Cannes Lions Live: What COVID-19 crisis means for creativity?

Mark Read, David Droga, Jean Lin, Lorraine Twohill and Steve Stoute came together for the discussion

e4m by Misbaah Mansuri
Published: Jun 26, 2020 8:57 AM  | 8 min read

On Day 4 of Cannes Lions Live, all eyes were on the session featuring Cannes Lions Chairman Philip Thomas leading a debate with five industry leaders from across the globe on how our industry will emerge amidst the humanitarian and economic crisis that the world is grappling with. It brought the likes of Jean Lin, Global CEO - Creative, Dentsu Aegis Network and Global Executive Chairman, Isobar; Mark Read, CEO, WPP; Lorraine Twohill, Google’s Chief Marketing Officer; David Droga, Founder and Creative Chairman of Droga5; and Steve Stoute, Founder and CEO of UnitedMasters and Translation, discussing subjects like creativity amidst Covid 19, clients and the green shoots of the opportunity the situation has brought in.
The panel said that the situation has brought in a great deal of upheaval in the way the industry is working. An optimistic Droga remarked that creativity is actually flourishing through these trying times and finding its ways to manifest itself. He however hinted that its the industry’s business model that might require reboot.
“I don't really think creativity is under threat. But I think what's happened in the last three months is that it’s felt like three years in the natural evolution of business and client confidence. So I think people were just trying to regain their balance but I feel like each client has a different level of confidence. However business goes on, expectation goes on and there has never been a greater need for creativity. And I think what's going to be under duress is the business model of the industry, not the creativity of the industry. And that's where it's gonna get really interesting,” he stated.
Read observed, “In a crisis, the short-term aspect of it makes it harder. But when we come out the other side, actually there's going to be a flourishing of creativity in many many different ways that this situation has brought through."
When asked when she thinks CMOs around the world will be able to commission just regular advertising without taking difficulties into account, Twohill opined that the ongoing situation is a rather interesting one and is something she feels that the industry must hold on to even in the post-pandemic reality.
“I think it's a new reality, what we've just all been through these crazy past few months were really a catalyst. I've seen from my team, which I'm really proud of, that we're doing work now in days and weeks that we've done over weeks and months. So I think what I've learned through all of this is just how fast we can move, the agility and creativity. I actually want to think about how do we not lose this incredibly new fast fluid way of working and incredible creativity as we come out of this, and life feels a bit more normal again? So I think there's so much we can do to learn through this and come out stronger,” she explained.
The industry leaders stressed on the need for substance and authenticity when it comes to dishing out purpose-led campaigns. Lin explained, “I believe, increasingly more and more agency groups will be responsible for helping clients to thrive in the long term.That means that we have to fulfill consumers' unmet needs and create shared value but at the same time, make the world a better place. This is what consumer demand brands to do and this is what their employees demand employers to be. This is the linkage between the feeling of what you say you're doing and why you do, because now it's a more connected and transparent world. People can clearly verify whether what you say and what you do, are the same thing. So increasingly, for businesses to thrive, this becomes such an important element that you have to absolutely get right in order to move to the next layer.”
Twohill added, “It really is about who you are. As a company, you think now more than ever. Your sense of purpose as a company or your mission as a company needs to shine through your work, and you need to be transparent about who you are, what your values are, what you stand for, your point of view, and having a point of view in your work I think has always been very important. I think now more than ever having a point of view in your work is really important.”
Stroute shared that he was proud of the ad campaign rolled out by Levi’s on the diversity conversation. “The brand said look, you got us with the wrong and acknowledged that we need to do this better, we need to do that better like and that we're not hiring well enough, bullets on it, and you can publish it. I think every brand and every agency needs an African American strategy based on society's norms that it has to be measurable, and has to be published. I think that's first and foremost, one of the things that is going to be expected,” he opined.
Droga opined that what he misses about going to work is the environment, the alchemy that comes with people, coexisting and creating around each other. He believes that being in an office environment is something that actually gives young creatives a chance to learn a lot more than what one can over a Zoom call. “Creativity is a collision culture. It’s not a linear thing so I do worry a tiny bit that the jousting and the ricocheting off one another that you do when you're in an office environment, might be compromised, but I don't think people's ambitions for creativity or the motivation to want to be right and work hard is gone. The only thing I worry about in this new reality is more than is just for young people not getting the opportunity to be around other people in their office and just see and hear how people work and make decisions and listen to conversations they probably shouldn't be.
That is how people grow and mentor, not just one on one, but being an environment where you see an ecosystem, something that you’ll never get that in a Zoom call,” he argued.
Thought leaders pointed out that the new way of working over Zoom calls has helped break the hierarchy barriers. “I've reviewed work on zoom calls and yeah it's not as good as reviewing it in person, but you know it's not actually as bad and there's a sort of theory that the hierarchy disappears. So classically when you review work, you are depending on the type of company you work for. The more senior person speaks at the beginning because they want to tell others what to do. A Zoom call eliminates that hierarchy factor,” Read shared.
Stoute too echoed the sentiment that hierarchy has gotten diminished as a result of using Zoom and other collaborative tools. “In order to work together, it's forced people to work harder than ever before arriving at solving a problem. The other thing you have that's added to that is, I don't think you've ever had a more motivated workforce.This is an environment where people really don't want to lose their job or lose any sense of opportunity. So, even though people are working from home, they are working harder than ever because you want to show their value and contribute to the company even during these times,” he remarked.
Speaking about the way of working, Read said that flexibility is going to be a norm, even for some months ahead. He feels that the situation has not led to loss of creativity but has actually encouraged flourishing of collaboration. “Yes, we obviously will need to get back to working from our offices. But we're always also going to be working in a much more flexible way. By the time, we get back to normal, we would have forgotten what normal is like. But I think when it comes to collaboration, this pandemic has forced collaboration in new ways to force collaboration. Maybe not enough between countries but between people and people have made on their own some massive sacrifices,” he expounded.
Droga added that he loves the fact that the new reality that's hopefully gonna come out of this is superficial creativity is going to be less relevant. “You know I feel like it's going to put the onus much more of a substance, and strategy of what we put out into the world. I feel like there's more emphasis on genuine creativity, and we're problem solvers,” he exclaimed.

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