Cannes Lions random creativity

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Creativity needs randomness, speed and porous boundaries

MediaCom's chief transformation officer looks at the Cannes Lions Festival through her media lens to explore the key themes that resonated with her

By Sue Unerman

Last week was the return of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. I was lucky enough to go and here I want to share with you my key takeaways about the future power of creativity to fuel growth.

I won a VIP all inclusive pass this year from Cannes Lions as the team I was in was picked as the winner of the Cannes Creativity for Good competition. This was a creative competition and I was possibly the only media person to enter (definitely the only media person to be part of the shortlist). I was certainly the only media person to win! Being part of the winning team was therefore particularly special, and endorsed my belief that campaigns need creative ideas to break through, and these ideas can come from anyone in the team, whatever their role. Indeed that the diversity of my team, both in terms of who we are and how we think contributed to our success. My plan was to make the most of this win therefore, and watch as many great sessions as I could.

I attended 20 sessions; took 70 pages of notes; viewed countless award shortlisted videos. And still this was just a fraction of the content on offer at the Cannes Lions Festival 2022.

Here’s my highlights, and key themes.

#1: Work that moves the industry forward.

One of the jury chairs summed up the overall energy of the festival. Marcel Marcondes, the global CMO at AB InBev and the chair of the Entertainment Lion for Sport said that the aim for his jury was not just to find good work, but to award work that sends a clear message to the industry that advertising should not be getting back to normal but instead that it must move forward to doing more good and being better.

First some of the award winning campaigns that delivered against this with 5 Grand Prix winners:

The Titanium Grand Prix was awarded to Kiyan Prince Foundation, EA sports, QPR and Match Attax. A touching and impactful call for a better society.

The entertainment lion for sport Grand Prix went to Nike Sync, myth busting about exercising with periods (and it wasn’t that long ago that we didn’t even acknowledge periods other than with blue liquid).

Adidas won the Outdoor Grand Prix for this inclusion work for women often underrepresented and misunderstood, the world’s first liquid billboard.

The Media Grand Prix was awarded to Mars, MediaCom Australia for Sheba Coral Reef. The ambition of this work is clearly world class.

The Glass Lion for change Grand Prix went to Data Tienda by WeCapital and DDB with their work to include more women into the financial system in Mexico.

#2 A focus on sustainability: environment and inclusion.

Many awards were made for work that aims to help environmental sustainability. Sustainability was the single most important theme for creativity according to a survey of delegates and Los Santos + 3 degrees work by WPP agency VMLY&R Brazil was awarded a gold for this impactful campaign.

Shelly Zalis, founder of FQ, ran a panel on diversity. Shelley stated “Creativity starts with diversity”. The audience learnt about the importance of intentionality, of prioritising allyship and the addition of a new role in the workplace, the accomplice. Adrienne C. Smith, head of inclusion at Fleishman Hillard, stated that the accomplice is your secret ally in terms of overturning convention to help the underrepresented feel that they belong and thrive in the workplace.

Again, the importance of belonging in the workplace in addition to recruitment from a wide range of backgrounds was emphasised.

#3 The metaverse has power for good.

This is probably the most surprising of my themes. It’s certainly where I had my mind changed by the festival speakers. The metaverse can help create empathy. Mark Curtis, head of innovation at Accenture Song, explained that the intimacy of the metaverse can deliver a stronger connection to the imagination about big issues. He found that climate change impact had stronger meaning at Davos through this medium, and explained the huge impact on education via for instance the creation of a Favella in Roblox to explain different lived experiences to middle class kids.

#4 The road to creativity needs randomness, speed and porous boundaries.

Movie star and founder Ryan Reynolds explained that his agency Maximum Impact loves to work with the unexpected. There’s no process that can deliver work that leverages trends in culture, you have to move at pace, at the speed of culture.

Jeff Staple, creator of the Stapleverse said a year in the real world is a month in Web3. Neda Whitney, CMO of Christies, described the re-definition of luxury to move at pace, and the massive returns they are seeing from working with NFTs and luxury.

Let’s leave the last word with Marc Pritchard of Procter & Gamble, whose talk on creativity as a force for growth was standing room only: “As we continue to face disruptions in the world around us, it may be more important than ever to double down on our core job, our collective responsibility, and the superpower that no other industry has – creativity for growth.”

There’s no better mandate for creativity for growth.

Sue Unerman is MediaCom's Chief Transformation Officer, and the best selling author Belonging,The Key to Transforming and Maintaining Diversity, Inclusion and Equality at Work;The Glass Wall, success strategies for women at work;Tell the Truth.


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