Nick Law: Forget “The Big Idea”

Nick Law: Forget “The Big Idea”
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“You’re not going to imagine the future looking at a spreadsheet people,” is what one of Australia’s finest exports, Nick Law, CCO Publicis Group and President of Publicis Communications told the opening audience in Cannes overnight.

Delivering a blistering keynote challenging the industry as the first seminar for Cannes Lions, Law spelt out his reasons why creatives must be leading organisations.

The advertising sector still operates in the broadcast model of the world, he said, before continuing on to say the industry held sacred to the corner office in Maddison Avenue searching for the next Big Idea. “This is a ruinous idea” , he said, his tone reaching a querulous pitch of dismay and frustration.

“I will probably rant shortly,” he warned as he began with a colourful description of what’s gone wrong with the creative sector and how they need to find their way back.

i. When did creatives stop leading?

“Creatives are our products people and only products can create the future. Product people have created the future before. Now creatives are not being involved in business decisions, so every time a new medium comes, we are one medium behind,” he said.

“There is no one replacement for broadcast to banners or banners to mobile. The medium and creative need to be interconnected and value created through that interconnection

In the drive for efficiency and effectiveness, creatives stopped leading when the decision was made to separate media from creative, a structural decision that has had a compounding negative effect once the internet multiplied the mediums.

ii. How should Creatives Lead?

If you feel you have mastered social or mobile, it’s almost too late. We have to move. One of the things Law talks about to his friends at the digital platforms like Facebook or Google is that they have these amazing technologies but they don’t want to be talking to us about best practice. 

“I think, and I know my friends at Facebook and Google agree is that we should be telling them what best practice is and how to manipulate their technologies because if were not, it’s the equivalent of Kodak telling Martin Scorsese how to tell a good story.”

Creatives also need to build new capabilities, but our world is now defined by the internet. Laws goes on to say he was in a pitch recently where he was told they have to be more digital.

“I don’t know what that means. Because as far as I can tell for example if there is a good piece of outdoor, it will appear on someone’s screen.

“Business people make decisions that destroy the product and product people make decisions that destroy the business.”

The power must be balanced in order to create a future.

Law also pointed to the fact that the last person to reorganise an advertising agency was Bill Bernbach at DDB when he teamed up a copywriter and an artist. “We’re still using the same model more than half a century later.”

He also said we needed to create a new grammar around the new mediums. Suggesting we needed to stop trying to convert an anthemic film with a tag line (TVCs) into a social media post.

Nick Law’s career spans 30 years and four continents. He has twice been named in Creativity 50, a list of one of the world’s most influential creative people.

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