It's time to Redefine Innovation


After a great first Cannes jury experience this year, here are some of my thoughts on the future trends from the creativity world, as well as some insights into redefining the innovation of our future.



Effectiveness is Impact

This year we’ve seen Cannes Lions entries reduced by 4.5% while entries into the Effectiveness category increased dramatically by 59%. It brings me great happiness to see that the whole industry is paying more attention to how brands are having a positive impact on the world, which is the essence of effectiveness; Impact. I believe that communication work that fails to inspire or impact people, be that heart or mind, will be cast aside.

The most inspirational case I saw won a Health Gold Lion.

When the fetus is diagnosed with Down syndrome, the doctor will give the parents ten days to decide whether to continue pregnancy. In North America every year there are more than 20,000 fetuses diagnosed with Down syndrome, awaiting their fate. Most people will google to understand what is Down and make their decisions accordingly. Canadian Down Syndrome Association customized the google search by inviting 40 Down’s patients and recording their video answers to the 40 most frequently asked questions on line. I remember a boy said “Can Down’s patients ride a bike? I can!” Another boy said, “Will Down’s patients live on their own? I think I will one day!”

What I like about this case study is that it has a direct impact on our understanding of life, reminding us how precious life is. What I found was that the most powerful case study usually has an impact on people, and creating impact is what we should commit ourselves to in every piece of our work.

An integrator of ideas from people

Ideas are needed anytime and anywhere. In China, I’ve found that there seems to be a tendency of putting traffic first. However, traffic is not about where you drive people BUT how you want to engage them and in which direction. The power of Idea is to make where the traffic goes more engaging and impactful, either on people’s mind or their behavior, otherwise traffic is merely a crowd of clueless people. This is why Alibaba no longer see themselves as an e-commerce platform but the biggest content platform.

I was very impressed with the panel discussion between Paul Gaudio from adidas, Stan Smith and Alexander Wang on the brand’s creative success.

Alexander Wang said he changed the logo design for the joint collection more than one hundred times, and when it happened to fall on the ground upside down, he felt that was exactly what he wanted, so turned the famous adidas trefoil upside down. The brand applied such a symbolic logo and even allowed the limited capsule to go on sale via pop-up trucks, featuring various unisex styles across sweatshirts, hoodies, T-shirts, and footwear… adidas’ response to this is Why bother? If you decide to work with such a designer just go with what it is.

Brands should always treat themselves as a new brand even if they are a brand with heritage. It is important to ask questions every day with an open mind, instead of just sticking to the rules. Have the courage to start over and tear things up, just like adidas does.

Ideas and Creativity is something that we always ensure is at the core of our work, so the role we see ourselves as, is an integrator of great ideas from people.

We’re doing more than marketing brands — it’s shaping the future.

We see more and more discussions around feminism and diversity as we are getting closer and closer to the real human insight. Outstanding brands always have a purpose, namely, how it will make a difference to our society and to our world.

A brand’s commercial appeal and its social responsibility are not in conflict, on the contrary, social responsibility should always be a vision to achieve, it can be creating a campaign that will have an impact on our heart, that will refresh our mind, or inspire our soul, and commercial appeal is how we find the way to fulfill the vision. Building passion point of tomorrow’s consumers I believe will be around people not things.

From those Grand-Prix winning campaigns, we see a different perspective on understanding innovation. It is about investing in new ways of thinking and empowering people to challenge the status quo. Like today’s mesh economy (sharing all sorts of things), it’s driving more traditional companies to rethink their approaches to innovation. Today, collaboration also leads to higher-impact innovation, so with Dentsu Aegis Network signing a global strategic partnership with tencent in Cannes last week, I believe this will create a new collaboration model; a new era of marketing.

Ellen Hou is CEO, Carat China.

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