Cannes 2016: Looking to the Past to Define Our Industry's Future
This year’s Cannes Lions festival has been all about the future – the storytelling medium of the future (unsurprisingly, it’s VR), the brand metric of the future (if IPG are to be believed, it’s the D100’s new measure of ‘dynamism’) and of course numerous predictions for what our years ahead might look like.
With everyone looking forward, it was fascination to attend one session where we instead went back in time to reflect on what the last 15 years of Lion-winning creativity has looked like. ‘Cracking the code of creativity’ was a whirlwind tour of our creative past – of hundreds of thousands of entries and years of an evolving definition of creativity.
The aim of the talk was simple: to ascertain what makes a piece of work rise to the top of the creative pool. And whilst the findings were amazing, inspiring, surprising and even emotional (you can watch the full talk on YouTube), that’s not the purpose of this article.
Instead, I want to focus on some of Razorfish and Contagious’ raw data to talk about something that’s long bugged me about our industry: what we value about it and why. And fundamentally, on how these outdated ideas need to change if we want to remain at the top of the game.
Our industry has a legacy of amazing work. That’s presumably why we all started out in it – because creativity is at the nucleus of what we do and we want to get swept up in the buzz of being a part of that.
All great, right? Except, our industry almost values creativity too much. It’s given us big egos and even bigger problems as a result. The Art Director is the only person equipped to talk about how the ad looks on the page or screen, the Copywriter has the only valuable opinion on the words we place alongside and the Creative Director is a god, an all-powerful creator-destroyer of work who has the final say on what makes it out of the door.
In a world that is evolving, this outdated approach makes our work outdated too. It makes us siloed, it makes us static. And like the hype of many an outdated institution, it makes us elitist.
More importantly though, it’s fundamentally at odds with something I’ve long believed to be true – that a good idea can come from absolutely anywhere. And that although we all have our specialisms and experiences, creative validity and insight can come from somewhere totally unexpected. From strategists, from designers, from product developers and dare I say it, even from account people.
This is an idea that has long been discussed, but rarely seems to happen in the mad dash of a fevered campaign. Everyone sticks to their assigned job titles and the work suffers because of it.
Amongst Razorfish and Contagious’ many findings, three stats really stick out. Firstly, that over the last 15 years, Cannes Lions winning work has 26% more team members credited on it. Secondly, that work with a higher representation of supporting disciplines was 50% more likely to win a Cannes Lions. Thirdly, Cannes submissions with a larger share of below-director-level individuals are more successful.
That suggests that we need to start thinking about our agencies in a different way if we want it to be truly creative. We need to bring more people together, to deploy different experts who we wouldn’t usually work with, and we need to get at the fresh, even inexperienced, perspective of our hot young rising stars.
Even if that means the death of hierarchy and rigid agency structure.
Because genuine collaboration is waving goodbye to hero-worship and neat little job boxes. It’s valuing everyone’s contribution as integral to creativity.
And that means letting the Account Exec blow you away with their take on intelligent content. It means inviting the media agency to get involved in brainstorms about productisation. It means reconsidering the power of senior leaders.
Razorfish and Contagious have used their data to come up with a five-point checklist for creativity - but our industry might not be quite ready to embrace it just yet. After all, we’re a group enthralled by our own legacy, basking in the glory of creative genius’ and heralding them as such. If we strip away that hero-worship, don’t we undermine our own hype?
Well, we don’t have to. If we take our egos out of the equation and lay the old fashioned creative god to rest, we can move forward. To a new generation of creativity. One that will elevate our work and even redefine new levels of innovation.
And, as we’re all in the service of creativity, it’s time we put that ahead of our own egos and industry inheritance.