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Happy new year! I know — it’s not January. But Cannes Lions 2019 just wrapped, which signals the start of a new year for all things creative. Cannes is when the industry comes together to hit reset, to look back at what worked and ahead to what’s on the horizon. 

After interviewing dozens of industry leaders, and hearing dozens more on stage at the Google Beach, here are a few insights that are going to stay with me well beyond the summer soiree. 

On the topic of diversity and inclusion

If there was such a thing as word bingo for the 2019 Cannes Lions, “diversity,” “inclusion,” and “representation” would likely have been the first words you crossed off your bingo card. It was a hot topic, and rightfully so, as the industry grapples with how to make more significant progress.

A real mic-drop moment came from a simple declaration of honesty:

“We’re not doing enough. Equality is a choice. And unconscious bias is an excuse. … It’s not that hard.” — Shelley Zalis, CEO, The Female Quotient 

For those who’ve been reading about diversity for years, maybe it does seem that hard. But it doesn’t have to be:

“Building diverse teams is how I’ve always worked. It’s better for business, plus it’s just more fun. Now my team knows my expectations, so creating a diverse culture comes naturally.” — Andrea Diquez, CEO, Saatchi & Saatchi New York

But it takes more than simply hitting numbers. Diversity and inclusion just has to be baked into a company’s DNA:

“It’s about diversity and inclusion. If you have diverse talent, you have to put them in leadership positions. The ‘and’ is really important. ... It’s a philosophical, not an operational, issue.” — Luis Miguel Messianu, Creative Chairman and CEO, Alma DDB

Creativity and data aren’t at odds. But you have to appreciate both

For a while now, the industry has grappled with the idea of “art versus science” or “creativity versus data.” But there’s been a shift toward the notion that creativity and data are better together. For some, the debate is now about figuring out how and when to use that data.

But for all the focus on data and tech, there’s recognition that feeling, gut instinct, and intuition still play a major role in creativity as well. It’s not one or the other, but both data and feeling. 

This got a lot of heads nodding:

“Data needs a story. And that doesn’t start in a spreadsheet, but in our imaginations.” —  Ben Jones, Global Creative Director, Unskippable Labs, Google

You can have all the data in the world, but it can’t replace the role of feeling and inspiration:

“I believe you can’t ask people for output until you give them input. ... I used to work at a handbag company, and I took my team to an aerospace company as inspiration for us to make turn locks on the bags. You have to get inspiration from industries other than your own. ... You have to mix data with feeling.” — Ivy Ross, VP of Hardware Design, Google

When it comes to data-infused creativity, putting those insights to work can seem as much art as science. In other words, you have to know data’s place in the process, and be willing to make something of it:

“Creatives understand that data has creative potential. Now our task is to make sure we figure out the interesting tidbits and not just say, ‘here are a bunch of Excel sheets.’ — Kris Hoet, EVP and Global Head of Innovation, FCB

Here’s to the next year of creativity, the technology that fuels it, and the diverse perspectives that shape it.