Inspiration inside the box

One word I’ve heard a few too many times last week at the Cannes Lions Festival is ‘creativity.’ The reason for this is that in 2011 the organization changed the name of the festival from “Festival of Advertising” into “Festival of Creativity.” Why would they do that, I wondered. Well, the most obvious advantage is that the festival can introduce a new category almost every year. As long as there’s some creativity involved, you can now, under the new name, add it to the festival.

So it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that this year there was a new record of 35,675 entries. With entry-fees ranging from €435 (print), €700 (film), and €1275 (integrated), that’s quite some turnover – already before the festival has even started. What’s more, with more entries, you attract more people to the festival. So, eventually the festival makes more and more money. As Dan Wieden put it in Shotsmagazine, the festival has become a “money-making machine”.

There’s another reason for ditching the word ‘advertising.’ The word is out of fashion. Today we rather talk about ‘digital,’ ‘social media,’ and ‘apps.’ But whether we like it or not, we are still in the business of advertising. After all, it’s all about conveying a message to the public – even if we’re building a branded app or innovating someone’s products.

I am not saying the festival shouldn’t embrace digital – it should. I am just saying that in the best case, we live in a world of applied creativity. We are not autonomous artists; 99% of the time we simply sell our creative brain to the client who tells us to make the logo bigger. And that’s why last week I’ve learned more from ad legend George Lois telling me how to fight for an idea, or Heineken CMO Alexis Nasard explaining how he works so successfully with his creative agencies, than from P. Diddy who says that music is like a religion or Lou Reed talking about politics.

Making a festival grow until it’s this huge monster attracting not just visitors from the ad world, but also from any other world that’s – ironically – not necessarily very creative, will make the festival as bland as a brand that keeps introducing brand extensions, without having a clear focus.

I love going to Cannes – I still do. And I do get inspired. But Cannes should not forget it’s a festival about advertising. Cause when we return to our daily jobs this week, most of us are confronted again with ramshackle brands, incomplete briefs, stubborn clients, and budgets that refrain us from really making an impact. Cannes should focus on inspiring us to overcome these obstacles. Because for inspiration – another buzz word in Cannes – outside the box, you do not have to go to Cannes; it is everywhere.