Alexander Nix, former CEO of disgraced data insights business Cambridge Analytica, will be speaking at this year's Cannes Lions, taking place in late June.
Cannes Lions' blurb, as one would expect, paints the picture rather rosily. The event will pitch Nix with FT Managing Editor Gillian Tett, for a discussion on "personal data and political agendas", with the duo "review[ing] the surrounding reporting and its implications for the industry as a whole going forward".
As a reminder, Cambridge Analytica helped Leave.EU to win the Brexit referendum, and helped both the Trump and Cruz campaigns in the US. In both cases, CA harvested the personal data of over 87 million Facebook users without their permission. Nix was also recorded by Channel 4 as offering "beautiful Ukranian girls" to influence the political atmosphere in Sri Lanka, and the Guardian reported Nix as using the n-word last year in reference to the Prime Minister of Barbados.
Sounds like a lovely chap.
While one can see Cannes Lions' thinking - that marketers need to understand bad business practices as well as good (which is, after all, what the event celebrates), many have complained that the event has gone too far in inviting Nix to talk. CA's use of personal Facebook data was indeed unethical and it might be interesting to talk about that, but Nix's character clearly doesn't just stop there, and it's the rest of his record which... doesn't help his personal brand.
Will marketers refuse to attend an all-expenses paid jolly in Cannes? Probably not, but if they do a "no-show" to Nix's talk, it might just send a message to the organisers that not everyone is welcome in the tent.