Tribeca Film Festival Chief Could See Cannes Ad and Film Galas Coming Together

As branding and entertainment worlds collide

CANNES, France—The Tribeca Film Festival is increasingly a player in the advertising community, accented by its presence here at Cannes Lions, where we caught up with Tribeca Enterprises CEO Andrew Essex.

Essex took that executive post in January, about six months after leaving Droga5, where he had been the founding CEO since 2006. If anyone would have a good take on the convergence of art and ads, Essex (pictured) would seem to fit the bill. Among other topics, he explained how he thinks that the Cannes Film Festival and Cannes Lions are almost becoming one and the same. 

Adweek: You know this isn't the Cannes Film Festival, right? 

Andrew Essex: LOL. Actually, you know as well as I do that the distinction between the two festivals is constantly blurring, a point Cannes certainly accelerated this year with the introduction of Lions Entertainment. I think that's exciting, since we're increasingly in the same business. In fact, I could see the two festivals dovetailing at some point, though the rosé requirements would be staggering.

Explain your presence here for those who wouldn't expect it.

Tribeca is in the creative storytelling business, and we believe that brands can be among the world's best storytellers. Many know that Tribeca makes premium content for brands, from the lovely docs we produced for Amex to the Emmy-winning film we made for Dick's Sporting Goods. Some may be surprised by our expertise in [virtual reality]. We're premiering a few films here in Cannes via our partnership with Samsung.

You were Droga5's founding CEO. In recent months, I've noticed the Tribeca Film Festival increasingly active in advertising circles. How much of that has to do with your influence and your connections?

Well, the company was interacting with Madison Avenue long before I got here. I'm just … accelerating that process. One thing I'm proud of is launching the Tribeca X Award at this year's Festival, our first-ever formal award for great content from brands. Now CMOs don't just have to travel to the south of France to have their best work awarded.

Are sponsored films still on the uptick or has that movement plateaued at all?

I think the only thing that's plateaued in this business is bad advertising. We won't see any more of that, hopefully. The [ad] blockers have spoken.

Are artists increasingly willing to be sponsored by brands? Is that taboo disappearing?

I'd invert the question: I think brands are increasingly keen to work with artists, and to collaborate on authentic stories that advance their objectives. There should be a taboo against ads that annoy or interrupt people. … For a lot of people, the eureka moment was The Lego Movie, a piece of art that audiences were willing to pay to see, and which also happened to be an ad.

Lastly, what is your favorite thing on the Croisette?

Hard to beat the Carlton patio and a lot of cold pink wine.