PMI at Cannes Lions 2019: What does community mean to you?

19 Jun 2019 · 4 min read
Digital conversations focus on the power of bringing people together
PMI Cannes Lions Open Mic Rain Dove

Walking around the “Open Mic” pavilion at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, one sees an eclectic mix of furniture, murals, artful lighting fixtures and a kitchen that wouldn’t look out of place in a snazzy restaurant.

These details create a stimulating ambiance for the delegates on the Promenades de la Croisette. They flit from roundtable to debate, looking to network, to create a community of creatives.

“Words are events, they do things, they change communities,” said Karen Costello, the first female chief creating officer at The Martin Agency, an American ad firm, during the festival’s last day on the French Riviera.

The main theme of this last day is how to foster and build successful, happy communities that attract and retain talent, a candid set of conversations to fertilize the often-unpredictable climate of communication.

Model and activist Rain Dove laid out in clear terms what big companies should – and shouldn’t – do to channel the power of communities around the world. “We don’t want brands to put our struggles on billboards. We want them to live by their morals, to share with us the struggles,” elaborated Dove.

To truly create and contribute to the world, companies have to be able to connect countless dots, cross-pollinate ideas from a wealth of disciplines, and then combine and recombine these pieces, building new ideas to reach an always-diverse community of consumers.

“Think of this process as building blocks,” said Bryan Rakowski, head of Global Brands at Mondelēz International. “Communities, and how diverse they are, are central to our work, and we need to put in extra effort to understand them, to track how the cultural landscape changes, and adjust to it,” he said.

But the effort to understand communities must come from within companies. At the same time as Costello is working with multinational companies to promote change, “we push companies to change themselves. They must create a community within themselves, nurture it, give their employees a sense of ‘I belong here’,” she said.

And the process “is easy, it’s natural. If it’s intentional,” she continued, but added that we should understand that this comes with big responsibilities.

Emma Scott-Robinson, Group Creative Director at Publicis Sapient, a digital transformation agency, agreed, saying that, “companies are incredibly influential, but with the power of influence comes great responsibility. To fulfil this responsibility, we have to reflect the diversity we observe in society so we become valuable and change things for the best.”

The magic of communication, and the nurturing of communities across the globe, Scott-Robinson observed, is not something that we can plan and create in the sterile environment of ad agencies. It needs a human element, and a human emotion – passion.

This passion, highlighted Edelman Canada’s Chief Creative Officer, Andrew Simon, “is the key factor that moves us, as companies and as consumers. We don’t need somebody to sell us a product or go through projects with a dull face. What we need is passion in what we do, we need to add awesomeness to what we produce. Let’s give a damn about what we do,” said Simon to an enthused – even “roaring” – audience, at one of the “Open Mic” roundtables.

The message companies put out there, Simon continued, involves “a relationship between humans, ultimately,” pointing out that this is the very foundation of communities.

“And although communities are changing at a rate never previously experienced,” Dove said in conclusion, “it’s time to take a stand and change together.”