Digging for Gold

June 22, 2017

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I watched a movie on my flight over to the Cannes Festival of Creativity. GOLD. Good movie. Matthew McConaughey is stunning. Spoiler alert, it’s a story loosely based on the 1993 Bre-X mining scandal about Kenny Wells, a gold prospector, who desperately searches for the ‘mother lode’ (he frequently drinks to that) as he goes digging for gold in the depths of the Indonesian rain forest.

Which got me thinking, as I headed to Cannes for the first time, what is behind the agency craving for Lions Gold success, (as well as Silver and Bronze) not just in the PR discipline but across the entire portfolio of communications disciplines? Yes, of course there’s the reflected glory of producing a piece of work that ranks among the world’s best in terms of creativity. But it has to be more than just an impressive addition to the email signature for 12 months.

We talk a lot about research-based, insights-led, big creative ideas that change behaviors. We also know just how hard they are to pull off. The deserving Cannes winners really are the living embodiment of achieving this. They enable us to see this in actuality. Yes we can be inspired by the winning campaigns. But we can also be educated. We can see how the unusual collaboration of a trauma surgeon, a road safety engineer and a world-renowned artist created a campaign as powerful as ‘Meet Graham’. In ‘The Impossible Signing Session’ we witness how clever use of technology can bring back a popular author to elevate the brand of an online bookstore. ‘Cheetos Museum’ shows us how true consumer engagement drives sales (and that you don’t have to have a cause-related campaign to win), while ‘Teddy Gun’ and ‘Coins of Hope’ demonstrate how going beyond communications to actually produce a thing can create a powerful visual symbol to convey an important message. Finally, in the Grand Prix winner, ‘Fearless Girl’, we can marvel at the simplicity of a brave idea perfectly timed that delivered worldwide attention to a female empowerment initiative.

But we must not merely stand in awe. Just as in prospecting for gold we must dig. And dig deep. Dig deep to see how these campaigns were crafted. Dig deep to seize every possible opportunity to deliver that same level of creative thinking. Not just for the possibility to strike gold. But to bring clever, creative, brilliant solutions to our clients. To take our agency, and ourselves, to another level.

For me, being involved in helping to develop our entry submissions over the past few years has been an education in itself. And I’m still learning. Interrogating our best campaigns around the world, breaking them down to reveal the insight behind and crafting an entry to capture their essence in just a two-minute case film, has brought clarity to my own approach to big idea thinking. Reverse-engineering a campaign idea by mapping it out as though developing the chapters of the eventual award submission, has helped me to crystallize and push my thinking further.

By engaging in and embracing Cannes Lions and setting this as our benchmark for creativity is mission critical in taking our agency forward as a leader in today’s new world of PR. In the movie, McConaughey’s ultimate killer line is, “It was never about the money. It was about the gold.” For us, “It isn’t just about the gold. It’s about the work.”