June 28, 2011
“Can Creativity be Taught?” was the question Fast Company posed in Teressa Iezzi’s story about the first-ever Cannes Creative Academy for Young Marketers. I am not sure if creativity can be taught, but I know for sure that we can teach brand leaders how to inspire others, and to radically improve the creative output of their teams.
I just returned from the 58th annual Cannes International Festival of Creativity, the largest gathering of brand, marketing, and creativity thought leaders in the world. It was my eighth visit to the Festival, and the first one as Dean of the new Academy for Young Marketers. Thirty young marketers were chosen from companies around the world: they represented the best young talent in our business. They came from companies like SAB/Miller, Visa, HSBC, P&G, Kraft, Dell, Unilever, Beiersdorf, Yum!, MTS Telecomm, Emap and Azerfon.
The goal of our Academy was to help the young leaders acquire skills, tools and inspiration to get Cannes “Grand Prix” level creative work (i.e., advertising, design, public relations) on their brands. (A Grand Prix award in Cannes is the highest distinction for creative work on a business or for a non-profit.) We know from lots of data that the higher the creative level of the work, the higher the probability it will accelerate growth on a business. A new book, “The Case for Creativity,” by James Hurman makes a fresh case for creativity as the key element to drive business.
The format of our week-long Academy was highly interactive, a mixture of small group discussions with industry thought leaders like Tim Armstrong, large group sessions at the Festival with speakers like Malcolm Gladwell, John Hegarty and Arianna Huffington, and workshops to apply their learning. The feedback from the 30 leaders was overwhelming — several saying it was life-changing. So I think we at the Academy met our learning goal with them, what I did not expect was what I learned from them.
I learned, or re-learned, the power of caring. These 30 young leaders deeply want to care about their brands, their companies, their communities, each other. When this is encouraged, activated, they will do amazing things. I saw it in the workshops, I heard it at breaks, yes I even heard it over the end-of-day glass of rosé that is a ritual at Cannes. Imagine the power of this when they go back to their brands this week! Our role as senior leaders is to unleash the “caring,” and I think the most fundamental thing we can do is to discover and activate the higher ideal, or purpose, behind each brand. That provides the inspiration and framework for people like these young leaders to do amazing things.
Jean-Marie Dru, Chairman of TBWA Worldwide, closed our Academy last Saturday with his 10 principles to become better leaders of brands and the creative process. His first principle: Stand for Something Big. He encouraged the “students” to think about how they can change the world with their brands, to not be shy, to think bold. It was the perfect closure to the perfect week.