A pretty intense week.
A pretty intense week.

I can usually measure the intensity of a week by how early I pass out on a Friday evening. If things have been tough I just ask my  5 year old daughter to tell me a story as I drift off gently at her bedtime. If the week has been OK, I generally make it to the end of Graham Norton. A few Friday’s ago I displayed enough stamina for my wife to stick on a DVD after Graham signed off. It was a film about a young lady who walked across America writing poetry and running away from red-necks. And I found it stressful. Not because of the subject matter. It was just that I began drifting in and out of consciousness after 20 minutes and spent the whole film trying not to get caught sleeping by my wife. So I can’t remember exactly why she walked across America. But I do remember she said something about “putting yourself in the way of beauty”. Like most nice ideas, it lodged in my brain and came back to me on the final day of the Cannes Masters of Creativity.

Like most creatives, I try to keep up with the best work in the world as it burns its way across the web. That’s what Cannes week is all about, a week spent looking at and absorbing the best work in the world.

The Creative Masters course offered me a chance to go deeper and find out how the agencies and creative teams got to their Gold Lion winning work. It was a week of applied learning, with a live brief for the struggling Bubblicious brand being handed to us on Monday morning by the client from Mondelez.  IMG_1075Our task over the week was to come up with an idea that made Bubblicious relevant to American teens after an eight-year decline. And we were to be given eight master classes during the week to help us.

Mark Tutssel (Leo Burnett’s Global Chief Creative Officer) set the tone for what was to come by referencing John West’s “Bear” ad, Cadbury’s Gorilla, Guinness Surfers and Johnnie Walker, reminding us we needed to redefine the Bubble Gum category. He then introduced us to the creative directors behind Skittles – Taste the rainbow, Harvey Nichols – I spent it on myself, Always – Like a girl and Dumb ways to die. Each of them talked us through their campaigns and how they got there. They all agreed on Gerry Graf’s point: “to do something special in our industry you need to be incredibly linear and logical up to a point, then you need to go insane and have fun, then you need to be linear again. Cadbury’s makes chocolate. Chocolate brings people joy. How can we emotionally connect people to the concept of Joy? A gorilla enjoying playing the drums. The audience will see someone experiencing joy and subsequently feel joy, thereby creating an emotional connection with Cadbury’s. Simple when you put it like that.

The course wasn’t just about creatives talking to creatives. There were clients, planners, and account directors, all there to find out how to create better creative work. Because as we learned: there is a direct correlation between high creativity and highly effective work.  There was a media workshop and two incredible sessions on strategy, led by Lucy Jameson, Campaign UK’s top ranked planner, and Merry Baskin and Gurdeep Puri, the multi award-winning effectiveness gurus.

On Wednesday morning David Droga dropped by and with both feet firmly planted on the ground, he casually took us through his views on innovation. No PowerPoint, no videos, but probably the best 90-minute presentation of the week. David Shing, Yahoo’s digital guru, finished off Wednesday with loads of slides, a few videos and tons of insights on data–driven communications. His high-energy performance was probably the second best presentation of the week.

Thursday morning was PJ Pereira’s turn. He generously shared his way of working and the process he used to get to Intel/Toshiba’s “The beauty Inside” – driving home the relevance of long and short form film in the future of our industry and telling us when to call in the screenwriters. Barry Wacksman (Global Chief Growth Officer for R/GA) gave us the last presentation of the week. He talked us through their work for Beats and said that they always focus on context. They don’t worry about the copy-line too much – “The game before the game” and “Small but loud” will never win an award for copywriting, but how they dropped them into culture and gave them context means they both took home Gold lions.

On Friday, we presented to the Bubblicious clients, Barry Wacksman and Keith Reinhardt (President Emeritus of DDB and an original Mad Man). My team took home the bronze, but more importantly, everyone took home the knowledge, the tools and the desire to do outstanding work.

I would encourage any Irish creative that wants to up his/her game to go on the course. When viewed coldly on the balance sheet, Cannes can look like a luxury, but in my experience it has a direct influence on the quality of your work and offers an immeasurable return on investment for the agency. Cannes Masters of Creativity is an intense week, but it’s not about the boozy lunches or the beach, as you don’t really have time for either. It’s just about putting yourself in the way of greatness.