What’s new? The idea…

Originally published in The Drum’s Cannes issue on 24 June, guest edited by Maurice Lévy.

As Cannes Lions kicks off, Publicis Groupe boss and guest editor Maurice Lévy shares his obsession with creativity in the leader article of The Drum’s special Cannes issue.

My first Cannes Festival was back in 1972. Over 40 years ago, can you imagine! This was the time when, mimicking the great festivals of the Grand Film, we were swinging between Cannes and Venice, and its splendid Mostra, obviously. I have vivid memories of the numerous festivals I attended: tensions, passions, rants, and even punches sometimes, to support an idea, a campaign, a commercial…

I have never strayed from this passion for creativity and it would be ill-timed to fall, out of nostalgia, into the ‘these were good old days’ pitfall. Of course, things have changed. However, we must greet this new world with enthusiasm. Today like yesterday, we shall beat the drum and hail every new era.

I am genuinely delighted to be here today, in these very pages. Not because of a tendency for egotism or self-centredness – a widely shared leaning within our industry. Rather, quite simply, to offer a perspective and an idea.

The perspective is the one I never departed from; that of the marvelled child – that of painters and poets, from Baudelaire to Picasso – who constantly wonders at a beautiful campaign. These images, those words do touch me as they should move our consumers. Marcel Bleustein- Blanchet, the founder of Publicis, used to refer to collective intimacy, and this is what advertising is all about: collective emotions that appeal to intimacy and sensitivity.

The idea is that creativity is very simply the newest imaginable idea. Another old trick, some might say, with yet another rambling on the methods of advertising that have done the job for ages. Alas, no! This is precisely the mindset that opens you up to the world, with curiosity, intelligence and sensitivity. This is about gaining a new perspective, seeing through a new prism, thus looking at the product, the brand or the consumer differently. Out of this discrepancy, a freshness arises that will once again give birth to beautiful stories that will change the brand’s tale.

Then of course, the variations are countless: movies, ads, digital, technology, illustrations, etc. Yet all remain a mean, a medium – serving the idea and the brand. Therefore, the medium is not the message (sorry McLuhan), since the idea will always be alpha and omega. Don’t misunderstand what I am trying to convey: creative ideas are what we find for our clients. I would never discount the media or other indispensable means of communication. I simply believe that the reason we succeed is creativity. In everything we do. From thinking to execution; from planning to media; from digital to POS.

Cannes Lions, here we go, once again. And the passion is still there; vibrant, powerful, although occasionally too commercial, I reckon (to top it all off, for an Ad Man! or a Mad Man as we put it nowadays). This year I will be looking for that discovery that will catch me by surprise, move me, marvel the child inside of me, and make me say with sparkling eyes, ‘I wish I had done this’.

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