Cannes Lion Winners: A Few Simple Requests
You’re going to win a Lion. I can feel it. Congratulations. And, I assure you, I do not wish to steal your thunder; you’ve earned this. I want you to relish every champagne-fuelled, sweat-stained, trophy-swinging, spittle-streamed-punchline-shouting moment on the 2am terrace of the Carlton as the beautiful suits watch you from a distance, silently granting their consent for you to stroll freely among them and perhaps even right onto their super yacht. You will have achieved the highest honour that can be bestowed upon you in your career. Soon you will spill into the Croissette of the world and pour down into the Gutter Bar glory of all your creative ambitions. La victoire!
But, I’d like to take this opportunity to recruit you to do some heavy-lifting for our beleaguered industry. When you wield that trophy in front of everyone you come into contact with next week, you’ll be wielding true power. And I implore you to use that power for the greater good of the hundreds of thousands of creative agency souls you represent with these simple requests:
Please tell a client that we have acute self-awareness
There is great unrest in the marketing universe. Our clients are experiencing unprecedented levels of disruption due to pressures from their shareholders to transform and operate more effectively and efficiently. The impact of this transformation is profound resulting in reorganisation, downsizing, and a complete reexamination of their fundamental go-to-market strategies. Our clients need innovation and sweet, sweet creative magic more than ever before, but in most of these cases, they see their agencies as part of the bloat – a thing for the trimming. Advertising is something to be stripped down and consolidated in-house. Or jump-balled to the lowest bidder. They do not see us as an indispensable strategic partner. But we are! We can! We can proactively and fundamentally transform the way we do business and the value we deliver! Please grab a client at the bar and tell them that. Maybe they’ll listen to you now that you have a Lion in your hand.
Please talk excitedly about innovation beyond advertising
This year, there are some absolutely incredible TV commercials, exemplary in their ideas and execution - truly world-class advertising. In fact, some innovate the very notion of advertising. P&G’s “It’s a Tide Ad” not only broke the metaphysical bounds of its medium – it TOLD us it was an advertisement – but it inoculated us with a brain virus that made us think we were seeing Tide in every ad we watched for almost every quarter of the game thereafter. Without a doubt, it’s one of the most inventive TV commercial convention-breakers in a long time. But in order to make the self-awareness point above true, we need to stop thinking about how to make advertising more advertisey.
We need to pull innovation up and out of a single category and show that we can transcend advertising and move the needle on business. And I don’t mean the innovationy innovation stuff like “we collaborated with our client to make a flavor of cookie that endangered sea turtles will eat.” That’s just more attention-getting advertising. Our industry has the brain power to push past novelty and actually innovate the consumer experience at scale. We can leverage our deep and personal understanding of people to not create parlour tricks, but change behaviours, drive real business value and make our clients heroes beyond the headlines. Please tell anyone who will listen! Use a fake accent to grease the wheels if you have to!
Please tell a tech company representative that you will not roll over and that the future of creativity does not belong to some humanity-levelling artificial intelligence hellbent on seeing our species destroy itself for its amusement
Find one. They might work for one of the tech giants. Or one of the consultancies. Regardless, they’ll be hovering near their branded sand-volleyball court or their sponsored Afrojack rave tent or just standing there with a bunch of their own Lions. Look for a logo lanyard. And boldly walk up to them, grab your complimentary drink tickets and tell them you are not finished.
Creative still matters. Art is at the heart of consumer engagement. Algorithms can’t write great ads. So much. Machine Learning can’t reveal the secret to a great edit. Yet. Artificial intelligence will not be your next Art Director if you can help it. You are built to evolve. You understand the intense importance of technology and data and embrace it at the heart of everything we do.
Please tell them you will not become some indentured jester, strapped to a milk tanker and made to die at the whim of some apocalyptic warlord who just happened to strike a great deal with our supreme technogods.
Also, have a great flight home! Congrats!
Troy Hitch is Chief Innovation Officer at Barefoot Proximity