Cannes Lions has come and gone like the whirlwind it is.
The work is what we do, and the work is what we love – but why do we do it?
As with all advertising questions, the answer is ‘it depends.’ One answer is more certain than others, which is that ‘it starts and ends with people.’
A lot of what we do is for our customers (for shareholders is a more cynical take). A lot of how we do it is dependent on smart, talented, and often overworked people. And yet, against a backdrop of technological innovation and economic hardship, shiny new toys increasingly dominate Adland’s zeitgeisty bubble. AI was brought up so many times throughout the week that, by Thursday, the term was greeted with a titter of exasperated laughter.
Innovation and creativity are so deeply intertwined with Adland’s output that it’s not surprising that novel technologies overshadow employee burnout and a cost of living crisis. Companies that have ridden a recent wave of innovation to achieve seemingly outrageous scale may be exciting, but we can learn a lot more from the companies that have survived for over a century.
After all, they’ve survived multiple waves of technological innovations and social upheavals.
And often, those lessons can be reduced to serving customers.
Barilla, founded in 1877, aims to deliver “the joy of food for a better life”. Recently, we interviewed Mariama Kamanda, the Global Head of Analytics at Barilla, on delivering creative transformation to improve consumer experience.
A winner of two Cannes Lions awards this year, Barilla recognized that evolving privacy laws and consumer media habits meant their brands needed new rules for data governance, as well as holistic marketing measurement frameworks to better understand the impact of their media and creative choices.
“One of the key things we wanted to do was ensure that all our assets for marketing and for the brand were fit for purpose wherever they ended up… And that's where CreativeX for us fits in so well with our strategy because CreativeX doesn't dictate to us what should be in our assets. What it does do, however, is ensure that we are making assets that are best for the platform that they're going on.”
The ads that succeeded at Cannes, and the companies behind them put consumers at the heart of their work. Whether it was providing education, highlighting social issues, or just putting a smile on people’s faces, it’s clear that creative excellence is, and always has been, about serving consumers.
The home of creative excellence is less a place or a moment in time, but rather the people that make Adland great.
It would take an especially strong pair of rosé-tinted glasses to ignore the strain producing great work can put on the life and blood of this industry. Sure, Generative AI might help, but ultimately this is, has, and will always be a people business.
So far – and the talk of Cannes – Generative AI has proven to be an excellent way to waste time. Tom Goodwin points out that AI won’t take jobs, it will take tasks. Throughout history, technology has typically created more jobs than it displaced. Authors and publishers contended, at its peak, that Xeroxing (photocopying) would replace books and then writing itself. It didn’t, but it did affect copyright law. History repeats itself.
If strategy is inventing the future, and imagination is the required strategic laxative, then we need to ensure we feed that imagination with a wide range of inputs and a healthy dose of reality. Because, the reality is that for all the “disruption” the industry sees, businesses usually fall victim to poor management or competitive, lateral moves from similarly large businesses. The ones that last are usually the ones that focus on serving their customers and keeping the best people.
History is littered with discarded shiny-new toys. Slow ideas are just as important as innovations that spread fast. If anything, slow ideas are better because they take people talking to people.
So, take the long view, love the work, but don’t forget to love the people too.