Categorical Support for Cannes

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Do advertising shows truly reflect what’s happening in our industry?

In my estimation, this is not the question we should be answering. Advertising shows have been, and will remain, a barometer of the health of our industry. More importantly, they serve as a compass for the industry to follow into the future. They’re critical to us — so long as the categories included within them are reflective of the seismic shifts occurring outside the jury room.

Of course, as the premier show of our industry, Cannes bears a huge responsibility to reflect and showcase the best, most creative thinking, regardless of category.

Today’s landscape continues to change with breakneck velocity. This explains why, over the last five years, we’ve seen an explosion in the number of categories at Cannes. This trend will continue because the festival must have its finger on the pulse of modern-day communication.

Design and communications were forever changed in 2007, when Steve Jobs, during his keynote address at Macworld, made the first-ever iPhone call from the stage to Jonathan Ive, Apple’s svp of industrial design, who was sitting among the audience. At that moment, Ive’s prowess as a creative genius became clear. With this latest project he had transformed the way people think and feel about the mobile phone.

The iPhone is a category-defying piece of creativity. It embraces the power of design and is much broader in its thinking in terms of what constitutes a brand idea.

Interestingly, when he designs, Ive’s goal is simply to make products that are meaningful to people. When he talks about a product, he talks about the complete experience that people have with it. To him, the design and the product itself are inseparable. In design, the purpose of the object comes first, followed by the physical expression. He understands that design frames our experience of everyday life.

I am particularly pleased that Cannes has added Design as a category to this year’s show. As I see it, 2007 will be remembered for the iPhone. It does more for the Apple brand than any advertising could ever achieve. It’s design-led marketing at its very best. In the future, this type of mold-breaking, remarkable thinking and creativity will probably win the Cannes Grand Prix.

In similar fashion, the Nintendo Wii changed the gaming industry and its dialogue with people. It invited everyone to play. In doing so, it ignited a cultural phenomenon in how people experience video games. And it changed an exclusive, solitary experience into an inclusive one.

Wii and the iPhone are game-changing ideas. Currently, the Lions honor only leadership in Graphic and Package Design, but I’m sure in the future Cannes will acknowledge the power of innovative product design, as it will be a natural evolution for the category.

Today, it is clear that courage and creativity are the primary assets of brands and communication companies, and that Design sits at the heart of this.

It’s no coincidence that everything we do in modern-day communication should likewise be designed first with the human purpose in mind. A brand without purpose is one that will never be understood or embraced by people. Brands can no longer push messages out to a passive audience and hope to get a response.

Our creativity needs to become more substantive and meaningful for people. Every day we are challenged to give them something of even greater value.

We’re living in an era where marketers have to be more human in their behavior, insight and voice than ever before. The most successful brands of the 21st century understand this.