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Did We Forget How To Be Inspired?

Saatchi & Saatchi UK's CEO shares his learnings from this week at Cannes Lions Festival

By Chris Kay

It’s been two years since the last in-person Cannes, and that's felt like a long time.

Yep, it's been pretty cool to reconnect with old work buddies from around the world, but the thing I realised I missed the most with the Cannes physical hiatus, is to really feel the work. To spend time to slow, step-back, and find moments to be inspired by global creativity in all forms, and have those meandering conversations about ideas.

This is something I have picked up from a lot of people this week, and on reflection and maybe we didn’t realise it, but did we forget how to take time to be inspired?

It’s been rare in the last few years to actually find real time to take a moment from the day to day to truly open our minds to creative possibility, and this event reminds of the importance of continual learning, of wandering into and out of ideas, of unlocking those insights and themes to steal and build from, and of more importantly, how when you open your mind cool stuff can happen.

In the spirit of sharing and building, here’s some themes and learnings from this week for others to hopefully be inspired by.

1. It’s Time To Enter A New Era of Play.

A lot has been written about how purpose-led and sombre our industry became during Covid/post Covid, but seeing some of the work shortlisted this year it still feels like our industry still needs to shake off some of these sombre shackles.

Yes, there are some super strong ideas like the the Suncorp One House to Save Many from Leo’s Australia or the Zwift Prisoner Cycling team, but beyond continuing to shine a light on harder sides of life, it feels like maybe as an industry we need to move on a little, and be more optimistic to define a new spirit of positivity and play.

Be it the banal stupidity of the cultural movement that became the National Roast Day from Wendy’s, or the spirit of purpose-led play in the work our Saatchi team did with the Otrivin Air-bubble playground, or the fun in the craft and simplicity of the Samsung Spider film out of Germany.

It really feels like maybe this time next year we might have less case studies that start with a sad piano sequence or a shocking stat of how the world is a bit fucked, and jump into a new era of positivity and play which shows the world how to be more optimistic and a little looser in the future.

2. We Need More Dimensionalised Diversity In Creativity.

There is a great quote from Michele Oliver, Global VP of Brand and Purpose at Mars - ‘People need to see diversity as the cake rather than the icing - that it has longevity and depth’.

When seeing some of the work out in this world this year and wandering round the Palais, I couldn’t agree more.

Over the last year, it still feels like diversity is still seen as a casting brief, with tokenistic skin tone representation or sexual orientation badging, versus getting to a real dimensionalised insight and understanding of audiences to truly represent lives and cultures.

We all saw this with the recent Christmas ads in the UK, and the recent backlash to the appropriation of Juneteenth by brands in the US shows that real understanding and insight still has a long way to go.

That said, strong steps are being made, and some things that felt like better steps in the right direction were “BlackOwnedFriday from Google, and Touchcard from MasterCard. These felt like they were built from deep understanding and insight, and came to life as a product initiative first - which felt real and meaningful - that advertising then brought to the market with inspiring delivery.

We need more work like this that really delivers on a deeper form of ROI - that of ‘Return on Insight’ - that really shows the power of creative thinking to drive change and meaningful growth from the product first, and then to comms second.

3. Hack The System and Outsmart the Outspenders.

We are all aware of the cost of the living crisis and the crunch on our industry resulting in more efficient budget opportunities. Rather than see that as a negative, some of the stronger ideas from this week have been those that have really hacked the system to outsmart those with bigger budgets, and positively unlock cultural currency to drive real conversation and stronger brand affinity.

A really cool example is Hack The Market by Back Market. The perfect example of a David v Goliath challenge that Back Market landed in Apple Stores with no media budget to hit the consumer right at the moment of purchase and drive consideration for their brand at the big guys expense.

I also really like a fun campaign from David in Sao Paulo for Burger King. A simple insight that brought the best burger (Burger King) and the best fries (McDonalds) together in one at home delivery. What a cool learning of thinking beyond the budget, of using your opponent's weight to your advantage, and creating a cultural conversation to create affinity and turn fans into consumers..

4. Escapism Is The New Entertainment.

As Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director from the IMF so eloquently put it, ‘we are facing a crisis on top of a crisis’ as our world becomes more increasingly hard. In a moment like this, it's a good question to ask ourselves as marketeers whether we need to keep shining a light on the harsh realities of life, or whether there is an opportunity to bring a little escapism into the everyday, to find a moment of lightness in our lives.

Two things that attack this in slightly different ways are the shortlists for Burberry by Riff Raff Films, and Swipe Night by 72andSunny.

For the 2.24 mins of the Open Spaces film by Burberry we are immediately transported to a place that feels magical and free whilst still landing a strong product piece. And the Tinder work from 72andSunny that created an entertainment moment on Sunday nights to open the doors to a different world of connection that allows the user to play with the app in a more involved way.

Both of these pieces show that if we can hit the right note of play with stretching reality and letting our imagination wander, that they can bring the consumer closer to the brand in a more entertaining way.

Hopefully the above might spark something, challenge a perception, or just provide a bit of lite inspiration but either way, hopefully it reminds us to take a beat, look at things beyond our immediate sphere to find inspiration to help unlock our next creative act.

Chris Kay is the CEO Saatchi & Saatchi & CEO Publicis Groupe UK Creative Practice.


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