Guest Article: Cannes 2013: Creativity, collaborations and respect

By Dheeraj Sinha , Grey India, Cannes | In Advertising | June 25, 2013
While creativity is no more a combination of some smart lines with fancy visuals or a 30-second film, collaborations and changing approaches have also added a new dimension to the business of communication.

I can see two distinct worlds at the Cannes festival this year. One is the world of Lions - the precious awards that the festival is largely known for. This world of awards recognises creativity within the ambit of advertising (largely) clubbed under categories such as television, radio, cyber and so on - some more traditional and almost outdated than the others.

Dheeraj Sinha

The other is the world of ideas beyond advertising - the kind of stuff that companies such as Yahoo, GoogleX, YouTube and personalities such as Nick Cannon, Conan O'Brien and Sean Combs have discussed at Cannes this year. And, let's face it, some of the most creative ideas are blooming outside the traditional domain of advertising. In a way this is good news as the playground of creativity has expanded. Yet it's also a challenge for advertising to live up to this new and expanded definition of creativity.

In this new world, creativity is no more a combination of some smart lines with fancy visuals or a 30-second film. This new world is that of content, where being able to entertain people and engage them becomes far more important than telling them about a unique selling proposition in the most surprising way. The new world is of social media, where having a personality that's less than perfect makes you more real than having a carefully sketched brand print.

The new world is also about taking a shot at larger issues such as Coca-Cola's small world machines, connecting India and Pakistan, or Google's initiative at providing internet connectivity through balloons in the stratosphere.

The expanding definition of creativity is leading to new kinds of collaborations which advertising is not used to. So, projects like the Makers, which tell the story of modern America's women, or the Ghost Ghirls, a paranormal comedy series for online audience, are borne out of collaboration between a producer, a content curator and an online media company such as Yahoo or AOL.

There are collaborations between brands and social tastemakers - people whose opinion and lifestyles have following in the social space - they could be celebrities, bloggers or overnight YouTube sensations. These collaborations are new for the world of advertising but they seem to be shaping today's communication landscape. Can an industry used to writing 30-second scripts adapt itself to this new storyline?

The wider definition of creativity and the new models of collaboration are in some ways also bringing larger meaning to our business - the business of communication. Traditionally, advertising was seen as the smartest way to sell a product benefit and nothing more. Defining it as the business of communication gives it a larger purpose. This way, it can take a shot at social issues, help design better products that improve our lives and bring inspiration to a world feeling jaded.

Pitted against the socially respected professions such as engineering, medicine and rocket science, advertising lived with a sense of inferiority. The expanding definition of creativity and a larger social purpose have turned this around, bringing social respect.

(Dheeraj Sinha is head of planning, Grey India, South and Southeast Asia)

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