Author Archives: scottberwitz

#CannesLions — Everyone is a Creative Director

How and from whom is creativity generated?  At the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, it may seem odd that something this fundamental is actually being asked.

Yet, in an industry where mathematicians, statisticians and engineers now stand shoulder-to-shoulder with art directors, answering that question is not as straightforward as one would think.

For the first time, Cannes Lions today unveiled its Lions Innovation event.  Described as a “festival within a festival,” Lions Innovation is a two-day event where data, technology and creativity intersect.   On its site, Cannes Lions describes itself as the industry’s “mirror” – acknowledging that “data and technology are driving creative solutions in ways never seen before.”   It’s a theme that has permeated much of the week’s programming.

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In fact, during a Microsoft/Fast company panel  yesterday entitled “Creativity That Matters – How Brands and Agencies Drive Impact” Wendy Clark, President, Sparkling Brands & Strategic Marketing, Coca-Cola North America, said something that really struck a chord.  Strategists – not artists – are developing the most incredible creative work.   Panel participants, Kathleen Hall of Microsoft and Sophie Kelly of The Barbarian Group, were in full agreement as well.

Driving home the point, Audi’s Luca De Meo told a packed audience during his talk “The Moon.  Land  of Quattro,” that the most creative people play not just with words, but with numbers as well.

Today’s creativity comes from some unlikely places.  From data.  From technology.  From strategy.  In the past, that may have seemed more than a little counterintuitive.  But at the 62nd Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, it’s becoming abundantly clear.  Everyone in the industry – whatever their title – is a “Creative Director.”

Bruce Jenner:  A Person and a Dialogue in Transition  

There’s much the corporate world could learn from Bruce Jenner about public relations and how to take control of a difficult and potentially embarrassing situation.

For months, media speculation on what was really going on with him since his break up with Kris Jenner, the grand doyenne of the Kardashian media/business/gossip dynasty, was on overload – most of it trivial.  “Bruce Jenner Gets French Manicure, Wears Diamond Earrings on Outing,” said one headline.  Another publication photo-shopped lipstick, curled hair and a silk scarf on a picture of him.  Bruce’s story was something deep-rooted and real – not just for him but for many others who identified with his struggles.  Yet, the media portrayed his changing appearance as little more than a simple gossip item…no different than any number of small, unimportant nuggets emanating from the family’s reality empire.

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Rather than remain silent, Jenner took control of his narrative and granted a two-hour interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer that aired on national television and was seen by more than 20 million viewers.   He talked of his personal struggles with gender identity in genuine and raw terms and in so doing he shifted the dialogue away from the sophomoric gossip that filled the tabloids for months into an adult conversation.  The national discussion was now about transgender issues that the mainstream media covered with thoughtful pieces on Jenner’s personal journey and its broader implication for others facing similar challenges.  His family came out in support of him.  He quashed speculation of this being a publicity stunt.  Even the rest of the Kardashian clan – typically known for empty, brain-candy nonsense – came out looking sympathetic, progressive and supportive.  That’s no mean feat.

Through honest, direct dialogue, Jenner changed his media narrative in a single interview.  He did it by being honest and transparent and answering tough questions truthfully and sincerely.  The business world would do well to take heed and act accordingly.

THERE’S NO “I” IN PRESS RELEASE

Press releases are to public relations like TV commercials are to advertising.   In a time of customized messaging – of programmatic advertising and brand-to-consumer tweets – the traditional 30-second spot can come off a bit like a relic of a bygone media era.  Rather than tailored to the specific interests of an increasingly granular audience, a press release seems too “one-size-fits-all” to stand on its own and hook an audience.

The press release shares another point of similarity with traditional TV advertising:  a lot of smart people have been (wrongly) predicting its demise for some time.

The press release – like any other form of communication – has evolved over time.  Once a standalone document that could be blasted out en masse, it now needs to be part of a larger PR toolkit that includes social media outreach, individualized pitches, real-time tie-ins, etc. to generate impact.

For all its limitations, a press release offers a number of strong value propositions to its sender(s) as well as its receiver(s).  For the sender, the internal approval process is essential – insuring that whatever goes out to the press is cleared by executive leadership, legal representation, etc.  Any mistake – from a factual inaccuracy to a typo – lives on in infamy on the Internet.  The formal review process that is required of a press release is integral to protecting an organization from making an irrevocable error.

For the receiver – i.e., the media – the press release is a factual reference sheet.  Its headline places the main news value front and center.  The spokespeople are identified and quoted.  The key story elements – from background facts to company overviews, etc., – are all contained within.  The actual format of a press release may seem dated to some – but the notion of it – its purpose and content – is absolutely core to communicating a company’s news to the press.  If it were to be eliminated – it would have to be replaced by something very similar in substance, if not style.

It’s about evolution, not elimination.  TV advertising has evolved from an isolated channel to working in tandem with digital media; a TV spot is part of the overall cross-channel marketing mix rather than an island all its own.  Press releases are evolving as well—from a catch-all press document that stands on its own to a key part of the PR toolkit – most effective when part of a “team.”

There’s no “I” in press release.

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