LIONS Live: Stories left untold

Big Names answering Big Questions

LIONS Live: Stories left untold

If you are or have been working in advertising, chances are you heard about the Cannes Lions—affectionately shortened to Cannes.

Maybe you've made your way to La Croisette, visited the Palais and saw inspiring work and talks by industry leaders. Attended a fancy rooftop dinner, sipped from your cocktail on one of the beaches and a few hours later, ended up in the Gutter Bar. All clichés aside—Cannes Lions is the most important moment for the global media, marketing & advertising industry to come together, do business and celebrate creative work.

The last time WeTransfer made an appearance dates back to 2016, when we hosted one of those epic parties that everyone kept talking about for the years that followed. This year would have been our comeback but as with many things, COVID-19 put a stop to our initial plans. While mourning the would-have-beens, the team at Cannes Lions invited us to be part of their digital endeavour called LIONS Live.

"LIONS Live was born out of the desire to support our global community in times for which no playbook exists and where we can no longer rely on existing logic or experience. There was a real appetite for a platform where the world’s creative community could share ideas, problem solve and take some time to reflect and reset." - Simon Cook, MD Cannes Lions

After (almost) everything was said and done, Cannes Lions and WeTransfer partnered to find answers to the unfinished Q&As with some of your top-rated speakers, including BBDO’s Josy Paul, Isobar’s Jean Lin, Google’s Lorraine Twohill and Framestore’s Mike McGee. As these experts shed light on new ideas and trends, we’ve provided additional commentary from our Chief Advertising Officer, Natascha Chamuleau. Natascha explores 'what to think about next' based on insights from our Ideas Report, alongside commentary from LIONS' Head of Awards, Susie Walker and Managing Director, Simon Cook.

The dialogue will continue for as long as you have questions to ask.

This post contains a selection of all questions answered. You can read the full report here.

On Brand Activism

Richard Curtis

In a world calling out for systematic change, Project Everyone hosted a discussion about how we can all become individual activists to support The Global Goals and build back better. Here, Gail Gallie, Project Everyone’s Co-founder, and Film Writer & Director Richard Curtis respond to your questions on brand activism.

What is the best form of activism? Can some activism set causes back, rather than bring progress?

Richard: All forms of activism play an important role in influencing and creating change. The most important thing is to strategise with everyone in mind. For example, If amazing change was happening at a political level, but nothing at all on a grassroots level, that wouldn't create the best possible outcome. Activists might be doing their work with the best of intentions, but are not focused on collaboration. This may not, necessarily, set causes back, but is likely to be less effective and therefore hinder progress.

Do you think that, in these financially difficult times, corporate activism will be put on the backburner?

Gail Gallie

Gail: That certainly would have been the expectation in the past. However, COVID-19 has actually exacerbated the need for companies to stand up and take a lead on societal issues as there has been increased attention paid to their reaction to the crisis. When the Black Lives Matter protests picked up that incredible momentum after George Floyd’s death, companies were quick to respond and silence became, in itself, a statement. Corporate activism is definitely on an upward trajectory, but companies must ensure they are putting in place the systemic actions in their businesses to back up their public statements or be prepared to be hit with consumer boycotts and employee walkouts.

Natascha: I’m excited to see a growing corporate awareness about social issues and sustainable growth coming out of this pandemic. We—and by that I mean “us” on an individual, business and societal level—are beginning to realise just how connected we are. With this growing awareness, we’re broadening our sense of responsibility beyond our own people. Organisations woke up to the fact that we’re in this together. If you don’t step up, consumers have every right to criticise you as they walk away. The question of how you want to show up as a brand has become more important than ever.

Simon Cook

Simon: Brand purpose has been an important theme at Cannes Lions for many years now and in 2019 we saw this evolve into activism. We’ve seen brands taking a stand on multiple social justice issues, using creativity to engage the public in plight: from repurposing a porn magazine to highlight gender inequality and selling tampons via a book to reform sexist tax discrimination, to printing a blank newspaper to spotlight political corruption. Looking at last year's Grand Prix-winners, 38% were orientated towards fighting for wider societal change on a current issue.

On Industry Changes

2020 has seen businesses shift at a pace and scale like never before. The LIONS Live Debate tackled pertinent questions on creativity - talent, business models and future approaches to creativity. Here, Chief Marketing Officer of Google, Lorraine Twohill, respond to your unanswered questions on how we can brace the industry for more change.

What will the creative approach look like post Covid-19?

Lorraine Twohill

Lorraine: The elements that make really great work have always been the same and that will never change. Great work is great work. That being said, good creative has always leaned on truth and shared experience and, right now, there is more of that than ever. Although everyone has experienced Covid-19 differently, we are living through a unique shared experience, which gives us more inspiration for powerful storytelling that resonates with people. In addition to that, Covid-19 has introduced so much chaos and new information into our lives, and people’s time is so valuable. I think that will lead to an increased focus on the messages that really matter in creative work. And, ultimately, to more human work.

Natascha: Creatives tend to adapt well when it comes to change. So when Covid-19 accelerated change, the industry responded with new ventures, original ideas and thoughtful reflection. With doubt being the only certainty, some found it easier to take risks or think differently and I think we’re better off as a result. A recurring theme in our annual Ideas Report is discovering where inspiration comes from. In 2018, the results showed real life experiences—like traveling, talking to friends, and visiting galleries — were the main drivers. Digital experiences just didn’t live up to their potential (yet). There’s a real need to build better online spaces for idea generation. Has a global pandemic accelerated the creation of these spaces, or are they still hit-and-miss? Where did we turn to fuel our creativity during lockdown? These are the questions we asked in this year's report — keep an eye out for the results on 2 December 2020.

On Creative Talent

Josy Paul

In one of the most highly rated sessions at LIONS Live, Josy Paul gave a raw and honest account of his career journey and shared how the more he’s brought his whole self to work, the more it’s enhanced his creativity. Josy talked openly about failure, rejection and embarrassment and how by embracing them, you can create celebrated agencies, cultures and work. Here, Josy Paul, Chairman and Chief Creative Officer of BBDO India, responds to your questions on how to seek out creative talent and how to adjust your creative approach.

What are you looking for when hiring creative talent? What stands out in a creative portfolio?

Josy: The truth is that you hire people, not portfolios. You are looking for difference, you’re looking for diversity. You’re looking for people who can bring you new influences and new backgrounds so that your work can be richer. And often a portfolio may not reflect that, because the portfolio tells you about the past. The person tells you about the future.

Natascha: It’s interesting to see doubt arise from our research as an instrumental part of the creative process. Before pursuing an idea, 25% of the creatives we spoke to question whether they have the right skills to pull it off, while 13% ask if they’re the right person for the job. There’s a fine line between reasonable doubt and self-limiting beliefs. If you’re a creative leader, it’s part of your responsibility to foster the creative development of emerging talent. To give them space to do their best work— within your agency or outside. I love that Josy says you hire people, not portfolios. Even, or maybe especially, with a fast-growing independent workforce, building relationships and giving opportunities to diverse creatives is paramount to expanding your horizon and improving the quality of the work.

On Creative Confidence

Trevor Robinson

Multi-Lion-winner Quiet Storm’s Founder and Creative Director Trevor Robinson’s ‘What I’ve Learnt’ film was another open and sincere account of what he had discovered on his journey through creativity. He explored how to become more aware of who you are, and how to use this knowledge to fuel your thinking. Here, he responds to your questions on finding your creative confidence and trusting your ideas.

What’s your take on creatives being jack of all trades vs just having a “speciality”?

Trevor: I can only answer for myself and I am a jack of all trades as I love directing and love the process of making commercials. Sometimes, I can be all over the shop but I enjoy what I do and hopefully people like my work too. Am I greedy? I think you need to do what you enjoy and if this falls across multiple areas then so be it, I can’t judge others.

Simon: It’s evident that there is no right or wrong way to “do creativity” or “be creative”. Trevor, Josy and the other leading creatives that shared their perspectives in the LIONS Live What I’ve Learnt series talked of the approaches that work for them and something else entirely might work for you. It’s a lifelong commitment and one that’s boosted by support from a diverse community who are similarly committed in their pursuit of creative excellence. It’s a beautiful and often nebulous process.

In this age of uncertainty we are even more certain of its value in the business. But of course, others will always need convincing. And how can we quantify the value of creativity when measuring it is still an inexact science?

How do you know your idea is good enough to believe in it?

Trevor: You know it when you start kicking around ideas. When you share it and hear it back, you can start to get a strong idea of whether it will have an effect out in the world. That’s what's going to get my brother to approach me and ask me: “did you do that?”

Natascha Chamuleau

Natascha: We tend to believe good ideas just happen to the lucky few we call “creative”. That you either think outside the box or you don’t. But our research shows it’s actually more of a numbers game; you just need more ideas than you think. Most people (72%) end up using half or less of their ideas. So instead of thinking ourselves away from idea generation, we should focus on sharing ideas and making them better together. When it comes to ideas, more actually is better.

All this talking about Cannes Lions got you thirsty? The second season of LIONS Live starts on Monday, October 19th. Instead of rosé and sunscreen, heat of the glühwein. Trade your flip-flops for cuddly slippers and tune in via LIONS Live.