THE BLOG

Looking Beyond the Lions

22/06/2015 10:39 BST | Updated 20/06/2016 10:59 BST

Dazzled by all the image, sound, words and technology of Cannes? It's a lot to take in.

Along with the chance to meet, greet and learn from your peers there will be plenty of enforced buzzword buffoonery, bacchanalia and loud speakers who will be talking up their value as media channels (rather than the luck that got them there).

This bug light in the South of France attracts some international genius but moreover a gaggle of charlatans, flash geezers and fly by night mountebanks. And yet, there is hope.

These mad hatters will be repelled by real results, and the truth that what we do is about selling artfully, not creating art for its own sake.

Things like:

Tech trivia whizzbangers - "The FIRST 4D printed panoramic puppy chow jingle - on PERISCOPE"

Borrowed attention addictions - "We got seventeen celebrities into just one TVC"

Emotional Pornography button pushers and tear jerkers - "Feel our Kawaii cat endorsed, kid celebrating, poverty ending, life saving, world changing...stuff"

None of that helps us tell our client's stories in ways worth talking about, or sell anything other than trade show passes and expense account cocktails.

So, if you are in Prosecco Purgatory here are some mental self-defence and fitness tips to make anywhere in Cannes inspiring for a marketer.

Call a cab, creatively

What we do is create short stories. Stories worth reading and sharing. Stories as good or better than, and at best worthy of inclusion in, the content that surrounds them.

An interesting, but depressing exercise, in Cannes is to look at the work and see how much begins to pass that test. Why care? Why share? If you are not one of the tiny number of people in our industry?

What does it have to do with the target consumer? What problem does it present and solution does it offer - with enough verve to be noticed, much less acted upon or shared with others?

As you will be in France, why not take some direction on this topic from one of the many giants of Gallic greatness: Guy de Maupassant.

As the originator of the modern short story and contributing editor to the biggest and best newspapers of the day, when asked how he, one of the most popular and influential content creators of his day, learned his trade, Guy cited an older writer who gave him the magic:

"Go out into the streets of Paris, and pick a cab driver. He will look to you very much like every other cab driver. But study him until you can describe him so that he is seen in your description as an individual, different from every other cab driver in the world."

If you are as budget constrained as most of us are, or even just a little responsible with Company money, apply the above idea to Uber drivers.

And wait staff, bellboys, shop assistants - all the individuals you see as you buy a corkscrew and some condoms - any and all of the real people around the event. How, where and why do they make their choices, and share them?

Protect yourself with inspiration

Bring a book and a curious mind, all the time.

It is hard to get properly in print, but the cost of half a bottle of risible wine barely worthy of cleaning silverware with will get you Steve Harrison's magisterial How to do better creative work on a Kindle. Steve is ex-Ogilvy, but that is not why I cite him. We are not on commission.

He penned the only, and probably greatest biography of Howard Luck Gossage.

A man who never saw Cannes but whose legacy of total genius, indifferent to what was meant to be an advert, or DM, or PR, or a compelling news story - you need to study immediately and over and over.

Steve tells us how to always be refining our trade, and why we should be grateful to be able to do so:

"...while you are waiting for a bus, tube or train, look around you at the ads. Think of the target audience, the product and the proposition, and then work out which of those ads will have been effective and which will have bombed. Over time this will help you develop your own creative philosophy which will, in turn, steer you subconsciously towards doing better work across all media. An accountant, with 10 minutes to spare before the next number 11 bus, couldn't approach a stranger and ask if they needed help with their tax return. Nor could a dentist ask someone in the queue if she could have a quick look at their occlusion. But just think how lucky you are to be able to practise your craft so easily."

You will be waiting for more than just a bus in the bustle and fuss of Cannes.

Use the time wisely.

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