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Cannes Lions 2019: Nick Law on why separation of media and creative was industry’s biggest original sin

Publicis Groupe’s Global CCO, Law took to the stage at the first session of the global festival of creativity to emphasise the need of understanding the media, building new capabilities and creating value by connecting with the little things consumers like

Nick Law

Cannes Lions Festival’s first blistering session kicked off when Nick Law, Publicis Groupe’s Global Chief Creative Officer, took to the stage to emphasise why creative people should get into the driver’s seat for the companies they work for.

Law apprised the audience of a few challenges that the creative people were dealing with in this dynamic media space. ‘When did creative people stop leading?’ he pointed out.

Law said that it started with the separation of creative and media, which was the original sin that the industry committed between the ’80s and the ’90s. “The creative agencies started to separate themselves from the context of their work. It was a ruinous decision when the industry was changing. The internet had yet to come. It was pretty convincing for a little bit. But then the internet came and started creating formats of mediums at the very time when we were convincing ourselves that we don’t need to get close to the medium,” Law said.

The internet has since then been creating formats of mediums and doing innovations and it is the creative people who should have been mastering these mediums. Law emphasised, “But we are not! We are hiding behind this mythical and ruinous word, the big idea. When we come up with an idea, it is dependent on the medium where we want to express it.”

He said that the creative industry is behaving like broadcast with this whole creative and media separation and it is ‘stunting our ability to think’.

After the internet exploded and with the advent of new platforms like Instagram, the brands have found Super Bowl-like audiences for them on the medium. “People are creating Instagram stories around the world. We can’t put the 30-second spot on Instagram. It’s a whole new grammar and we should be leading it. Creative people should be mastering all forms of media,” said Law.

He said his friends at Google and Facebook are sending out people to the agencies to talk about the best practices in the industry. Instead, it should be us telling them what the best practices are.

Law mentioned that creative people can lead only by understanding the environment, by building new capabilities and by creating value through connecting with the little things consumers like.

“We need to build capabilities, which is the single most important thing when it comes to reinventing the agencies,” added Law.

He gave an example of the music industry, which was the first to be destroyed by the advent of the internet. But they took time and reinvented themselves by building newer capabilities. The music industry rebuilt its foundation from its physical objectives to streaming on the internet, he said.

Towards the end, Law said that when the business is not connected to the product, business people make decisions that destroy the product and when the product people make decisions, then they end up destroying the business. There should be one single thing, which is that the business is the product and the product is the business.

“Decisions like separating creative and media happened when the business people took decisions to be efficient, which was a bad decision. We need to stop doing stunts and start building capabilities. We need both the operational and creative people to work in collaboration.”

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