Does it matter who comes up with the big idea? No, says Cannes panel

What matters most isn't whether a creative shop, marketing firm, or PR agency developed a concept? It's whether the idea is good.

CANNES, FRANCE: The idea for Kentucky Fried Chicken’s "finger lickin' good" nail polish came from Taiwan, an example that demonstrates good, creative content drives conversations, and it no longer matters what discipline comes up with the idea.

Here’s the question posed by Jennelle Tilling, KFC’s global chief marketing and innovation officer: Is the idea contagious? It was. Did it matter if PR, advertising, or social media came up with the concept? No. "It’s just a good idea," she said.

Tilling joined Roel de Vries, global head of marketing, communications, and brand strategy at Nissan; eBay CMO Suzy Deering; Ogilvy Public Relations global CEO Stuart Smith; and Jamshid Alamuti from the Berlin School of Creative Leadership on a Wednesday panel in Cannes. The talk was held at the Haymarket Hive cabana at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

The panel, called Earned Influence & the Power of Integration, focused on the role of content and whether the traditional discipline titles, like PR and marketing, still apply.

"We’re living in a grand experiment," Smith said.

That means not every executive shares the same view when it comes to how to manage their agencies and develop content and ideas, or whether the brand promise is simple or should have a greater purpose.

Alamuti argued that the purpose of a brand is simple. For example, you buy chicken to eat it.

KFC’s Tilling disagreed. Grabbing a piece of fried chicken out of a bucket is an act of liberation and fits into the brand’s broader effort to make a difference in its customers’ lives. "They can be themselves," she said.

There is also a cultural code attached to global brands. In France, it’s cool to eat KFC, while it’s fuel in the U.S., and in Italy, it’s social. That’s why KFC works with Wieden + Kennedy in the U.S. and Ogilvy in the rest of the world. "With a big global agency, it’s hard to get those nuances," Tilling noted.

At Nissan, however, the agency philosophy is different. The automaker relies on a team structure within a core agency at Omnicom that takes into account the need for specialty services and specific skillsets, de Vries said. This allows the agencies to work around the same core insight.

"You can build various models, not thinking that different skillsets are needed," he noted. "The world is getting hugely complex."

EBay’s Deering, a former agency CEO, believes that it is asking too much to rely entirely on one firm, although that may depend on the type of client, the complexity of the company, and the product.

Despite the range of views, all of the panelists said creating relevant content for the customer is crucial. For example, Nissan spends millions at each Super Bowl to create an ad that entertains its customers, a buy it believes brings meaning to those people.

"In today’s world, it’s about content and it’s about creativity," de Vries said. "Every single time we have good content and good creative, the channel strategy is easy."

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