I may be in the minority by being among the attendees of last week’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity who have never had the word “creative” in their titles. But as the leader of a creative firm, I was reminded that creativity starts with me. As the sun set on the week, I was faced with the realization that being rundown and overly stretched has led to me to being less open to inspiration. So I came back ready to reinvest in self care, to be more open to ideas that come from anyone, to look at work through a more naive lens, and to engage in more intimate conversations.
At my first visit to the Cannes Lions Festival in 2014, I was in awe of the big stage conversations, the outstanding creative and the beach parties, and like most first-timers, I was obsessed with getting onboard a yacht. This time I left with a few budding relationships and words of wisdom that resonated in more personal moments. I put up my radar for people I truly wanted to engage with and spent less time with those I did not. My hours spent with a few people in deeper conversations left me more fulfilled and inspired than on any of my past trips.
It all started as I was changing planes in Paris when I met a talented, young black creative who led me to check out Inkwell Beach. The festival’s focus on diversity and inclusion this year was noticeable, with a new spotlight on campaigns featuring those with disabilities and an emphasis on empathy and understanding both sides of an issue when discussing diversity. My new friend and his non-traditional agency premiered “The Look” for client P&G, which had the goal of shifting perceptions of racial bias. Inkwell Beach showcased a melting pot of speakers and delegates who were truly interested in driving change. My first reminder of the week was that reverse mentoring from new, diverse inputs is key to opening your mindset, and I need to make sure I am continually exposed to different points of view.
I then attended CBS Interactive’s women’s outing, where the hours moved from afternoon to late night in a blink. The longer-form conversations inspired admiration for so many women who had climbed the ranks of media, creative and marketing companies. The event spurred new, budding friendships with people I admired, including the DJ. My takeaway here was that conversations in smaller groups allow people to be more honest, introspective and vulnerable. We all have demanding jobs and are in search of ways to decrease stress and give ourselves more bandwidth to focus on creativity, which led to me reflect on how I was taking care of myself and managing my energy. Taking time to breathe under the full moon and enjoy my surroundings grounded me for a more fruitful week in Cannes. My more positive karma also helped me attract more interesting and engaging conversations.
Watching the incredible energy of Colleen DeCourcy from Wieden+Kennedy on the big stage, I added her to my “wish list” of people I’d want to have over for dinner. Imagine my excitement then when Quartz invited me to a dinner where Colleen moderated an amazing conversation around the role creative leaders play in making space for others to thrive and create exceptional work. She displayed tremendous authenticity when talking about her challenges with burnout and shared tips for managing cocky creatives, and I liked her even more when I saw how easily she went from speaking about spirituality to swearing like a badass. The conversation reminded me that when we are grounded, we can let ourselves – and others – thrive.
Perhaps my favorite part of every Cannes Lions Festival though is spending time with Ketchum’s delegates from around the world and seeing Cannes through their eyes. It’s easy to get jaded at these events after going for many years, but my colleagues left so inspired by the creative campaigns, conversations and surroundings. They returned home this week with a fire – a fire to raise the bar creatively, to make a bigger impact on the world, and to share their learnings with clients and colleagues (check out the brilliant insights from a few of them by tuning into our annual post-Cannes webinar recording). Thanks to them, I remembered to allow myself to be inspired and to not take my time there for granted.
So maybe it was the full strawberry moon over the Cote d’Azur or just a renewed mindset that opened me to more interesting interactions, but I left Cannes this year enlightened and enriched. I am truly excited to build on my budding relationships with a few new connections, and I’m ready to work on making space for myself and for those around me to more easily enhance creativity.