Cannes Lions 2016: Collaborative AND competitive creativity?

Delegates at the WPP Stream unconference on the Ile St Honorat.

Cannes Lions. This international festival of creativity is the world’s most discerning media event, the ‘truly global meeting place for those passionate about creativity in communications’.

More than 15,000 advertising and creative industry delegates, from 94 countries descend on the French Riviera to discuss industry issues, network and celebrate. In short, it is THE event in the media calendar; a hotbed of creativity and fierce competition. People are rightly proud of their work. Everyone is checking everything and everyone out.

What we want to know is this: Is creativity competitive OR collaborative? Can it be both?

What is creativity? Simply defined in the OED; Creativity is the use of imagination or original ideas to create something; inventiveness.

Any big success story in this industry usually has a great team behind it and the myth of the lone genius is seldom true. Collaboration and teamwork are powerful, and the wider world of creative media benefits hugely from both collaboration and the fire that is lit by healthy competition.

Competition spurs people on to be better than others, to innovate and be noticed, to be first in the race, to succeed. It drives the ingenuity needed to standout and to produce the wow factor needed against a wallpaper of clichés. Great ideas and creative must have an inherent ‘otherness’; and this needs individuality, fearlessness, and confidence in the ability to approach things in new ways. These qualities lend themselves more to a strong identity, whether in a small team or large group with a shared purpose. Competition helps drive this in the same way it drives sports teams and fashion trends. We see catalytic competition at every level benefitting rivalry between ambitious individuals, departments and whole agencies within large holding companies — such as WPP, Publicis and Omnicom — and of course between the Goliaths themselves. Competition pushes standards, drives innovation and stretches employee talents and consumer perceptions and expectations.

“You can’t look at the competition and say you are going to do it better. You have to look at the competition and say you’re going to do it differently” Steve Jobs

However we can only see and generate alternatives, if we are flexible and tolerant of diversity. We have to look up from tribal divides with open minds and a willingness to embrace the unknown. To do this, we need to collaborate. When we collaborate, we are not just sharing process, we are learning. Learning from each others’ experiences and the inevitable tension, ambiguity and unpredictability of group dynamics. There is kinetic energy in being exposed to other influences, different approaches and views. WPP’s Sir Martin Sorrell champions inter-agency team collaboration via what he terms ‘Horizontality’, by incentivising collaborative behaviour. He believes people in different verticals, with different competencies should work together through client teams, countries and regions. WPP now has 45 cross-group client teams, up from 10 in 2010. Something must be working; for 5 years in a row WPP has won the Cannes Lions ‘Holding Company of the Year’ award.

“In areas where big breakthroughs are needed, we must step up joint working with others.” Paul Polman, Unilever

Creativity needs competition to drive innovation, but united by a higher purpose, it can enjoy true love with it’s frenemies! We are greater than the sum of our parts…

Where better to celebrate the ultimate in creative competition and collaboration than at the Cannes Lions? Cannes Lions shows the power of bringing spirited competitors together in a great big group hug. We are creative! We thrive on it! We are all striving for exciting and beautiful ideas.

See you soon frenemies (;

be-good specialise in deconstructed live events that bring people together to contribute and do more than listen. By opening minds and channels of communication be-good enable collaboration, the tension, ambiguity and unpredictability needed for original, creative outcomes.

Sources: Guardian, HuffPo

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