"I don’t see a divide between creativity and business," said Aline Santos, global EVP of marketing of Unilever. "Creativity has to be in every employee."
For Emma Sharkey, creative director of Rothco, part of Accenture Interactive, the notion of a divide is "an age-old fallacy – we all know that they’re natural bed-fellows".
Pablo Alzugaray, founder and CEO, Shackleton, part of Accenture Interactive, added: "Our work is to influence the way people feel, think and do about something whether that’s a brand, a product, whatever. If you have this definition in your mind, creativity is part of the process."
And here are the six key take out from the Cannes panel session.
1) Experience is everything
Jonny Bauer, global chief strategy officer, Droga5, part of Accenture Interactive, acknowledges that "everyone understands now that the experience needs to be consumer-centric".
Alzugaray added: "I need to understand what experience is. Experience is any sensory, mental or emotional interaction with a brand. It means the product, service, content and ads. To create and distribute efficiently these experiences are the key to building up emotional relationship."
But Jon Wilkins, chairman at Karmarama, part of Accenture Interactive, believes that old techniques and structures have limited the "full potency" of "brilliant creative ideas" because "they haven’t lived at the heart of changing the brand experience".
He added: "Every year classic marketing techniques decline in relevance. Our challenge is to keep abreast of the pace of change. The potency is there but it’s being deployed ineffectively by agencies and needs to be more experiential."
2) Trust works in every direction
There are issues of trust wherever you look. Trust in the advertising industry itself is at an all-time low but, as Wilkins said, there is also "a [business] culture that doesn’t really trust creativity".
Santos added: "All the energy I have is to put this trust back behind our brands and the relationship with our agencies. To achieve that, it is critical that when we say something for a brand, we deliver, that we’re not opportunistic. Especially when brands talk about purpose without any substance. If there’s no substance, refuse the briefs."
3) Give all problems to solve
Creativity should not be trying to solve a single problem, according to Wilkins, it should be part of the solution to all the problems or challenges a brand faces.
"We’re all in the business of problem solving which is an inherently creative process," he said. "We’re now told for the first time that advertising effectiveness is in decline which I think is because creativity has been focused on one-dimensional problem solving. Our opportunity is to get to the levers of growth and really understand the client’s challenges.
Sharkey put it more bluntly: "Challenge your agency with your toughest problem and see what answer they give you."
4) Technology is a friend not a debate
Technology is an essential tool but it’s not the only tool. "We can use technology to help," said Bauer, "but there has to be a fundamentally good brand idea to have relevance.
Sharkey continued: "Creativity often brings technology to life. That is when it gets interesting and exciting. At the heart of everything is the human story. If it doesn’t connect on that level, the data isn’t interesting. JFK was on the way to make a speech when he was assassinated and we wondered what that speech was about. It turns out it’s available online so we then wondered whether technology would allow that speech to be brought to life. It all starts with curiosity."
Alzugaray added: "The right cocktail is strategy based on data – I avoid the idea that there’s a debate between technology and creativity. If you want to sell umbrellas you have two options: create a brand and fill it with emotions and attributes and hope that when someone needs an umbrella, they will buy one of yours. This is the traditional approach.
"The second option is to wait until it rains and then open a pop-up shop in the city centre and you will sell a lot of umbrellas because you are connected with the right people in the right place at the right moment. This is what technology allows for us."
Bauer cited a campaign for IKEA in Israel where a copywriter with cerebral palsy had created 3D print accessories to enable the furniture to be more friendly to people with disabilities. "That was the genuine delivering of brand purpose at a product level," he said.
5) Diversity in people and work
Diversity is not just about people but about ideas and varied pockets of specialist knowledge, not the generalisms that Santos grew up with in the early part of her career.
"Today’s world requires much more specialism," she said. "You need people specialist expertise but you also need to integrate these people and have them work well together. You need to realise you’re all fighting for the same thing – people, consumers.
"You need diversity in your teams but there are many dimensions to diversity. You need plurality – gender, of course, but also race, sexual orientation, disability."
But do not misunderstand the term diversity. "People focus on diversity but not enough on inclusion," Santos added. "Diversity is being invited to a party, inclusion is when people ask you to dance."
Representing diversity in your work will deliver results. "When you represent someone who has previously been invisible, it’s very powerful," she said. "There are a billion disabled people in the world but only 2% of advertising shows some kind of disability so it’s completely disconnected from where we are.
"We track all ads and how stereotypical they are or not. For an ad that is representative of diversity we see 37% more brand impact and 35% more enjoyment. When you start to represent people and they recognise themselves, people respond in a super-powerful way." Wilkins said.
"The more representative you are the more people respond and like it," he said, though he believes that diversity is now a natural course of action for creative work.
6) Measure of success
Creativity might be "subjective", according to Bauer, but it must still be measurable otherwise it will forever be vulnerable. "Marketing is seen as a cost so you’re always worried about being cut," as Wilkins put it.
But Santos said of her relationship with some of the 3,000 agencies Unliver employs: "It is truly a partnership. We walk and talk together. They are at the same place as us. If we don’t measure what we treasure then we are lost.
A Hollywood sign
Aline Santos explained how Sigourney Weaver taught her about girl power
When I was a kid in Brazil, the movie Alien came to us from Hollywood. But the translator changed Alien to Aline, which is my name. I became that monster, Aline the monster. My mum told me to go and watch the movie and see what it was all about.
Little did I know that movie would change my life. For the first time in my life, a little girl in Brazil, I was watching a powerful woman – she was killing everyone, she was badass! It was like Sigourney Weaver was looking at me and saying ‘Aline, wake up, you can be whoever you want to be’.
Forty years later we’re celebrating Alien. Now I have the privilege of leading 400 brands and I now have the opportunity to have a Sergeant Ripley effect on Unilever’s brands.