Friday, June 19, 2009

Owning Recovery

Please check out an interesting point of view that I developed jointly with my colleague and friend Jamie Shuttleworth:

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Cannes Festival

In a few days the most famous Cannes Advertising festival will start. Reading this week’s trade press one can find out that the number of participants has dropped from over 10,000 to roughly 6,000, the submissions have decreased by over 20%. Most reviewers identify three main reasons for the decline of participations and submission:

  • Recession and tremendous cost pressure on any marketing department, on both the client and the agency side
  • Decline of the importance of TV which was traditionally the most exciting marketing channel for the awards review and celebration
  • The unappealing and boring nature of reviewing digital, retail, or out of home work in a 2 minutes case study.

While all of these reasons are relevant most trade journalists seem to forget two other explanations that will have a longer term impact if “Cannes” does not change:

  • There is new breed of data and planning oriented marketers who just don’t care about the Cannes festival. And they make up more and more of the marketing crowd on the service and the brand sides. They love creative work but they can consume it in the local museum or art gallery. They dream of going to the TED conference or building an iPhone application or a data visualization tool that gets them significantly more exposure and learning opportunities than schmoozing at the Gutter bar past midnight.
  • The Cannes festival remains primarily a passive consumption oriented event that looses its appeal to truly creative individuals. These species want to not just look at other work but interact with it and co-create something of value. It is interesting that every marketer talks about the consumer’s control of brands but the “Cannes Festival” brand is in very tight and strong hands of the organizer. The “Burning Man” Festival exudes exactly the opposite paradigm with ongoing success; here the creative individual observes and creates.

The Cannes Festival will continue to exist and marketers will continue to participate at it. But it might be time to fundamentally rethink its core structure and not just redesign its periphery.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Creative and Productive?

Mark McGurl just published the book “The Program Era”, describing the influence of “Creative Writing Programs” for the North American literary scene. He comes to the conclusion that the tremendous proliferation of these college programs has positively influenced the quantity and quality of books over the last 50 years. It might be difficult to teach “Writing a great novel” but these workshops seem to have been successful in providing a thoughtful space and training grounds for millions of aspiring writers. The majority of them will never publish a novel but it most likely makes them more productive creative, independent of the form of creative expression in which the participants of these programs ultimately major - from journalism to copy writers to researchers. The written word remains in the center of their professional lives, and these workshops made them better with it. 

It seems to me that “Creative Writing Programs” tackle with one of the biggest tensions for professional marketing teams: Productivity and Creativity. Both appear as strong opposites but a marketer in charge of a large organization needs to fuse both of them, attempting to answer the question: How can one be more creative AND more productive? McGurl demonstrates that the “Creative Writing Programs” are exactly in the center of enabling the joined up space between Creativity and Productivity. 

The success of most marketing teams resides in mirroring a similar working style. Their structure encourages creativity while ensuring a high level of productivity. Looking at a lot of artists who have been extremely creative and productive, one can decipher one similar pattern: They all found their own very individual way of marrying creativity and productivity, if it was working simultaneously on 10 different pieces of art or by setting aside every day three hours of writing from 7 to 10 am or by transforming the ideas of a large group of followers into one piece of brilliant research analysis (Think “House”), etc. There are as many ways of creating the right joint space for simultaneously more creativity and more productivity as there are marketers 

Smart marketing organizations realize that every member of the team has his or her own mode of joining up creativity and productivity. The primary role of this organization is to create space for that many individual variations of doing both while ensuring that all these individual efforts are aimed for a common goal. Productivity and Creativity do not need to be at odds with each other. The individual marketer just needs to identify what works for him or herself. And live in an organization that respects individual working styles while maintaining a clearly communicated and transparent framework of jointly owned goals.