Last week i was at Cannes. Came back a different person. Apparently i’m a bit of a rebel because i like to question and fight back. The recurring theme at Cannes this year was fighting – for the originality, disruption and brilliance of our idea. So that was welcome validation.
Too many awesome ideas get diluted into an impotent shadow of themselves because we’ve become too spineless to stand for an idea. We wonder where the next pay check will come from if we lose the clients. Result? Many very talented creatives are sitting around in big agencies doing the worst work of their lives because politics and kissing behind is more important to their organization than actually doing good work. Much less great work.
So then we look for validation in the fact that the clients are just difficult or “the idea was too advanced for the audience… our audience is special… the African audience is more literal” – B.S. as George Lois eloquently put it. You can go full circle, waste away your best years and ideas before coming to this realization, or you can learn from the experience of those who have done it. Tham Khai Meng, Amir Kassaei and Stephane Xiberras were enough to make me choose the latter.
Globally, the industry is turning around, it needs to; that sentiment was clear. We need to capitalize on our ability to create cultural and marketing shifts. But here we’re still comfortable. The work is bland. It’s similar. We’re afraid to dare. Everyone is walking around with egos based on nothing. Especially this new generation of “advertisers”. What have we truly achieved in Ghana to warrant an ego? There are ads that ran 20 years ago here, that had more appeal and memorability than what we see today. So unless the “audience” has gotten dumber over the last 20 years, it’s time to squash that excuse [never mind that Ogilvy squashed it 50 years ago] and move on.
People in advertising are problem solvers. Creative consultants with the power to change perception and behaviour. We can toy with emotions, we can shape opinions, we can create monopolies. But we can’t do any of that by being afraid to think, experiment or take risks. Clients are supposed to be difficult, that what makes this so interesting. Sell a transformational idea that scares everyone including yourself, get the client to buy it, produce it and run it, let the client marvel at your brilliant foresight [or sheer instinct, whichever works], and then perhaps you can grow an ego. Perhaps.
I’ve never been happier about Bloom and the team and work we’ve started to do than i was last week. To hear ad legends applaud the idea was motivational. But to get advice, lists of regrets and do not’s from men i’ve revered from afar for so long, was priceless.
If we want to be taken serious internationally, it’s time to elevate the work. For everyone’s sake. Hopefully when B! shows the way, more people will follow. I’d like to see African creatives on that stage next year with a Lion in their hands.
Over the next couple of posts i’ll share some things that really struck me at Cannes.