How often do we pause and ponder about industry issues that have a bearing beyond just our rigmaroles? Share insights that can further the common understanding? Or, at the very least, point at things that need to be set right. View Point - an exchange4media platform, will fill this void and become a source of understanding, action and perhaps some inspiration.
Cannes of creativity (no worms need apply)!
Ashish Misra, Vice-President Marketing, Katra Liquor
I am just coming out of a workshop on leadership development. One of the key messages of the trainer was that we focus on the positive and drain the negative out of the system. The biggest negative that inflicts my otherwise positive thinking -- and this infliction turns into a rash around this time of the year -- is the presence of the Indian advertising contingent at Cannes.
I hate to think of the fun, bonhomie and advertising I missing out in those fine climes (there I got that out of the way)!
There are two reasons why I hate the cavorting of our aspiring upper-middle classes in the seaside playground of the ‘been there, done that and got the T-shirt’ lot. The first and most important reason, of course, is that I am not there. I can almost see myself in Cannes, in a James Bondesque mode, hand in tuxedo pocket, filet mignon in mouth, and glass of Dom Perignon in hand with my eyes fixed firmly on Europgnon beauty as she sashays by. But let me lift my sensibilities beyond crass, selfish considerations (an important tenet from the book of the leadership trainer).
The second reason is what really drives my aforementioned rash-inflicted person to the computer keyboard. And that reason is this: Cannes can provide lessons beyond the obvious in the management and motivation of budding creative talent.
But first, being an avowed advocate of research in advertising, I asked representatives of our creative and research agencies to list down what in their perception were the drivers of who got to Cannes (and, therefore, through inverse logic, who didn’t). I must confess that the findings may be a trifle coloured as the respondents had to be the ones who got left behind even as the Lords of Indian advertising took two of each kind on the ark to Cannes. Anyway, this is what emerged:
· The suits come first: Conventional wisdom dictates that creative people are by definition, well, creative. They really don’t need any more of this creativity thing. It’s actually the agency heads, client servicing heads, account planning heads and even accounting heads that need the gentle waves of creativity to lap at their Gucci encased feet. So that doesn’t leave room for too many creative people except from a few agencies where the barrier zones of differentiation between the oh-so-creative, creative and not-so-creative have completely imploded.
· Look what I can do with my fat lips and my long pink tongue: Okay, okay, I take that back. The lips have nothing to do with this trip to Cannes. According to the feedback received, the name on the ticket jacket to Cannes belongs to the victor of the I-went-to-the corner-office-and-made-the-loudest-slobbering-noise sweepstakes. The longest tongue wins but that’s not so new, is it? The longer and more slippery it is, I am told, the farther from these shores the person gets!
· He who goes once goes again (and she isn’t free of blame either): The sum of this finding is that he who hasn’t been there knows what he misses, but having been there once he desperately wants to get there again. This is borne out by the reports in the advertising and marketing oriented media penned by these very same ‘multiple-entry visas’. They were there last year, they are there now, and except for minor unforeseen accidents, will be writing in from Cannes next year as well.
Having done the research let’s see what could happen if ‘real creative people’ went to Cannes. And by real people I mean younger, brighter, hungrier people who will actually take Indian advertising global as opposed to merely injecting the local idiom into a global communication context. It is important to recognize, in a brief moment of lucidity, that the role of today’s advertising leaders is to prepare younger talent for globally versatile creativity and management.
Who Cannes go?
I do not know exactly at which cloud level Andy Law and St Luke stack up currently on the creative firmament but here is what he said about the currency of creativity: “We force everyone to live in the moment. Take one small but important example. Advertising companies show reels of commercials when they make pitches to prospective clients. The reels are samples of past work; they can be as old as you like. But nine times out of ten, we show reels from only the last three months. The oldest reel we would show -- if, for instance, we needed to make a specific point -- would be six months old. We would never show a seven-month-old reel, even if it was great work. This pushes people to the limits very fast.”
My view, unsolicited as usual, is that the hand behind the hottest advertising over the last nine months (note the subtle allusion to the metaphor of birth in creativity) in your agency gets to hold that iced drink in the plane to Cannes. Long tongues in suits and other brokers please excuse!
And who can’t!
Anne Field, in a ‘Harvard Business Review’ article, wrote that there were eight anchors around which people like us to organize our lives and careers. Just to seem more erudite than I can ever claim to be, I am listing these anchors here: Functional competence, general management competence, autonomy/independence, security/stability, entrepreneurial creativity, sense of service, pure challenge and lifestyle. You must have guessed where I am going with this: If you don’t have functional competence, entrepreneurial creativity or love pure challenge, you are not getting on this plane to Cannes (culture is everything, the Zen master spake).
Laying down the Law
To go back to Andy Law one last time, he said: “People scream out for individual mentoring, which has replaced conventional management in many ways.” And if the flip side of mentoring is direction setting and motivation (as the leadership coach underlined), the task seems clear.
Cannes is the new Normandy (it’s not a place from where you bring back dead ideas to tout as fresh local produce). And the true creative guys need help to claw their way back to those beaches against the artillery onslaught of incremental managers. And for God’s sake enough of the Bronze animals – let’s go for Gold.
That brings me back to my envy ridden frustrations. The way I see it, before the real men took control of the beaches, the coconut trees were overrun with monkeys. That can only mean that better men and ideas are on their way. And their delivery has to be in the hands of the leaders of today. Meanwhile, I am going back to reading a travelogue (who needs sand in his swimsuit anyway)!