Published in Jul-Aug 2022
Two years after the pandemic stalled everything, Cannes Lions was back. And with fervour. There was joy all around as people connected again, shedding their Zoom screens. I was fortunate to be there and experience this amazing comeback. Here are the 22 learnings I brought back.
1 Creativity continues to thrive, regardless of what crisis is thrown at it. Even a war won’t stop it. Many campaign entries from Ukraine did very well and a Grand Prix was awarded to an entry that is backing Ukrainian landmarks. What’s your excuse?
2 Cannes Lions has stepped into a truly international zone, with multiple new countries doing well. An Indian agency was awarded the Agency of the Year prize for the first time. It’s not impossible for any country.
3 The work gets better and better and that is a very good reason to come visit. If you don’t know what the best work looks like, how will you want to make it?
4 There is no substitute to experiencing a powerful person speaking directly to you. There is an energy to that person that you absorb. Take Malala, for instance, who spoke this year while being awarded the LionHeart Award for bravery.
5 Gen Z does not care about your promises on how you will fix the world or how you are raising awareness. They want to see you in action fixing things. That usually comes with some sort of sacrifice.
6 Brands like Nike operate on a simple premise: “Fear is not a concern.” If you are fearful, you will not create greatness. Look at your work. If you are creating mediocrity, it is because you are afraid. 7 Work is not everything. You have to connect with the people you work with. You have to stop to enjoy the rain too.
8 Without craft, you are nothing. The most brilliant idea in the world will be wasted if you don’t craft it properly, give it the attention it needs, and the detailing it deserves.
9 There will always be people who will put down Cannes Lions. It’s not perfect, sure. But where else will you find so much good work in one place?
10 Data continues to inform marketers. But data will always be incomplete without a creative person finding the correct application for it. I feel this will never change.
11 The best work is scaled up, crafted to perfection, and always, always, always, generates an impactful outcome, whether in sales or in changing the world.
12 It’s okay if you want to use creativity to save the world – just make sure it is a genuine attempt. Your intent will show in the work.
13 Creatives develop their best work when they are not working. If you are a manager and you cram every single second of their working day with tasks, you are not managing creatives.
14 The topic of sustainability will only become more and more relevant. If you are ignoring this, you’ll have to watch your competitors win first.
15 How you grow talent will be key to how well you retain or attract it. Good talent has little patience for workplaces that do not benefit them.
16 Creatives answer more than just a brand’s communication needs – they are actively involved in business decisions that lead to successful transformations. Open your brand and your business to your agency.
17 The best agency-brand relationships are those which operate with mutual respect. If you are treating your agency like a slave-house that will say yes to all your biddings, you should step out of the eighties.
18 Don’t give up. This is the oldest cliché, but boy is it true. Ryan Reynolds took 10 years to get somebody to say yes to Deadpool.
19 Stay humble. You may be winning today, but the day after Cannes Lions week is over, we all start at zero until next year.
20 B2B does not have to be Boring to Boring. You are humans talking to humans. Make it interesting.
21 Engagement through an emotional connection is everything. If you are not emotionally connecting, you are making ads. People hate ads.
22 Find the right people who share similar goals. If you’re somebody who wants to win a Cannes Lion, but are working with people who don’t get it, get out.
Ali Rez is Chief Creative Officer, BBDO Worldwide – Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan. He has won 27 Cannes Lions, including Grand Prix. firstname.lastname@example.org