Will the Cannes Festival Prove that the Big Idea is Like an Old-Fashioned?

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.

Has the creative “Big Idea” gone the way of the old-fashioned Don sips in the closing shot of Mad Men’s just completed season? Wildly popular in the ‘60s when creative directors like Don Draper dominated agencies, the grand old cocktail made from whiskey and bitters slowly fell out of favor – until its Mad Men renaissance. A drink that’s so-square-it’s-hip is now on the top of the trendiest bar cocktail lists, usually created with modern twists.

I’m headed to the Cannes Lions 59th International Festival of Creativity this weekend, hopeful that the big, brave creative idea is the old-fashioned of marketing communications. That is to say, I’ll be scouring for evidence that brilliant ideas matter again, after years of being sidelined by an industry fixation on digital delivery systems. Sure, Cannes forums with titles like “Right Ideas, Wrong Execution – Taking Creative Ideas Mobile” and “How to Make Your Video Content Buzz on the Social Web” sound really useful – and we’ll report back to you on them – but I’m convinced that Adobe’s seminar, “Is Data Killing Creativity,” Burnett’s “Turning Data into an Idea,” and YouTube’s “How Online Video Powers Creative Innovation” will bring the greatest value to those of us who believe that you need a compelling idea first before you begin to think about delivering it.

Ketchum is sending an enthusiastic team of scouts to Cannes, all on the hunt for creativity inspiration. With oversight for our 200 person creativity network, I’m not missing “What Do You Need to Do to Get the Most out of Your Creative Team: Learning Lessons from Hollywood” and “Five Sneaky Ways to Get Great Work.” Serena De Morgan, my colleague from London, will have a front seat at Marc Pritchard’s “What’s the Big Idea at P&G” seminar, while Kelley Skoloda, who runs our Global Brand Marketing Practice, will be listening with her CMO headset to “Proof that Creativity is Linked with Effectiveness” and “New Rules of Marketing and Consumer Engagement.” When he’s not judging the Young Marketer’s Competition, our European CEO, David Gallagher will check out The Guardian’s “Redrawing Boundaries: Pushing the Limits of Creativity” and attend “The Berlin School of Creative Leadership Open House.” And Ketchum’s own PR Lions Judge, Gustavo Averbuj, who runs our Latin American operations, is intrigued by TextAppeal’s “CULTURE SHOCKS: Porn, Youth and Brands” and the Gates Foundation seminar, “Can Your Idea Change the World?”

Because he’s “the man,” we’ll queue early to hear Bill Clinton’s keynote (“How Advertising Can Build a Better World”) and be sure to attend sessions led by creative giants like Jeff Goodby, Bob Greenberg, Dan Wieden and Sir John Hegarty. And since there’s such a glaring dearth of women on the program (Ladies: we need to fix this!), I’m grateful that singer-songwriter Deborah Harry will talk about testing boundaries and mixing and matching genres during a seminar at the end of the week.

That final image of Don Draper nursing an old-fashioned at the bar will have to hold me until next season. This Sunday night, I’ll be ordering one of my own at the Cannes Connect Bar Happy Hour. Here’s hoping it’s infused with a little bit of Don’s creative magic.

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Karen loves winning trophies for clients, believing awards affirm how much strategy and creativity matter. As Ketchum’s chief strategy and creativity officer, as well as co-lead of Ketchum’s 50+ specialty, she is an evangelist for courage and creativity in communication, and she ensures strategic discipline and creative liberation for the firm’s global network of planners. Her devotion to studying human behavior, crowdsourcing creative ideas and working across silos have contributed to Ketchum winning more awards for clients than any other PR firm. Some of her initiatives include the creation of Mindfire, Ketchum’s crowdsourcing site for fueling creative ideas; the Ketchum Creative Community and related Passion Panels to solve client challenges; and the Ketchum Media Optimizer, the first media planning discipline in the public relations business. As a member of the small minority of female agency creative chiefs, Karen is on a mission to inspire and empower more women to take on lead creative roles.