News & Views

Cannes Lions / Seminars

by Contagious Team

The power of experimentation and creative thinking, plus development driven by the masses rather than niche groups shone through in the seminars at this year's Cannes Lions festival

Malcolm Gladwell / Kraft

Author and deep thinker Malcolm Gladwell explained the unlikely benefits of coming third to a large crowd in the Palais. Using the example of the Social Media space, he explained that 'our first imagining only captured a fraction of the potential', comparing first-mover Friendster to second, MySpace, explaining that Facebook 'gets the benefit of imagining a wholly new informational platform'. 

Going on to list other companies who have benefitted from this process of evolution, Gladwell believes we need to realise that 'profitable innovation is a mass strategy, not an elite strategy', giving the example of the thousands of tweakers and influencers who extracted value from the Industrial Revolution in the UK. Gladwell believes that our obsession with being first, and basking in the associated glory, has created a host of potential for those who are 'hungry and desperate' to use and build on the learnings of the first movers to their advantage. In this context, creative ad agencies are excellent 'tweakers', which is where their future value will lie.

Eric Schmidt / Google

Eric Schmidt, polymath, Cannes Lions Media Person of the Year and Google executive chairman, took to the stage in conversation with Andy Berndt, VP, Google Creative Lab. Schmidt noted the increase in individual empowerment amidst the current phase of globalisation, lauding a shift that has seen four billion people gain access to almost all of the world's knowledge, as opposed to a small elite. 

Schmidt praised the fact that current technological developments are consumer-driven, explaining 'the implications for consumer-driven markets are not fully understood.' Particular virtue was found in offering a platform for other people to build on as a way of creating value for shareholders, added Schmidt, listing AppleAmazon and Facebook as well as Google in his 'gang of four'. 'We have never had four companies growing that rapidly as platforms for others to build on.'

Chiming with our own Contagious and Publicis seminar on devoting 5% of your budget to experimentation, Schmidt explained: 'We often do a 1% test at Google, trying something out on just 1% of our users. The most successful people have an idea, think something will work, but they're not biased.'

Cloud computing and mobile phones were cited as key enablers by Schmidt, who sees the mobile as 'essentially a recording device - the overwhelming growth-rate of information is consumer-generated'. This increase in data creates a search and navigational problem which Google is well-placed to make sense of, though Schmidt believes that Google 'needs to move beyond the 10 links answer model', suggesting that personalised search results will play an increasingly important role in our future.

When asked for his top piece of advice, Schmidt offered: 'Try to say yes - the power of yes is not understood, yes is how your life evolves.' He added 'it is a fact that we are demanding more transparency, and yes really does drive a new dawn.'

Edward de Bono / The Guardian

Author and innovator Edward de Bono explained his belief that 'the major problem facing the world is poor thinking' and outlined his ideas to create more value. One, a 'Palace of Thinking', to collect ideas from anywhere in the world and propagate them, another his 'Institute for New Value' which will endorse the best ideas.

De Bono iterated a view echoed by many others at Cannes Lions, that 'technology provides the means to do things, but the value we can make of it is way beyond'. To do this, de Bono believes, we need to think more in terms of what is possible, rather than what is true.

Kudo Tsunoda / Microsoft Xbox Kinect

Using a Kinect to control his Powerpoint slides, Kudo Tsunoda, creative director Kinect for Xbox 360, took the audience through the technology's development, from rough and ready concept videos of how people might behave in a controller-free world to the in-depth research and design process. He outlined what we can expect from Kinect in the future, such as finger tracking and Fun Labs - which will see facial movements translated onto an avatar and the ability to create a digital version of any object.

As the technology gets increasingly sophisticated, Tsunoda issued a creative challenge to designers: 'This is an evolving platform and there is so much innovation left to be done. Break our creative principles, do the stuff that can't be done or shouldn't be done.'

Sir Ken Robinson / Ogilvy

As the speaker whose TED talk on schools and creativity is reckoned to be the most-viewed clip in its archive of inspirational lectures, educator, author and creative evangelist Sir Ken Robinson is a man well worth listening to.

Last Thursday afternoon he held the Cannes audience rapt with a light-hearted, yet profound, 45-minute discourse on the nature of creativity. The talk was used to launch Ogilvy & Mather's new annual 'series of narratives' on the centennial of adland hero David Ogilvy's birth, with Tham Khai Meng, worldwide creative director and chairman of the Ogilvy network setting up the lecture and welcoming Sire Ken onstage.

At the heart of Robinson's talk was the idea that 'creativity is not an exotic capacity. We all have it, and we now have to make a commitment to develop it.' The role of leaders, he stated, 'is not to command and control the creative process, but to create the conditions for it to flourish,' using gardening as an analogy for the judicious nurturing and management that leadership role requires.

He also made half the audience sniffle when he referenced Anaïs Nin's inner struggle with the creative impulse: 'And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.'

With no shortage of interesting digressions into the role of digital (a lost week in Oslo, Microsoft Word's dislike of the passive voice) Robinson's relaxed style brought a welcome note of inspiration to the wrung-out, but appreciative crowd. That he did so with frequent, wry references to the new edition of his book - that's Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative, fact fans - is a testament to his skill as a speaker and eminent suitability for an audience that's at home with the need to shift units with a smile.

If you're interested in a round up of some of the most artistic seminar slides, Jesse Dee has compiled a collection here

And, as Cannes was as hectic as ever, we know there were plenty of other fantastic seminars going on (click here for a full list) - who impressed you most?