Heading Into Cannes: Who Owns Creativity?

More Collaboration Is Needed Between Creative, Media and Data Teams

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Over the past several years, we've watched media and advertising agencies bundle and unbundle various services, battle fragmentation, struggle to collaborate and -- in unfortunate cases -- fail to connect the dots and deliver disjointed ideas to clients. As if the pressures tied to client retention and keeping up with the pace of change weren't enough to keep marketers awake at night, agencies are still arguing over who exactly owns creativity -- as though it could possibly belong to any one party. For me, the answer is obvious. The best idea, collaboratively expanded and executed, wins.

Those of us who have been in the industry for a while know that the separation between creative agencies and media agencies, and more recently from platforms and publishers, has largely dissolved. Our world has changed and so has the creative landscape, shifting the focus from "ownership" to collaboration. Instead of jockeying to own the process, we should be eliminating silos, celebrating each other's strengths and working together to develop the best, most innovative work.

This is exactly why I look forward to Cannes Lions each year. In the six decades since it began, the festival has evolved from the International Advertising Film Festival -- with a mere 130 attendees -- to a global celebration of creativity with over 15,000 delegates from around 100 countries. While some may deride it as "too big and too crowded," it's still an event that rewards ideas, rather than titles, and pushes us to reevaluate and expand our views on creativity and ideation across our offices, agencies, client and vendor discussions. "Infiltrated" now by dozens of data and technology businesses, the festival is growing more vital and relevant every year.

Cannes Lions should serve as a reminder that the level of creative democratization and cross-agency, cross-vendor collaboration needs to be improved on at a broader industry level. For any one agency or team to claim ownership of creativity today is to disregard the evolution of technology, and the practical application of data, which have become key levers of creativity in recent years. And this very lack of collaboration is the most critical obstacle preventing us from fostering an environment that champions the best ideas.

Our media consumption habits have completely changed, and whether we are talking about video, mobile or new platforms, brands and agencies now have just a few seconds to capture people's attention and make a meaningful impact. The focus is now on creativity with purpose, backed by results. To impact consumer behavior and preference, we must hyper-target, at scale, in the right moment and context, with the perfect creative message.

It's not an easy mission, and the only way to get there is to work together. Creative and media teams each need the full arsenal of data and technology solutions to build business-changing ideas that meld creativity and hard numbers. And while I am not longing for the bygone era of "full-service" ad agencies, I am suggesting a similar mindset and agility is required.

In order to do that, we need to not just share data and insights, but act as one team whenever possible, with the same, very clear view of the problem we're trying to solve for the client. We need to align on what our metrics for measurement are, and be as obsessed with proving efficacy as we are about creating compelling work. The first step is to start respecting the fact that creativity and data are just two sides of the same coin.

Last year's "Inspired By You" Netflix campaign from OgilvyOne Paris won multiple Lions in the creative data category and showed how data analysis can guide creative teams in developing ideas that adhere to cultural sensibilities and engage with the target audience in unique ways. On the other hand, Vodafone and Y&R Istanbul's "Red Light Application" initiative won the Media Grand Prix for using audience targeting to reach victims of domestic abuse and allow them to quietly seek help without tipping off the abusers. The work showed that media agencies can use data to inspire consumers as strategically and poignantly as creative shops, while making the world a better place.

Insights born from data and technology were celebrated at Cannes in 2015, and I expect we'll see them celebrated again this year, as they continue to guide and redefine the creative process. Long gone are the days when ad people were scribbling ideas on cocktail napkins -- and that's OK. The new reality, in which data and analytics are a key part of bringing great ideas to life, is calling for more fluidity within our industry and agency relationships. It's imperative that clients, creative and media agencies find better ways to work together so we can deliver work that's made for the consumer.

So as we get ready to descend on the French Riviera this summer, let us appreciate the fact that no one owns creativity, and that's the beauty of it. Creativity can, and does, come from anywhere. And we need not look any further than the upcoming presentations, awards and energy of Cannes to see it come to life.