"Creativity!" they shout. Yeah, I get it. It’s a central tenet in communications these days, (wasn’t it always?), but isn’t drawing the creative industry’s finest together in the south of France just a sun-drenched excuse to justify intellectualising the creative process while sipping the pink stuff and catching up with colleagues?
Ah, how wonderfully naïve I am.
Go hunting for creativity and you’ll never find it. It doesn’t sit in a brainstorm or boardroom.
It’s the spark which jumps from the edge of an idea. With any luck it lands in the lap of someone who can move minds.
And that’s what Cannes Lions is about. Celebrating exceptional and bold creativity; about removing oneself from the day-to-day for an all-out, indulgent delve into that moment of creative inspiration. And that, with the greatest respect, simply couldn’t happen in a dry conference venue in the UK.
Obviously I was desperately hoping the perception was true, that everyone just came to hang out, go to parties and enjoy the rosé. But what happens here is surprisingly hard work. It’s like being pitched to, over and over again, all day. There is so much to consume and be consumed by.
But the other thing it is, in the true sense of the word, is inspiring. I challenge any comms professional to come to Cannes and not leave with a more determined step towards creative strategy.
I’ll be notching up a fair few firsts: watching Marilyn Manson stalk by, meeting a client in their beach cabana (let’s get that happening in London), ogling at the sheer size of the ‘Google Beach’. But the normal also happens – countless meetings with media friends and client colleagues.
Now I’m looking forward to the Palais and soaking up some of the big thinking on stage – and it’s not all provided by creative directors and CMOs.
I’m attracted to Brian Cox (who isn’t?) talking about the science of creativity; and with any luck I’ll get to see a personal god of mine, Olympic GB cycling coach Sir David Brailsford talking about marginal gains.
So, where does PR sit in this whirpool of creative celebration? Are we the ugly cousin sitting on the side, desperate for attention but not quite sure we belong?
More and more this festival is celebrating the creativity that sits at the heart of powerful PR. Last year we were told to be brave. This year we are walking all over bravery. With PR firms winning in the Promo & Activation category last night, PR is definitely now punching above its weight.
But there is much more for us to do. We no longer need to play second fiddle to the ‘creative’ industries.
We are the creative industry, and as ever more brands change their budget splits and start seeing the value in integrated, content-led campaigns, the more the new PR industry will prosper.
I’ll drink to that.
Elisabeth Field is managing director of Eulogy