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.