappeared through another. Marx Brothers, only more guarded.
Finally, Huffington and I made it out to the balcony. I asked her if she was enjoying herself. “I love it,” she said. “You know I was born in Greece, and I spent a lot of time in the south of France when I wrote a biography of Pablo Picasso…” and onward. She spoke of the importance of advertising, the future of advertising. (She’s particularly fond of one advertisement for Chivas whiskey.) The Internet is “growing up,” she said. “We’re learning to value online what we value offline.”
And that expansion to France and Brazil—How far are you going to reach? “There’s really no limit,” she said. “We have a model that’s a very scalable model.” The goal is for France and Brazil to launch this year. And China? Russia? I ask. “At the end of this month, we’re going to complete the analysis of where we are going to go next.”
Huffington herself will be heading to Athens on Wednesday, for the Special Olympics. Then to Aspen, for the Ideas Festival. Finally, back home to New York—and then off to London. But the immediate plan was to get out of her heels and relax.
“I like your shoes,” she told me. “I’m going to go put mine on.”