Reflections From a Spikes Asia Jury President: Will More Good Guys Finish First at Cannes 2014?

June 11, 2014

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To experience the best of the creative best from Asia Pacific, head to Singapore for the Cannes Lions’ Spikes Festival of Creativity this September. It was my privilege in 2013 to serve as president of its PR jury and sit on the integrated jury. The bar was incredibly high. Great work was trumped by even greater work, and the artistry on display was breathtaking.

The 2013 Cannes Lions gave a preview of contenders for the Spikes Asia Festival given the excellent showing of winners from Asia Pacific – countries big and small, developed and emerging. There are certain places that continually win disproportionately more medals at Spikes – specifically Japan, India, New Zealand and Australia (not necessarily in that order, given the record success of “Dumb Ways to Die” from down under).

The ingenuity of campaigns coming from these markets is nothing short of extraordinary.

(Think Spikes PR Grand Prix winner “Driving Dogs” for Mini Cooper and shelter animals, for instance.) They share a level of risk taking, emotional appeal, use of technology, and deep insights that bring brands to life in new, globally magnetic ways. It makes me fixate on how to replicate that native creative sensibility, to tap it, export it and build on it in every market.

One can rightly argue the superiority of other creative hotbeds around the world, but the winners’ circles at both Cannes Lions and Spikes validate Asia Pacific as an undeniable global center for original and truly irresistible ideas.

The experience judging Spikes gave me an epiphany about the direction our industry is heading and the purpose of the creativity that is at the heart of everything we do. There was a trend among the most vaunted campaigns in 2013: purpose. Not just in the categories where you would expect it, but across the board.

Today’s biggest break-through campaigns are substantially growing businesses by connecting their propositions with compelling, relevant social issues while actively engaging consumers in the cause.

Shared value resonates with the “We Generation” who demand, respect and reward brands that are smart and ambitious enough to meet both business and bottom-line objectives, while also changing the world for good – by improving life, our communities, our well-being, and our future.

“Dumb Ways to Die” for Melbourne Metro Trains was uber-magnetic, meaningful, recallable and traveled further at “tweet speed” than any other safety message in modern time.

Samsung Life Insurance’s “Life Bridge” used smart technology creatively to give people hope when they most need it, reduced suicide rates and reinforced the company’s sector dominance in Korea.

Showing “actions speak loudest”, Toyota activated people to solve environmental issues they cared about most, to promote its eco-friendly Aqua in Japan and ultimately make it the #1 selling car in the country.

It’s thrilling to imagine the world if all of our creative brainpower went to changing it for the better and accelerating business.

This is our lodestar as creatives, marketeers, brand builders and story-tellers – to capture hearts and minds, boost business and contribute meaningfully to society.

One of the most exhilarating realities is that it doesn’t take a monstrous budget to produce world-changing work.

In fact, the backstory of many of the most effective, connective campaigns today suggests that the greater the obstacle – especially in the way of limited budgets – the stronger the ultimate idea and content that emerge.

So, my mantra from the Spikes experience is that every single assignment, no matter how small, is deserving of a big idea that also changes the world for good. If a campaign isn’t quite there yet, keep pushing, and pushing, and pushing, until it is.

At Cannes Lions this year, I will be keeping score of how many winners continue to prove the power of creativity for good, inspiring more and more campaigns to follow suit. This is how we can change the world.