Firebirds Aren’t Always Visible

June 18, 2012

This post is part of Ketchum’s Cannes*ectivity – insights shared from the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. Click here to read additional posts.

By the end of my first day at Cannes, one sense overwhelmed all the others – vision. This stands to reason, since this festival was built on a foundation of advertising, but the sheer scale is still amazing – every available area is papered with posters, many of them in bright, vivid colors, and the exhibitors’ displays are designed specifically to catch the eye and draw you over.

But there’s more to it than that. While I was helping to hang some posters bearing the latest image for Ketchum’s break through campaign, passersby repeatedly stopped and snapped photos. They were taken in by the picture, certainly, but one woman summed it up when she walked right up to the poster, tapped it with her finger and turned to her companion to read the words – “See this? Stir Creativity.”

It turns out that this poster is directly in tune with the energy and commonality of purpose that flows underneath what can be seen at Cannes, drawing connections between participants from disparate disciplines and diverse work that covers a broad range of subjects, from brands to causes. The creative images that the eye latches onto are only a metaphor; it’s the underlying passion for ideas that brings the entire festival to life.

A case in point is a session I attended run by Cirkus, an animation firm based in New Zealand. Animation is great, you might say, but what does it have to do with public relations? The answer is that they both pull from the same font of creativity, using the imagination to build precise messages that speak directly to audiences – the main difference is the medium.

The perfect example was provided by an ad Cirkus produced for Viet Capital Bank in Vietnam (which you can see here).  The client brief called for CGI to be provided quickly and on the cheap – never mind that CGI is very expensive and time-consuming. Rather than view this as an insurmountable problem, the firm saw an opportunity. They created the backgrounds and much of the imagery out of cut paper, using stop-animation to bring it to life on an office tabletop – only the primary character, a spectacular firebird, was rendered on a computer.

The lesson? Creativity thrives within constraints. A brief can seem impossible at first glance, but this challenge can be an opportunity rather than a cause for distress. Just as the handmade paper backgrounds make a perfect setting for the splashy CGI bird, so can a low budget or a looming deadline lead to a result that’s better than ideal – a result that works.  This is true on all levels of communication, whether you’re an animator, a marketer for a brand, a corporate counselor or any other type of storyteller. The channels may be different, but creativity learns from creativity. I look forward to seeing – hearing and feeling and maybe even tasting – how this truth carries over throughout the rest of the week.