Last year, the closing address at Cannes singled out India as the ‘Awakening Giant of Creativity.’ Words that were not out of place, considering we had bludgeoned our way to double our previous best performance at the festival.
From a few years back, when even a finalist ranking at the show was enough to get you a job of your asking, we were suddenly sitting atop a record haul of 50+ finalists, 20 odd Lions and some of the heaviest metal to have ever landed this side of the Himalayas. A tally that was close to almost all our previous years put together.
This year however, the concept of nationhood ranks way down on the creative firmament here at Cannes. Far more ominous giants have awakened across the world and erstwhile creative foes have begun closing ranks against a common enemy.
It’s the ‘R’ word of course, that’s on everyone’s lips. And amidst much bravado about these recessionary times being the true test of global creativity, there seems to be a tacit understanding that the world of communication as we know it is unlikely to be the same again.
Will it get better? Depends on one’s definition of ‘better’. Will it get more challenging? Probably, it will. Will creativity have a role at all? I don’t think we have a choice.
For global think-tanks are increasingly coming around to the view that perhaps the only remaining way to shake off the current crisis may well be a spark of savage lateral brilliance - something that can never come out of the world of order. And with all the rigor of logic and rationale struggling to find an escape route, turning to pure inspiration may not seem out of turn.
Creativity after all, has a track record that’s manifested itself in areas far more diverse than communication. And that’s the big trend, if ever there was one in this year’s work. The bubbling undercurrent of creative thinking is now spilling over to inventing new markets, new media, product line diversification and even the future of the planet.
And thankfully, there is mounting evidence of this truism in the work on display. There are a number of ideas here that have the power to be extended, converted and even patented. Signs that the first generation of global creative talent, weaned on a diet of multiple media options has finally come of age.
This is good news for the advertising agency model because it will attract more and more talent that’s driven by the media-agnostic idea rather than the heritage mantras of print and TV. It was heartening, the number of times we jury members are taken up by the plural potential of a strong film idea, only to find it already taken across several disciplines culminating in the Integrated category.
This is new thinking. This is brave thinking. This is unusual thinking. And we must all hope and ensure that it is not sacrificed at the altar of a short deadline or a limited mind.
It is also proof that creativity is no longer being employed to address a communication brief alone. But is also called upon to solve budgetary constraints, time deadlines, media fragmentation, social inertia, product life cycles and more. With much success, I might add.
Personally, I have witnessed two great purges in my advertising career in India. Both came upon us simultaneously and coincidentally at a time when the country itself was opening itself up to the world.
One was the death of linguistic skills masquerading as the hallmark of creativity. The second was the arrival of film as a dominant medium of communication. Much like Indian cricket, which first lost the golden handcuffs of its spin heritage and simultaneously saw the arrival of high-class batsmanship as its dominant face.
Both it seems, are set uncannily for the next big change.