With all the best creative works in the world, hundreds of hours of seminars, forums, workshops, screenings, not to mention the chance to catch up with creatives from all cultures (and scanning QR codes on each other’s name tag), Cannes Lions remain the definitive global event that the whole industry converge, debate and celebrate. ‘Rethinking’, ‘redefining’ are the usual buzzwords at Cannes. It’s a time to take stock of what we do and what it means to us, to our clients and to the industry as a whole.

Here are a few personal favourites, takeaways and observations.

Diverse talents

Every year, the winning works in Cannes often lead to healthy debates and discussions. This year, the most talked about winning works were from some of the most diverse talents.

Ogilvy Shanghai’s entry entitled ‘#CokaHands’ that won the agency a Grand Prix in the outdoor category was designed by Jonathan Mak, a 20-year-old Hong Kong designer. Some people questioned what the agency’s involvement in the creation of the work and whether ‘co-creation’ deserved to win in Cannes. The truth is, creative ideas can now come from absolutely anywhere. The role of creative directors is increasingly becoming a ‘curator’ of talents or a ‘conductor’ of ideas from various disciplines. The power of an idea sometimes depends on the content created by the crowd. It wouldn’t surprise me that in the future there will be an award dedicated to the public.

Connected thinking

In the past few years, digital had been the hot topic. This year, it’s all about ‘content’. The Festival afterall, had been renamed as the ‘Festival of Creativity’ for many years and it now covers creativity across all disciplines. This year the Festival had added new categories including ‘Branded Content and Entertainment Lions’ and ‘Mobile Lions’. For ‘Branded Content’, it was defined as “the creation of, or natural integration into, original content by a brand”. The new categories reflect the diverse formats of the creative content being created, making sure the Festival remain relevant to the evolution of the industry.

The conventional ‘art director + copywriter’ creative team structure is also becoming obsolete. In order to create truly innovative solution for clients it’s more common for creatives to be teamed up or partnered with technology strategists, or in some cases, producers in the entertainment business.

I feel strongly that the new breed of creative talents will all have the natural capability of ‘connected thinking’, and integrated approach will be at the heart of everything we do. Just look at the Grand Prix winner in the ‘Ambient’ category entitled ‘The Invisible Drive’ promoting the Mercedes-Benz F-CELL hydrogen-powered car. The outcome was that the big idea connected with consumers as wide as social media, PR and mobile channels. Ambient or mobile is no longer the ‘peripheral’ media but in some cases they become the key to integrate other touch points.

Another remarkable example of truly cross-disciplinary thinking was Nike+’s Fuelband, which Stefab Olander said in his presentation, that the products and services had become the marketing. Bob Greenberg of R/GA described Nike is a ‘functionally integrated’ company that offer ‘seamless, interconnected services and experiences, not just products’. This way of thinking will become the DNA of future brand architecture, and naturally influences how we as creatives tackle the challenge.

Democratisation of content

A couple of years ago, when MOFILM started to challenge the industry by introducing a new content-based democracy, inviting film production talents from all over the world to crack the creative brief and produce content for big brands, a lot of us were sceptical about the practice. Was it just a trend? Was it created out of brand’s desire to shop around for ideas and driving down production costs? Today, it all seems to make perfect sense. Not only has it met the demanding nature of the explosion of multi-screen channels, it actually turned out to be a totally viable model to unite production talents from creative agency, film and the music industry. Clients also become more involved and actively participating in the creative process. But I think the most exciting development is in nurturing new talents. The ‘Welcome to the industry’ initiative from MOFILM, has already starting to break down the barriers within an industry historically being dominated by a few big giant production houses.

Clients believe in magic

In one of the Cannes stories showcased in Cannes, Sir Martin Sorrell said ‘creativity is what makes clients’ precious marketing budget goes further’. Cannes has always served an instrumental value of promoting the passion of creativity not just among creative teams but also among clients. It’s an opportunity for clients to witness why creating and producing good work matters to us, and how we could work together to build trust and empathy towards meeting each other’s objectives.

In the seminar ‘Can your Client Be Your Friend?’ Joel Ewanick of GM and Jeff Goodby demonstrated what’s the perfect client agency relationship is. When your client starts a conversation and you complete the sentence, that’s good partnership. An agency is not a ‘service provider’ but someone to help connecting the dots.

Local creativity shines

The international representation of the delegates has boosted the importance of local creativity. Local creative talents had been given the opportunity to showcase the unique creative approach that often creatives from other culture do not understand. Brazil had set up their design focused showcase, China Advertising Association promoted the creative culture through mobile technology, production house from Russia and digital group from Thailand all tried to take advantage of the opportunity to reach out to international creatives. Mexico had even erected their ‘pop-up’ venue just across the street from the Palais with the aim to welcome clients and creative talents who like to know more about the market.

Among all the seminars, Korea made a point about their ‘cultural assets’ with the recent success of K-Pop phenomenon, and Japan took to the stage and shared with us the success story behind the global icon of Hello Kitty being localised for different markets. Julian Boulding from the Networkone continued to showcase work of independent creative agencies from China to Spain and Sweden, the presentation not only was about sharing the great work coming from independent agencies, but also the unique approaches that reflect their local culture. My favourite, however, was the local pride demonstrated by R. Balki, Chairman and CCO of Lowe Lintas India and Shekhar Kapur, Oscar nominated director. Balki firmly believed that the desire of India is to remain India, and when he said ‘Where there is a difference, there is a creative interest’ he addressed the issue of global advertising head on. I salute to that.

Creativity for good

There has been much talk in recent times about how the advertising industry should use our wealth of creativity to help change people’s behavior for the benefit of the world. That message was amplified when former President Bill Clinton gave a heart-felt and compelling talk in Cannes. Not only did his insight and global context made the case impressively, the topic was also timely and very much in line with the current trend of ‘building brands for good’. He also pinpointed our role as creatives is to spread the information and get it right. He said “A lot of the facts that will form the trends of the future are not apparent to people. The communicators will have a profound influence on how the next 20-30 years will turn out…People need honest communication. You can do that.”

Indeed, some of the freshest ideas that won in this year’s Festival were rooted from a desire to create something meaningful and useful for people. Examples like the Chipotle’s ‘Back to the Start’ film combined with the brand’s Cultivate Foundation. The ‘Unhate’ print work from Benetton connects the brand with social responsibility.

The cream of the crop I think clearly goes to the ‘Help Memories Bandages campaign’ created by Droga5. The campaign had turned marrow registration as a part of an everyday act by putting a marrow registry kit into a box of Help Remedies bandages.

A standing ovation

In an industry that brings in fresh new talents every year, it’s important that we pay respect to the gurus who had shaped the idea of great advertising over the years. This year Google’s ‘Re: Brief’ project had done exactly that. The project aimed to challenge whether the most iconic advertising campaigns can be ‘re-imagined’ for a modern audience. We had the chance to meet Paula Green, the original copywriter who authored the Avis slogan ‘We Try Harder’ and Harvey Gabor, the art director who helped to make the Coca-Cola ‘Hilltop’ TVC a global success. Google’s objective of this campaign was to prove that digital channels could extend any big ideas in innovative ways. For us, witnessing the collaboration between the legendary creatives and the bright young things was simply a joy. By applying fresh thinking, innovative creative ideas sometimes could be born out of genius adaptation. No wonder at the end of the seminar, the adland legends received a standing ovation from the audience.

Before it all becomes distant memories, what are your best bits of this year’s Cannes Festival? I like to hear from you.

I will also expand some of these themes in future blogs and apply insights from a local perspective, please join in the discussions.

A lot of people asked me about the strategy and techniques of adapting creative content for different markets. Many people think that it’s all just about language and at the most requiring some image changes. I often approach it from a very different way. I look at the strength of an idea and re-imagine how this could be manifested in different market, appealing to a different set of consumers – sometimes even tweaking it to fit into the different consumer profiles and tastes in different countries.

I came across with this latest commercial of Blackberry and thought I like to use this as a simple example to illustrate what I meant by this holistic way of adaptation.

The commercial here promotes the new features of the Blackberry Bold in a simple, product oriented way. By using an orchestra soundtrack highlighting the smoothness of the way you can navigate all the features and subtly suggesting how all the features work seamlessly together.

To adapt this, the same idea can easily be transformed brilliantly in each market with diverse culture simply by composing a soundtrack using very local musical instruments that are unique to that country – from Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Korea, Middle East, India, Africa or…even regional music such as Scottish or Irish. In fact this idea can even be elevated to create specific spot for each target segment – such as using a background music featuring opera (targeting to the posh) to hip-hop (for the much cooler community! Bring it on Jay-Z)

By doing so, you enhance the idea and not just ‘translating’ it.

With a bit of creativity, any idea can work brilliantly in each local market; and all ideas should behave just like it was created specially for the local consumers.

In future blogs I will share with you other useful techniques and approaches. I like to hear your thoughts.

If you want to take your creative ideas global, just tweet @louiechow #takingcreativityglobal

When the Coca Cola team presented the ‘Liquid and linked’ marketing communications platform at theCannesseminar this year, I could see that there were more than just a few nods among the audience.

Not only is the Coca Cola one of the most respected and iconic global brand, they are also someone who had throughout the years been able to maintain a truly cohesive brand culture. With the ‘Liquid and linked’ marketing communications, they have actually summarised beautifully one of the common themes atCannesthis year; and have in their own way, rebranded the most talked about definition of integrated marketing.

The digital media had been one of the hot topics in the past few years at Cannes. However, arguably it is only this year when everyone from clients and the creative folks have truly embraced the value and effectiveness of digital media. For creatives like us, we also see this as new playground to create compelling and engaging connections with people.

The challenge in making the most of this new model of marketing communications is how all these interconnected activities and initiatives can be effectively and strategically linked and organised; and instead of purely mist of brilliant small ideas, they should be connected and help to create the most powerful and long lasting brand, that people will remember and ultimately, building long term brand equity.

I foresee there are a few emerging trends:

Ideas need to be organised:

In the ‘Liquid and linked’ working model, there are multiple content created by multiple partners. In the traditional model where it was 30 sec centric, the TVC often takes the lead in shaping and leading the dialogue (if there were a real dialogue at all in the old days). Whereas in the truly integrated model, any kind of media can be at the very centre of the interaction. I think the way Droga5 described their winning entry for Microsoft illustrated the complexity of a truly integrated campaign:

“…The target does not differentiate online from offline, so we built the program across existing media formats and channels but in a new way that wove them together and added interactive to everything. The target audience is wary of marketing messaging and needed to use Bing technology to change any perception of it or increase overall usage. Our campaign worked across media channels in a new way and put the technology at the heart of the marketing…”

When the campaign structure is no longer a simple hierarchy, planning takes on a whole new level of challenge. The need to organise big idea and liberate everybody to do really fantastic thing in each channel is crucial. We also need to make sure all parties involved in the process can benefit from each other’s knowledge and expertise.

This can be achieved through a combination of technology (building the basic logic to the system, enabling knowledge transfer and asset sharing) but more importantly, it needs a truly visionary leadership who can mastermind a unique roadmap of the brand story.

Co-creation and collaboration is more important than ever:

Co-creation and creative collaboration is something I have been advocating for many years having worked with a network of creative talents in different countries. But now with the benefit of technology and the open-mindedness of clients, it has become a truly powerful way of working. And indeed, this means the traditional agency structure is being threatened and that’s why this year atCannes, agency roster is a huge debate and full-service agency is almost becoming outdated. Research indicated that today, global clients usually review their lead creative agency every two years. The key to keep your client is constantly being able to reinvent yourself and able to partner with a wide spectrum of creative talents. Change is the new constant has never been so true.

However, co-creation and collaboration should not be confused with crowdsourcing of creative content. I think we seem to have blurred the definition to an extent that I feel slightly uncomfortable with. Dave Alberts from Mofilm put it nicely as ‘curated crowdsourcing’ – instead of simply aggregating raw creative content from an open source, they encourage creatives to focus on a shared brand objectives and build storytelling around it.

Crowdsourcing without strategic thinking on the brand has the danger of creating communications that is simply generic to the category, and not something that builds on the brand history, vision and future direction.

New approaches in linking global content and local content:

As we increasingly strive for content that is ‘so contagious that cannot be controlled’ (in the words of the Cola Cola’s model), the traditional way of localising global campaign need to be reconsidered. Not only there is no one size fits all solution, it’s increasingly important to be able to create local content that ‘linked’ to the global platform rather than simply a versioning exercise. The new trend is global coordination and local customisation; and when we talk about customisation, we are also talking about transforming content from one media to another locally, using the most powerful way of communications in each local market.

To global brands: what kind of ‘liquid and linked’ marketing communications is suitable for you? Do you give space for your creative talents to try out new ideas that are contagiously brilliant? Are your agencies able to create content that are well-connected and ‘linked’ in the increasing complex media landscape?

To creatives: Are you still thinking in the old fashioned 30 sec centric way or are you able to approach in a media neutral manner? How connected are you with other creative talents working on different media of the campaign?

Here you can see a video archive of Coca-Cola Content 2020 presentation by Jonathan Mildenhall:

In an article on how the adland weights up the impact of the recession (Campaign, 19 September), several agency heads had shared their insights. One aspect which I think is certainly emerging from the impact of the recession is how agencies now really have to think of ways to make global campaigns work. In relation to this we can also see agency network streamlining their operation. Martin Sorrell commented that it was “ludicrous” that his company didn’t have a common back-office but that each company operates independently (Campaignlive.co.uk, 11 September). As someone who had been working on global and cross cultural campaigns for the past decade, I cannot help but stress the fact that organisation restructuring had to be accompanied with a rethink on how global campaign is created, adapted and implemented. The traditional concept of simply translating the work just from a language point of view will never work anymore and will certainly not be able to survive with the test of the time, especially in a climate where consumers think twice before they spend and will reject message that does not engage with them culturally.

It is relevant not only to creatives but everyone in the strategic team. Claire Beale already pointed out that during this year’s APG judging planners had emerged as ‘translators of global ideas into local culture’. The ‘Keep Walking’ campaign by BBH for Johnny Walker culturally adapted for the Chinese market is a perfect example.

In fact, transcreation of global campaign should not be regarded as an after thought but should be considered right from the beginning when the creative brief is written. Creative teams who are tasked in creating a campaign that will potentially go regional or global has to open up their mind and exercise their strategic thinking, not only from an execution point of view but also from a messaging point of view.

Using the much celebrated “carousel” TV campaign by Tribal DDB who has won the Cannes Film Grand Prix in 2009 as an analogy, all the technical aspects and the meticulously planned post production work had become the centre of attention; ‘special effects’ in this case is not purely a ‘post production procedure’, but has become an integral part of the big idea and was considered right from the very beginning. And that’s how the process of transcreation should be handled.

See the commercial here: