Inhaling our own fumes?
A view from Jim Speros

Inhaling our own fumes?

To answer Campaign's Cannes Contest question, Fidelity Investments' EVP, corporate communication services, says outputs can't be divorced from outcomes

"If you had the floor at Cannes, what industry-changing idea would you share?"

Campaign US posed that question as the centerpiece of a contest that will send one respondent to June's Cannes Lions 2015. In addition to its public call for multimedia entries, Campaign asked industry leaders for their own perspectives.

This June, nearly 12,000 delegates from 90+ countries will once again descend on the south of France for the 2015 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. Those attending will represent a bouillabaisse of agency creative, account and media people; media companies; designers; technologists; client-side marketers; filmmakers, device manufacturers; journalists; wheeler-dealers and other business honchos looking for the next big deal. It is the largest gathering of its kind designed to celebrate the power of creativity and the people who challenge and expand our thinking on the boundaries of creative excellence.

Creative inspiration is a wonderful thing because it forces us to reassess the standards by which we’ve been evaluating the work we get from our agencies and media partners and exposes mediocrity — not only in terms of what we get but also what we’re willing to accept as clients. As clients, we all too often accept subpar work or don’t challenge our partners and ourselves to raise the creative bar of fresh thinking. It all starts with whether or not we have sharp, fresh and compelling insights about the consumers we’re trying to reach and having the courage, bravery and tenacity to explore, protect and defend ideas that express those insights. The essence of great creativity is the ability to express ideas through communications, products and experiences that surprise, delight, deeply touch us emotionally and shape repeatable behaviors that drive business results.

If I’m starting to sound like a business geek, it’s because I believe creativity and the results created by the work produced are equally important and need to be better connected (and celebrated). An obsession with the outputs of our efforts without connecting them to the outcomes they do or don’t create is tantamount to inhaling our own creative fumes.

Those who work for companies in the for-profit world ultimately have a fiduciary responsibility to shareholders to drive results and shareholder value. Business results are not only important to shareholders but to the livelihoods of employees of all organization types.

When creativity results in growing business, it creates vitality and lasting value that gives companies and their brands momentum, competitive advantage and the ability to invest for the long haul. Given all the tools, smart data, targeting and analytical capabilities we now have at our disposal, measuring the impact of our creativity is significantly easier than it was years ago. Granted, the untried, unseen and truly groundbreaking ideas may not always be easily measured and often require a leap of faith and the courage to pursue to them. However, the pursuit of understanding outcomes is clearly what we all need to remain focused on.

I applaud the intent of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity as it raises the bar for all of us by encouraging risk-taking, innovation and courage. These attributes are often lacking in many marketing and creative organizations these days. Companies that adopt a dose of what they learn and see at this June’s event can only benefit and infuse new energy into their organizations. Those that do will be a magnet for keeping and attracting great talent.

While there are clearly benefits to celebrating the artistry of creative expression, we must always remember why we do what we do and strike the right balance. Cannes Lions awards should not only be awarded for creativity, but for the most creative ideas that create significant impact on business results. Applying this "lens" makes creativity accountable and gives it a deliberate purpose that is valued by the companies that ultimately pay the freight. So, as you sip your champagne or favorite aperitif and look out over the breathtaking Cote d’ Azur this year, take a deep breath and inhale some fresh air.

Jim Speros is executive vice president, corporate communication services, with Fidelity Investments.