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Cannes Update: Creativity and the Case for Absolute Ambition

Geoff McGrath, MD of Starcom

On Day 3 of Cannes Geoff McGrath, MD of Starcom, shines a light on one of the key attributes of all the best work at Cannes – absolute ambition.

Trying to capture everything that Cannes has to offer in a few hundred words or even a 60-minute presentation is somewhat of an impossible ask.

But that said, there is one word that I keep coming back to. Ambition. In fact, perhaps it is more accurate to say two words – Absolute Ambition. This appears to be the thing that clearly sets apart ‘those who do’ and ‘those who never’ at Cannes.

Those Who Do

For ‘those who do’, they share an uncompromising ambition to create something that people will talk about, something that people will care about. They always seem to start with a better question – how can we benefit our culture? What can we do that will truly matter to our audience?

They also seem to approach each task from a different perspective. With each task, Creativity is the constant. No matter what they have to do or say, they will do it in the most creative manner. Creativity is never an aspiration, but rather an absolute.

‘Those who do’, they collectively celebrate the commercial and cultural potency of Creativity. They champion the link between commercial performance and creativity. In every example bar one (due to exceptional circumstances), those companies who won the Cannes Lions Creative Marketer of the Year had experienced above average stock market performance. This year’s winner, Burger King, has recorded 110% growth in share price over the past three years.

Creative Transformation

Throughout the week, there is an endless stream and ever growing book of evidence as to the partnership between creativity and commercial success. This begs the question – why don’t we all have creativity at the epicentre of our organisations. The simple answer is that it is very challenging and one that requires nothing short of 100% commitment.

In one talk from a globally respected marketer, his advice on creative transformation was to first and foremost, “fully and absolutely commit to it and once that’s done, everything else can then be worked. Don’t try to do it in reserve.”

And to finish, let me add to that. Transformation, creative or otherwise, is always uncomfortable. It should be. And if your organisation is going through a transformation because it has to, you’re too late. Do it when you’re ahead, to stay ahead. A simple fact of physics is that it is always easier to change direction when you have momentum.

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